Much like a majority of us, Troy Howard’s a second-generation “car guy”. No ethanol or synthetic—pure-leaded fuel and petroleum-based oil run through the Bakersfield, California, hot rodder’s veins. “My dad got me interested 40 years ago, taking me to the drag races and talking about the cars he’d had throughout life. He always had me handing him tools or turning a wrench with him,” Troy recalls.
But ultimately, Troy’s a family man, too, and again like most of us, he’s had to sacrifice the fruits of his hobbyist labor for, well, non-hobbyist things. “I have always loved roadster pickups. My last was sold to finish up projects at my house. It was a hard thing to sell that car; it was fast, drove well, and people really seemed to like it. But I knew as soon as it was being driven away that I had to build another one, and I started to gather parts for the next one the day after the sale of my ’31 rpu.”
To date, the building process was as fun as driving the car. It gave me the chance to be creative and work with some great people
“This time around, my budget had to be much smaller. I knew the project was going to be built using a true hot rod mentality. I also knew it was going to be heavily channeled to get it low. I really had a pretty good idea about how the car would look when finished, but getting there using hand-me-down parts and eBay finds was a real journey.”
As you probably have already noticed, Troy’s personal journey took him—and his project—to a quite favorable destination, resulting in a great-looking little ’28 Model A open-air flyer. Hemi-powered and low-slung, it’s exactly what he set out to build as his “replacement” rod. But it didn’t come without a bit of assistance and guidance from others.
“I had a lot of help and am extremely fortunate to have guys like Gary Maxwell, Bill Purkiser, and my dad around to bounce ideas off. Maxwell really helped me with the engineering, chassis, and suspension part of the build; Purkiser put his lathe to work for me many times and really supported me in the project; my dad made sure that everything was questioned and the fridge was stocked with beer!
“Many people who stopped by my house during the build saw the car in the early stages. I had to hear the words ‘rat rod’ about a hundred times—it was hard to just smile and tell myself not to lash out!” In an effort to prove that last part otherwise, part of Troy’s project plans included finish paint and bodywork, which also resulted in the roadster pickup’s nickname. “I named the car ‘The Gherkin’ because it was always going to be green,” Troy admits. Fair ’nuff. But there’s more—much, much more—to The Gherkin than just its particular shade of DuPont green.
As mentioned, Gary Maxwell (Blackboard Hot Rods) contributed more than just advise—more precisely, the entire scratch-built chassis. Measuring in at a 107 inches wheel to wheel, the box-tube frame has been outfitted with solid axles front and rear—traditional hairpin-hung I-beam front and a triangulated four-link-located 9-inch rearend, each four corners set to roll on Coker steelies ’n’ Firestone bias hides. The motorvation comes from a tri-carbed Dodge Hemi, circa 1954, with owner-built lakes-type headers. And nestled between the Posi differential and the 241 lies a 700-R4 overdrive trans (thanks to a Wilcap adapter, of course).
When it came to the body—from metalwork to finish work—Troy enlisted the help of the Boling Brothers, Dennis Massey, and again, the faithful Gary Maxwell, with Mike Shartel handling the pinstriping. Finally, after Troy strung the ’28 with a Rebel Wire harness and built the dash, seats, and door panels, he called in Bill Purkiser to wrap up the interior—literally, with Saddle Tan Ultravinyl and brown Mercedes wool carpet, a very proper complement both color- and style-wise to the exterior. Those gauges stuffed in Troy’s handmade turned stainless insert are Stewart-Warner; the steering wheel, on the other hand, is of unknown origin (vintage boat possibly?).
I Wanted to Build Something Low, Different, and in a Traditional Hot Rod Fashion.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1928 ford roadster pickup