Many of us had local hot rod heroes when we were growing up, and Tennessee's Jeff Davis is no exception. He told us, "One of my idols growing up was a guy named Charles Elam, who had a green '55 Chevy gasser with the logo 'Little Stinker' painted on the fenders. I always said that I was going to build a green car with 'Little Stinker' on it. Elam is no longer with us but I know he would be proud."
While Jeff has owned a number of street rods, including a '38 Ford and a Chevy sedan of the same vintage, he'd always wanted what he terms a "true hot rod-a fenderless nostalgia car." A friend, Bennett Kirk, had a cherry rust-free Model A sedan body in a barn, still wearing its original paint, which Jeff figured would fit the bill, though it took two years to talk him into the sale. Three years later, with the help of his son Ryan, Jeff was cruising in his own "Lil' Stinker" when we met him at the Goodguys show in Bowling Green, Kentucky-actually on his birthday-and awarded him an R&C Top Tin trophy. It wasn't until the following year, when we bumped into Jeff again at the NSRA Street Rod Nationals, that we managed to shoot the sedan.
Unlike his previous rods, Jeff was amazed at the number of individual parts and panels from which a Model A is made up. "That was some of the fun of building the car," Jeff mentioned saying, "it was like putting a model car together with a welder!" Thankfully he started with a mint body, which even still had the chicken wire in the roof. Of course it's not there now, as once he'd replaced all the wood framing with steel tubing and chopped the roof by 2 1/2 inches, he then filled the gaping hole in the top with a section from a '79 Malibu roof. This involved trawling junkyards for a roof that would match the Ford panel's curvature, and then spending three hours removing it with nothing more elaborate than a hacksaw! Of course, owning a body shop (Davis Auto Body) was probably a great help during the build!
Seeing as he'd started with just a body-and didn't have a Model A chassis anyway-Jeff opted to use a '32 frame because he liked the look of the exposed gas tank, not to mention the fact that he wasn't keen on putting a tank inside the car. He also feels that a highboy looks "right" on a '32 chassis. Using that frame did mean extra work though, as he had to raise the bottom edge of the body at the rear, including the swage line, in order to clear the '32 tank, plus build a whole new floor in steel to clear the crossmembers. The end result though is a car that does indeed look "right".
That trip to Bowling Green wasn't the sedan's debut though. For the car's maiden voyage, Jeff chose to drive it to the NSRA's Tampa, Florida, event, a round trip of 2,500 miles. In his words, "People along the way are always amazed when you drive a car. I always drive it. If it's on a trailer, it'll be broken!" Even then Jeff will still drive the sedan, as when we first met him one of the front shock mounts had broken away from the framerail, but he continued to drive the car until he found a garage that could weld it back in place and then continued to the event. In this author's mind that's what hot rodding should be about; getting out there and driving them and fixin' 'em if they break!