For us journos, or this one at least, one of the best parts of traveling to shows around the country is meeting car owners. This is especially true of the owners of cars we photograph for features while we’re there, as between moving the car around and setting up shots, we get the opportunity to chat with them. While in Austin, Texas, for the Lonestar Round Up, not only was it a pleasure to meet Ronald and Carmen Andrews, owners of this ’51 Ford, but in a small way we were able to share their obvious thrill at not only debuting their car, but going home with Gary Howard’s Best Custom trophy and a magazine shoot in the bag.
Despite having built a few Model A sedans, Ronald had wanted a Shoebox Ford since, at around 12 years of age, watching his dad build a model of one. When his friend, Tom Cat, decided to sell his bone-stock 8BA ’51 coupe, a deal was struck, and Ronald’s 28-year dream came to fruition. He drove it around stock for about a month before tearing it down in preparation for its transformation into a “nice, reliable custom”, as Ronald describes it. “I’d built those Model As with the help of my greatest mentor and friend, Phillip Walker, and was confident I had the experience and patience he’d taught me, to accomplish such a big project.”
During the teardown it became apparent that the car was not in as good condition as Ronald had hoped for. “I started cutting out all the rusty panels and replacing almost the whole lower 12 inches of the car, including floors, trunk, rocker panels, and quarters! I then started the body mods, including leading the frenched headlights and taillights and peaked hood. I was a little hesitant on whether to chop it or not, but after much deliberation decided to go for it, taking out 3 inches at the A-pillar and 4 inches at the C-pillar. Being a coupe rather than a sedan, I was concerned with making the chop flow and enhancing the look of the car rather than the chop distracting from the rest of it.” Once pleased with the flow of the roof when it was tacked in place, Ronald then cut down the garnish moldings and all the stainless trim, to achieve the “factory” appearance he was after.
With the major bodywork complete, the body was removed from the chassis, which received a Fatman Fabrications front clip with stainless tubular control arms and a power rack-and-pinion. At the rear, a Gambino Customs kit, comprising of a triangulated four-link, shock brackets, and C-notches, was installed, before Ronald added an Accuair airbag system to bring everything closer to Mother Earth. The 8BA Flathead was pulled and set aside for a future traditional T sedan project, replaced with Ronald’s ever-so-reliable 383 stroker engine and TH350. “I knew the 383 would handle the accessories I planned for the ’51, and would give me the horsepower and reliability I desired for long road trips in the future.” He did admit though, that if he did it over, he might choose a milder engine for better gas mileage!
The freshly painted and completed chassis was then reunited with the body, Ronald taking two months, while working his full time job with the United States Postal Service, to complete the final bodywork. Once primed and blocked a total of six times, good friend Jimmy Gardner at Jimmy’s Kustom Paint laid down the silver topcoats.
The kustom was finished two years after its purchase, with almost the entire build taking place in Ronald’s 20x20-foot home garage. The Lonestar Round Up was, as mentioned, its first major show, and it now gets used regularly for family outings, cruising Markham, Texas, in style.