While the Detroit Autorama and the Ridler Award it encompasses are one of the premier events showcasing the very best of hot rodding, over the past several years, there’s another show-within-a-show that takes place at the Autorama down in the basement. If you’re a traditionalist, this is undoubtedly where you’ll gravitate toward, and if you were there last year, you’ll know this ’ere Model A coupe took top honors on the lower floor of Cobo Hall. Owner/builder Rob Paul says, “It made its debut and won Best of Show in the basement, and the SO-CAL Speed Shop Pick. I was honored when Pete Chapouris gave the award to me on stage, and then stopped by the car to shoot the breeze for a while.” But we’ve come into the story at the end, so let’s rewind five years and let Rob start from the beginning.
“An older friend of mine, Carl Lindbeck, picked up this coupe body about five years ago. He had no plans to build it, but it was a good deal so he snatched it up. I went to check it out at his shop. As soon as I laid eyes on it the wheels started turning, and before I got home I had the entire car built in my head … 6-inch chop, ’32 frame, Chrysler Hemi, quick-change, etc. … Now getting it out of his hands was another story. Figuring it was worth more than what he paid, he wanted to make some money on the deal. I ended up with the car and a few bucks, and he ended up with a chopped ’28 Tudor project I had been putting together.
“I had a really low Flathead-powered ’31 coupe that was chopped and channeled at the time I got this project. A good driver. I guess my plan from the start was to take my time and do all the fabrication and design the absolute best I could do myself. I built the ’32 frame with JW Rod Garage ’rails. I boxed the ’rails and used Model A crossmembers. I bent up a 1 3/4-inch tube center X-member. I moved the front crossmember forward 1 1/2 inches from the stock ’32 location to make room for a mechanical fan. The frame dimensions are modified from stock ’32 measurements and it was assembled in a jig that I built.
“The body was rusty. I butt-welded patch panels all the way around the bottom, fabricated a new floor, and used new subrails, then chopped the top 6 inches, and built new driprails. I now manufacture and sell these driprails online. I mocked it up with the 354 Hemi, 700-R4, and ’40 Ford banjo rear. The new Winters quick-change centersection was purchased later during final assembly.
“The car sat in this mocked-up stage for a year while I built the headers from a box of bends. I also made all the brackets and mounted everything else. I really tried to build a show car that might have been seen in the late ’50s; slam the best production engine of the day into a chopped coupe. I got the engine block and crank from a local old hot rodder named Red. This cool, 70-some-year-old guy also gave me several hundred ’50s hot rod and custom little books. He started getting them while in high school in 1952 and I think he saved every single one! There was a lot of inspiration packed in those old pages.