Some images stick in our minds forever, and childhood impressions can be some of the strongest. Take Charles Crews; he saw a Model A in a barn when he was 12 years old and has wanted one ever since. That image remained with him until adulthood, though he never acted upon it. When he and his wife Mindy were expecting their first child, he sold his custom motorcycle and the couple discussed building a rat rod they could all fit in. A few months after son Connor's birth, Charles typed "Model A body" into eBay and, well, we think you can guess the rest!
"The body was only two hours away from my house so it was an easy buy," Charles told us. "I started the project as a rat rod but could not stop. There were two rules during the project; it had to have a back seat and it couldn't have a shiny paintjob. As I paint cars for a living, all my friends said there was no way I would not be able to paint it, but I was thrilled at the thought of having a flat black car. While the flat paint was a no-brainer, I couldn't build a rat rod, so the project was renamed 'Real Hot Rod'!"
While the body Charles found was rust free, it had what he describes as the usual damage for an 80-plus-year-old car. First he set about fabricating a complete new floor, taking the opportunity to channel the body 3 inches while he was at it. A 5-inch roof chop and sectioning of the grille shell followed. Next, he and Shane Walkenhorst set about fabricating a new chassis from 3x2 steel box section, with a 3-inch kick up in the front and a 12-inch Z in the rear, to achieve the desired ultra-low ride height.
Throughout all this Charles managed to balance "car time" and time with his new family, which isn't always easy to do, and especially hard given this project's build time of 18 months! Sure he had the engine and transmission assembled by other people, the upholstery was outsourced, and he had help from friends, like Walkenhorst, Glen Serfling, Tom Geile, and John Bohn. However he undertook a lot of fabrication himself, like the ladder bars, Panhard bar, and headers. Of course the body prep and paint came easier than it does to most builders, given its Charles' profession, but a ground-up build in a year and a half is impressive!
It could be easy to dismiss this sedan as another flat black hot rod, and we're sure Charles has even heard one or two "rat rod" comments, as seems to be the case with anything that isn't gloss painted these days. That said, the level of detail and build quality confirms it's anything but. That well-finished, detailed Barry Grant Six Shooter-equipped small-block is the main focal point of the car, even if Charles now wishes he'd installed a Hemi. Meanwhile the red interior, with its color-matched dash, is a stand-out, taking the red from the wheels inside the car, which could have appeared too dark and "black" otherwise. No, this ain't no rat rod!
More proof of that is, with the sedan completed, the Crews family participated in the 2009 Hot Rod of the Year competition at Goodguys Indianapolis, thoroughly enjoying the experience and "meeting a lot of great people". Son Connor is now 3 years old, and tells everyone that the Model A is his hot rod. Charles' response? "Now that I let a 3-year-old claim the sedan I'm building a custom '63 Buick Riviera!" Way to go, though you'll probably find Mindy will claim that one and you'll have to start yet another!
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1929 Model A sedan