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.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1951 Ford Coupe
The Shoebox utilizes its stock chassis, but only from the firewall back, as up front there’s now a Fatman Fabrications clip with Mustang II–style IFS. Stainless steel tubular arms attach to stock-height Mustang II spindles, with 11-inch GM disc brakes. A GM pedal assembly and master cylinder and booster are also used. Gambino Customs supplied the C-notch kit for the rear, dropping the ‘rails over an 8-inch rearend from a ’71 Maverick. This is located on a Gambino Customs triangulated four-link. An Accuair air suspension system was added, along with stainless plumbing throughout.
While this Shoebox is strictly traditional on the outside, underhood is a somewhat different matter, as it’s home to a 383 stroker small-block Chevy, machined by Dependable Machine in Bay City, TX, and assembled by Ronald and Phillip Walker. It uses a Scat crank, Speed Pro pistons, a COMP cam, and Air Flow Research aluminum heads, along with an Edelbrock Performer intake and 750-cfm Edelbrock carburetor. With 1 5/8-inch Dynatech headers feeding a 2-inch system with Flowmaster mufflers, the ignition is by ACCEL, and the radiator by Cool Craft. A rebuilt TH350 backs the 383, with a shift kit and B&M 2800 stall converter. Dependable Machine also built the driveshaft.
Wheels & Tires
The stock ’51 15x5 steel wheels were painted and reinstalled, with 205/75R15 Coker Classic wide whitewall radials all around, though the rears are hidden by fender skirts.
Body & Paint
Under that Jimmy Gardner–applied ’10 Ford Focus Silver, the deceptively stock-appearing bodywork actually features a number of modifications in addition to the restoration work, all performed by the owner. We’ve mentioned the roof chop in the text, but handles and emblems have all been shaved, the gas filler door is gone, and ‘49-50 taillights were frenched. A set of ’53 Mercury rings were used to french the headlights, while both the hood and rear fenders have been peaked. Ronald also replaced the entire floor, including the trunk area, a job which his wife would like it known she helped with. Clint Rowe pinstriped the car just hours prior to our photo shoot.
Ronald liked the stock black and turquoise door panels and seat coverings, so he repeated them in the finished car, tackling the upholstery himself, as well as installing a new headliner and EZ Boy black loop carpet. He used a Painless Wiring kit to hook everything up, added Vintage Air A/C, and fitted a Rockford Fosgate 150-watt amplifier with Sony speakers front and rear, which hook to his iPhone.