Growing up in Indianapolis near the world's most famous racetrack gave Denny Jamison an early appreciation for the tough and handsome craftsmanship of Indy cars. As a kid he remembers Tom Carnegie, the voice of the Indianapolis 500, calling the race, "And he is on it!" Those formative experiences led Denny to pursue a career in automotive repair, specializing in metal forming and restoration. He also learned the enduring lesson that good looks and reliable performance are always a winning combination. But sometimes it can be a long wait to get across the finish line. Denny's '29 Ford Model A tub is a great example of style, skill, appreciation for heritage, and, most of all, patience.
Denny's tub came into his life about 20 years ago as a complete '29 Model A Tudor purchased for $500 from a buddy who had brought it back from North Dakota. The low price reflected the shape of a large tree, which had crushed the roof but left the metal below the beltline reasonably intact. Though he is a master with the hammer and dolly, the only hope he saw for this car was to lop off the top and disassemble the remaining pieces. His initial thought was to slap it back together with a small-block, primer the body, and make it a just-for-fun driver. With projects coming through the door, the responsibility of running his business and taking care of his kids, the tub body got shunted off to one corner of the shop, and then another. His shop at one time might contain a couple classic roadster-era Indy cars, European sports cars, dealership-referred Rolls-Royces, a '34 five-window coupe hot rod project, a Whizzer bike, and a rare early model Ferrari that Enzo himself laid hands to-all waiting on Denny's expert touch.
Years passed with fits and spurts of progress on his tub. Denny could never seem to get the triangulation of shop space, time, and money to come together. But the tub project always remained in his thoughts; a personal work of art coming together on a mental canvas in the back of his mind. Moreover, he wanted to build something with shiny paint and exquisite trim that would show proper respect to the spirit of Henry Ford and to the car itself.
Fast forward to 2009. Denny's shop, Automotive Hammer Art, had expanded to two units and business was going well. That year he and his wife, Susie, were walking around the Street Rod Nationals when she made a comment about how much she liked pinstriped louvers. That flipped the switch for Denny and he committed himself to getting his tub completed by the 2010 Nats, even if it meant some customers' cars would have to wait.
His original conception was to do the car in black with apple green wheels. A customer came in with a two-tone blue scheme for his car and the palette was changed. The final color choice came about by chance during the frame assembly. The wheel bearings came in a bright orange box. When Denny happened to lay the box on the already-painted framerails he immediately changed his mind about the final color scheme. It turned out to be the perfect choice. The tan and orange pinstriping on the louvers tie the interior color together with the rest of the car.
The tub body has several subtle modifications executed flawlessly by Denny. The grille shell has been sectioned 1/2 inch to give it a slight rake and adorned with a nose badge from a Fiero Indy pace car. The hood latches are stainless steel one-offs. The very tidy windshield frame is made from streamline tubing, the same used to make control arms for Indy cars. The doors are narrowed from the sedan style to the more slender roadster thickness to flow better from the cowl to the B-pillar. The rear bustle is all hand-formed with the seams removed. The quarter-panels have been shortened 4 inches to pull the cab back and make a longer-than-stock 33-inch hood. The rear of the cab hides a hand-formed aluminum gas tank and a battery under the tonneau cover.
The cockpit features some unique touches: a rearview mirror styled after a '55 Porsche Speedster; Corvair gear selector under the '35 Ford dash to mimic the cowl vent lever; and a brass casting of Pat Flaherty's Indy roadster from 1956. A leather-wrapped stock '39 Ford steering wheel and column along with Stewart-Warner gauges complete the picture.
Power is supplied by a '65 Chevy 283 engine with Edelbrock intake and stock Tri-power Rochester carbs, a Duntov 30/30 camshaft, smoothed Chevy manifolds, and Corvette valve covers milled to accept Automotive Hammer Art inserts. A Steve Long brass radiator keeps things cool. The mill is backed up by a '70s Turbo 350 transmission and a '48 Ford rearend with a Dick Spadaro quick-change.
One mark of a true craftsman is knowing when to bring in another for the sake of quality and time. Denny knows the final result is improved by letting another artisan contribute their work to his project. Mike Griffey of Muncie, Indiana, created the supple tan leather interior with tuck 'n' roll seats, map pockets, and V-8 stitched floorboards. Griffey also wrapped the rear springs in matching tan leather with laces, a tip of the hat to the early automobiles Denny is so adept at bringing back to life.
Denny bartered some metal forming for frame and suspension work by Steve's Auto Fab in Jamestown, Indiana. The tub rides smoothly on American Stamping '32 'rails. Up front is a reverse-eye cross spring with a '40 Ford split wishbone and a Magnum 4-inch dropped axle pushed out in front of the grille shell. Carrera shocks and a stock '29 Model A spring handle the bumps out in back. There are '40 Ford wheels wrapped in Firestone rubber that move the little modern A-V8 down the line.
The tub came together just in time for the 2010 Street Rod Nationals without regret from Denny. Though he had to push some paying customers to the back of the line, it was worth it to finally see a long-delayed vision come to fruition. "The best part," Denny says, "is being able to take my wife out for dinner and a slow drive along a country road in the car of my dreams." Some dreams are well worth waiting for, even if it takes 20 years.