Nice Model A coupe, huh? OK, we know it's a 1933 Ford roadster-but it started life as a coupe-so maybe we should explain. Dana Harvey bought his wife, Melanie, a '31 Model A coupe for their third wedding anniversary, but somewhat shoddy workmanship and a blown tire saw her lose control on the freeway and hit a truck. She walked away, but the coupe wasn't so lucky. Dana happened to be selling some parts at the Pomona Swap Meet not long after when a '33 roadster project caught his eye, and subsequently caught a sizeable chunk of the Model A insurance settlement too. What was left was used to pay for the roadster to be towed home. "My wife was a little mad but I told her she'd be much happier with this car," Dana says. Though we suspect he had a soft spot for '33-34 roadsters all along! The project was a roller, with the body sitting on the frame, no grille or engine.
The firewall had been replaced with an aftermarket item to fit a small-block Chevy. Dana rolled it into his garage and spent the next couple of years collecting parts. A repairable '34 grille was found at the same swap meet; the gauges and numerous other parts were sourced on eBay, and the E&J headlights were traded with a friend for a military oil tank that Dana knew he was after. "The only things I'd trade that tank for were those headlights," he says. "I'd never be able to afford to buy them!
"Once I'd accumulated all the parts I'd wanted for my dream car, I went to see Jimmy White at Circle City Hot Rods (CCHR). I've always liked his style of build and had driven several of the cars he'd built. They rode very smoothly and this was very important to me. I was really excited to work with Jimmy; he had great ideas that were right on track with what I wanted."
Originally White was contracted to just set up the chassis and build a roller, but once this stage was reached, they decided to have the body blasted to see exactly what shape it was in. "It was like Coyote Ugly," Dana says. "She looked good when we were drunk, but the next morning, not so much!" According to White, he'd never seen a body with so much bondo in it.
At this point the project was a challenge, but Dana reasoned that they'd come this far, so the decision was made to leave the car at Circle City until it was finished. A replacement pair of roadster doors was sourced, but when they were fitted, they were too long. "It was here we realized the roadster had originally been a coupe, which explained the roadster dash having extra steel welded to the top and sides to make it fit," Dana says.
Jesus Salas and the talented CCHR crew fabricated a new decklid skin and new doorskins, as White built inner door structures, moving the hinges to the top and bottom of the doors while he was at it. He also fabbed new rear wheelwells, including the neat recesses for the taillights between the chassis and rear pan, and cut a stock firewall apart and then modified it so it was recessed but wouldn't appear so. The '40 Ford dash was grafted into the body and blended into the reworked door tops to appear as if it had always lived there. There's an amazing amount of remedial metalwork in this body, which I can personally vouch for as I witnessed it coming together, and even more unbelievable leadwork to make it all appear factory. The fact that it's always being mistaken for a 'glass body is actually a compliment to the CCHR team's artistry.
Work progressed on the roadster when parts and funds became available, which explains the four-year build time. As Dana explains, "Jimmy was very meticulous and wouldn't cut corners where I would have done. Everything on the car was either rebuilt or replaced, and even when we thought we didn't have to rebuild something it turned out that we did!"
Take the Hemi for example. Dana purchased a supposedly rebuilt 325ci engine, though White never felt comfortable with the quality of the rebuild. "I kept telling him it would be fine," he says, "and we finished the entire car. Finished-paint, interior, wiring, everything. Then we fired the Hemi and ... Houston, we have a problem. Jimmy did a little 'I told you so' and we pulled the engine for a rebuild by Fernando Alonso at A&A Garage, who does all of CCHR's engine builds." That little upset meant the car couldn't be driven into the Grand National Roadster Show, where it was shown for the first time opposite the CCHR booth, but it's been running just fine ever since. So fine in fact that White is convinced that this car sees more road miles than any other hot rod his shop has built.
As for Dana's opinion? "The last time it was on a trailer was when I delivered it to the shop. It just needs driving, and about 50 years worth of patina to accumulate." But, we had to ask, is it still your wife's car Dana? "Yes," was his short reply.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Dana & Melanie Harvey
Santa Ana, California
1933 Ford roadster
Despite buying a roller, the only parts that made the final cut were the body, or most of it anyway, and the chassis. An original FoMoCo product from 1933, the frame was boxed, and now has a dropped front crossmember and CCHR-built rear crossmember, which mounts a SO-CAL Speed Shop '40 Ford transverse spring. An original Mor-Drop 4-inch dropped, drilled, and chromed I-beam mounts up front via SO-CAL batwings and hairpins, with a Vega cross steer setup and SO-CAL Panhard bar. Original '40s Lincoln drum brakes are actuated through a twin reservoir master cylinder/booster by a CCHR-fabbed pedal assembly.
The '57 325ci Dodge Red Ram Hemi was machined, rebuilt, and assembled by Fernando Alonso in East Los Angeles using a stock crank and rods. Bored 0.60 over stock, it uses Ross forged pistons with Egge rings and an Isky solid lifter cam. Bob McKray rebuilt the cylinder heads to stock specs using Isky springs and stainless valves, while a Hot Heads water pump keeps vital cooling fluids moving. Triple two-barrel Rochesters on an Offy inlet feed the go-juice, an Ignitioneering ignition provides the spark via PerTronix wires, and a set of one-off headers by Jimmy White, using '36 Ford torque tubes, removes what's left after the suck-squeeze-bang-blow cycle does its stuff. A Steve Sharp Racing-prepped TH350 with a 2,500-stall TCI Automotive converter sends power down the Unitrax driveshaft to a Currie 9-inch rearend, hung on a SO-CAL Speed Shop four-link and filled with 3.55:1 gears.
Wheel & Tires
Though the roadster wore wide whites all through the dry build, once finished they were switched out for Firestone blackwalls, 7.50-16 and 5.00-16 on the rear and 16x5 ribbed versions at the sharp end. Those are '49 Ford 16x5 steels bolted to each corner, powdercoated black, and wearing 'caps but no trim rings.
Body & Paint
A calculated guess would suggest this roadster started life as a five-window coupe, as the doors are too short for a three-window and too long for a roadster. However, the conversion wasn't immediately obvious at the time of purchase and only came to light once the body had been blasted and new roadster doors were offered up! Not that you'd know now of course, as the CCHR crew spent considerable time fabricating and leading the cockpit perimeter, as well as blending the '40 Ford dash into the door tops. A stock firewall was modified and subtly recessed to accommodate the Hemi; '37 Ford taillights were added in recesses at the lower corners of the quarter-panels; and the outside door handles eliminated when the doorskins were fabricated. The body also now has new inner door structures and a reconstructed decklid, as well as fresh wheelwells. Newport Restorations in Orange, CA, handled the body prep and applied the PPG "Dana Blue", which is a modified early Ford shade. Once the windshield frame was chopped 3 inches, The Glass House in San Dimas, CA, fitted new glass. A gennie '34 grille was found at a swap meet, and after much repair and polishing was sent to American Brightworks in Garden Grove, CA, who handled all the chrome on the roadster.
Black Naugahyde covers the Glide bench seat and pleated side panels, all ably upholstered by Southern California Upholstery in Placentia, CA. A LimeWorks '40 Ford steering wheel is coupled to a column by the same company, while Jeff Coleman wired the entire car from scratch. The dash is filled with original '40 Ford gauges sourced from everyone's favorite Internet auction site, while the seatbelts are courtesy of Harvey's, the company set up and owned by Dana and Melanie when he made a one-off purse for her from seatbelts and discovered a market for them.