It’s not unusual for hot rodders to have an affinity for a particular make and model of base vehicle on which to focus their creative talents. That is certainly the case with Bob Booth. His previous two projects have been Model A Fords. Build number one was a ’50s-style ’31 closed-cab pickup, completed over a five-year period. Following a fair few miles racked up with Bob at the wheel, it was exported to Italy, with ownership passing to superbike racer Loris Capirossi. The money from the sale funded the start of Model A number two, this time a ’30 coupe. The completed project was out on the road in 2005. Its fenderless body, metallic gold paintwork, and whitewall-shod Radirs gave it a distinctive look. Add a white diamond-pleated interior and tri-power small-block, and the whole package placed the car firmly in the ’60s era.
While he was definitely enjoying using the coupe to attend cruise nights and rod runs, Bob was equally keen to get back in the workshop and started on a new project. “Even though I have been privileged to own two steel Model A Fords it was always going to be a roadster one day,” he says. With that objective firmly in mind it was time to formulate a new build plan. “I’ve always read the ‘little books’, along with the early hot rod archive books by Don Montgomery, and have always been interested in the history and roots of hot rodding.”
So the decision was made to rise to the challenge of building his roadster mainly from parts that would have been available as hot rodding was developing in the ’40s. A tough call, even more so given that Bob is not a U.S. citizen, being born and a resident on the opposite side of the Atlantic in England.
With a base body and frame duly located and purchased in the UK through his many Model A contacts, accumulating the remaining components required exploring other avenues. “EBay is a great thing and allowed me to get some of the right parts that would never have been possible to get otherwise.” The Internet also became an invaluable tool in extending his component knowledge and establishing contacts for advice and support in the ensuing build.
Utilizing all his resources, Bob managed to locate and acquire a range of parts that gradually built up into the finished vehicle. Ford parts, either stock or modified, ranged from 1929-48. While sources abroad helped with some components, Bob’s contacts in the UK were also invaluable. Duksville Speed Shop proprietor and friend Geordie Paul was “persuaded” to sacrifice a rare Johnston dual carb intake manifold from his own personal collection. The I-beam axle was drilled and dropped by UK rod builder Jerry Denning, who also altered the steering arms on the ’32 Ford spindles to match.
Not all of the parts obtained involved the exchanges of cash, as Bob was also open to trading, the decklid resulting from a swap for a spare brake setup. When it came time for the interior work, Bob enlisted Mick Shepherd who had done sterling work for him on his previous rides. The creative rapport between them has come through again on the roadster, resulting in an interior and top that looks as though it was transported back in time to be done.
While work and support from others was helpful on this build, the quality of this period rod is without doubt down to the skill, vision, and extensive hands-on efforts of Bob himself. This is all the more remarkable given that he was most definitely not around (either chronologically or geographically) during the era of hot rodding that his car reflects and celebrates.
“Most folk’s comments on the roadster are that nothing jumps out at you, which in a way is very complimentary, as I just wanted something nice and simple. Mind you, it’s been the hardest build so far by a long way.”
So far you say? Could the latest parts purchase indicate the start of another project and also a change of model allegiance? Was that a ’34 grille shell spotted in the workshop? Look out for further signs of Internet activity!
1929 Ford Model A Roadster
To strengthen the frame and provide mounting points for the drivetrain, suspension, and brakes, a ’33 K-member was pie-cut and slid into the original ’rails. The rear was kicked up the depth of the frame. The drilled-and-dropped ’33 I-beam was combined with a reverse eye spring with two leaves removed. The rear spring was reduced to six of its original leaves. Brakes are ’42-48 units, activated via a ’39 pedal and master cylinder assembly. Steering is courtesy of an F-1 steering box.
An ex-military ’42 Flathead V-8 that was tagged with a rebuild in 1945 was sourced in Scotland, and fitted with a Johnston dual carb manifold wearing rebuilt Stromberg 97s. A modified ’37 fan fitted to an 8BA carrier ensured that clearance was provided between the modified A radiator and Harmon-Collins magneto. Connecting the engine to the ’33 banjo rear is a ’39 three-speed (that Bob says he has apart so often that he could now do the work blindfolded). The cast-iron heads are soon to be replaced with finned alloy versions. Gases exit through cast manifolds leading to plugged stainless lakes pipes, finishing with a 2-inch system running over the rear axle.
A traditional combination of ’40 Ford 16-inch wheels is used; 4 inches wide at the front, 4 1/2 at the rear. The Firestone blackwalls are 6.00 and 7.00 respectively. The black painted wheels are accented with ’41 Ford caps and trim rings.
As the body was an English example, the years and climate had taken its toll. To revitalize it required extensive rust removal and patch panel fabrication, all expertly accomplished by Bob. “Maybe I should have started with a better body, but that would have been no fun!” The hot rod profile stems from the 2 3/4-inch chopped and 2 1/2-inch raked screen posts. A Deuce grille shell replaces the Model A version. A Rootlieb hood blends body lines from the grille to the cowl. Bob was also responsible for the flawless paintjob the he describes as hot rod black. Headlights are Guide 903Js, positioned on a modified headlight bar, with ’39 teardrops at the rear.
Mick Shepherd at Premier Auto Trim handled the upholstery work. The choice of color and distressed effect on the leather are on the money, with subtle detail in the width of the pleats. A Kwik Top hood frame was modified to fit the altered screen posts. The overall look that Bob envisaged for the top in terms of fabric color and shape was matched exactly by Shepherd. The original dash and gauge cluster was retained. The ’42 steering column is topped with a ’40 standard wheel.