John Bailey grew up in and around his father’s GM restoration parts business, spending his early years hustling parts at shows and working in the shop. With a father who was strictly a Chevrolet guy, it’s perhaps not surprising that John would go on to build Chevys for himself as he grew older.
However, in 2006 he co-piloted a ’29 Ford tub and a ’32 tub from Cincinnati to Bonneville for Speedweek. As he succinctly puts it, “That did it for me. I started looking for a body as soon as I got home, either a roadster or a tub. This body showed up and the fun began, finished in time to return to the Salt in 2008, and again in 2010. We have it down pat now; Cincinnati to Wendover in two-and-a-half days, stay a few days spectating, then two-and-a-half days return journey, 4,000 miles round-trip.”
That body is actually an old Gibbon fiberglass tub. The previous owner had it for about 20 years and never touched it. When John acquired it, it was exactly as it had been supplied by Gibbon, though he’s since made every effort to make it appear steel. It now sits on aftermarket ’32 framerails, with a chromed original dropped Dago axle from a friend’s personal stash, and early Ford suspension and brakes. Under the rear a Model A spring mounts a magnesium quick-change on ladder bars.
As is obvious from the parts we just mentioned, his intent from the outset was to build a traditional-style hot rod with land speed influences, but one that could be driven anywhere. Part of that equation accounts for the small-block Chevy he used. He readily admits it doesn’t quite jive with the traditional style, but it’s reliable and parts are readily available when out on the road. Given that he’s already changed an alternator in the middle of Iowa, a battery in Wyoming, and a starter in the hills of Kentucky, we’d have to agree with him. On long distance trips he and his buddies pack early Ford brake parts, though they don’t take up too much room. Clearly a believer that real hot rods have three pedals, there’s a ’60s-vintage GM T-10 buried under the floor.
Given that the Bailey family comprises three children, a tub would seem to make perfect sense, so they can all fit in it for fun family drives. However, a tonneau covers the rear seat area, making this strictly a two-seater, or just one with the passenger side front tonneau in place. With that 7-inch chopped windshield though, any back seat passengers would have a pretty windy ride! It doesn’t offer much in the way of protection from the elements either. As John tells it, “The car was barely finished, with no interior at all, when I took it to its first show. My son, then 3 years old, was with me on his first ride, when from nowhere it started raining harder than I’ve ever seen. The roadster gods baptized two more rookies that day!”
Though he considers the tub as “finished” as any hot rod ever gets, he does plan on taking it to the L.A. Roadsters Show someday, and to get in, shiny paint is required, so as he says, “We’ll see.” He’s also playing with a Flathead-powered ’40 Ford these days too, so maybe someday he’ll get to drive a Flathead to Bonneville. Just make sure the trunk is full of spares John …
Dropped Axle Productions in Cincinnati built the perimeter frame using American Stamping ‘rails, a Model A rear crossmember, and flat front crossmember. To this was added a tubular center X-member, before stock fender mounting holes were added to the ‘rails. DA Productions also fabricated the fuel tank. A ’47 Ford wishbone was split, then flipped for steering clearance, and mated to an original chromed Dago I-beam, with ’40 Ford brakes and same-year friction arm shocks. A SO-CAL pedal assembly and GM master cylinder pull the tub up, while a Vega steering box keeps it on the straight and narrow.
A ’61 283ci small-block Chevy was bored 0.030 over and assembled by Zeiser’s Hot Rod & Classics using stock internals, but with the addition of an Erson cam. Even the stock cast-iron intake is present, mounting a Rochester WCFB four-barrel. The Corvette staggered-bolt valve covers came from John’s dad’s parts stash. A Hurst front motor mount was used, with owner-built frame brackets, and the ’56 Chevy bellhousing retains its stock mounts. Zeiser’s also rebuilt the ’60s-era T-10 gearbox, with a Hurst Super Shifter.
There are ’35 Ford 16-inch wires used all around, with ’33 hubcaps. Firestone rubber from Coker Tire comes in the form of ribbed fronts and dirt track rears.
The Gibbon fiberglass phaeton body was twentysomething years old when John acquired it, but had never been touched. He cut out the firewall and replaced it with an original steel version, slightly modified for engine clearance, and removed the ’glass tack strip, substituting original wood from a local Model A restorer. The floor was also replaced with steel. A pair of old aftermarket aluminum windshield stanchions were chopped 6 inches, the windshield itself losing 7 inches of its height. Finally, a ’32 grille from Brookville completed the body, before John prepped it for paint, shooting it himself in a custom mix created by himself and Wade Hughes Hot Rods. Joshua Shaw then striped and lettered the car—”513“ standing for the Cincinnati area code followed by Bailey Racing (B/R). Ford wishbones were modified to become spreader bars front and rear.
A fiberglass ’33 roadster dash was sectioned and modified, then filled with gauges from an unknown source, restored by Shaw, and a vintage aircraft accessory switch added. An original ’40 Ford steering wheel and column mount on a modified column drop. John built his own front seat using a modified rear section from a stock ’29 tub for the seat back, then covered it on canvas donated by ElGrobo & Co. in Cincinnati. A “speed bubble” pocket was added to the driver’s door panel for knee clearance! American Autowire supplied the wiring harness, while in-car entertainment comes courtesy of “the exhaust and wind”, according to the owner.