I first met Brian in 2003 at the Bonneville Speedweek event when he showed up in a ’49 Ford Business Coupe that was all hot rod. I photographed it and Ric White’s ’40 for my second book, but really just because I liked both cars. I could see a builder’s talent in both of these cars. Brian talked about an appreciation for the traditional and period-related parts, along with lumpy cams and a go-fast hot rod attitude.

I ran into him again at Bonneville a couple of years ago, driving a bare metal coupe, which at first glance looked like a chopped ’32 five-window, but quickly turned into a 1929 Ford Model A coupe as my eyes swept over the body. He had been on a long 5,000-mile shakedown run that went from Dallas, through Montana, over to Tacoma, Washington, for the HotRod-A-Rama Event before heading back over to Wendover, Nevada, and the Bonneville Salt Flats.

I actually heard the car before seeing it. An 11:1-compression 331 (bored 0.060 over) Chrysler Hemi filled with a big Isky cam and solid lifters has a beautiful and noticeable sound to it, especially when it’s coming out through owner-built custom headers with 2-inch primaries and 3.5-inch collectors, with baffles and removable 2.5-inch stainless turnouts. The ’54 Hemi has high-port heads with stainless valves, shot-peened rods, Ross forged pistons, Hastings moly rings, Schneider valvesprings, Smith Bros. adjustable push rods, 340 balancer modified by Bob Wilson, big-block Chevy pulleys, a Cragar dual-point distributor converted to HEI, and a Cragar 4x2 manifold with Stromberg 97s and owner-built linkage. The long-block was machined, balanced, and assembled by Eric Carter in Azle, Texas. The ’67 Muncie M-20 four-speed transmission was rebuilt by Brian and it hooks to the engine through a Speed Gems bellhousing containing an AFT billet steel flywheel, a McLeod Racing clutch, pressure plate, and hydraulic throw-out bearing before going back through a Stan Hoskins–built driveshaft to a ’66 Ford Bronco 9-inch rearend with Moser 31-spline axles and a 3.50:1 Ford Trac-Loc Posi also by Stan Hopkins.

Brian found the body with 157 bulletholes in it. He collected parts for almost four years and in 2005, when he found the 331 Chrysler Hemi, he started to build the car around it. His goal was to build an era-correct car with nothing showing newer than 1958. He built the chassis first, starting with boxed American Stamping ’rails, a Model A front crossmember, and a tubular rear crossmember. A ’40 Ford X-member was cut down to fit between the ’rails. The ladder bars are owner built, while the rear spring is a ’39 Ford with ’36 Ford radius rod ends used as spring hangers. The rear brakes use Lincoln backing plates by Wilson Welding with ’58 Buick drums, which were also used on the front with owner-modified F-3 truck 12-inch backing plates. The original Mor-Drop Model A axle was drilled out by Bob Wilson and is held in place with owner-modified Model A wishbones, a Model A reverse eye spring, and Armstrong lever arm shocks. The motor and transmission mounts are owner made, and Brian handled all the line work, which goes through a Holley fuel pump and regulator from an 18-gallon Tanks Inc. fuel tank. There is an Optima battery in the car and the fuse panel is by Painless, but the rest of the wiring is by Brian. All chrome is by Catalino in Dallas.

That windshield certainly makes this coupe stand out. The top has been chopped 6 inches with a ’32 windshield header and matching chopped windshield frame installed, with the A-pillars leaned back about 10 degrees. This required reshaping the upper cowl around the windshield and welding the top seams together. A ’59 Chevy four-door roof was used to fabricate the top insert, upholstered by the owner. The cowl was widened slightly at the bottom to fit the ’32 frame and new firewall feet were fabricated. At the rear, the subrail crossmember was moved up to clear the rear framehorns, the decklid was shortened approximately 3 inches, and it was louvered by Kenneth Reierson with a roadster rear tail panel installed. A ’46 Buick gave up its taillights and a late ’50s Renault Dauphine lost its license plate light. The front lights are KD Lamp headlights on a Brian-fabbed headlight bar.

Inside, a cut-down ’40 Mercury dash is filled with a ’56 Studebaker speedometer, Stewart-Warner 2 5/8-inch gauges, and a Sun tach. The clock and dash knobs were lifted from a ’51 Ford. The seat frame is from a ’30-31 Model A and the cushions and upholstery are by David Devers from Waco, Texas.

The car performed flawlessly on the 5,000-mile trip, other than a blown inner tube, one steering box adjustment, having to grease one front axle bearing, and rebuild the clutch master cylinder. It has been in bare metal for four years, though Brian plans to paint it to match the already-painted engine and dash. That’ll make it a whole different car, and a little more impervious to salt!

Rod & Custom Feature Car

Dallas, Texas
1929 Model A Coupe
Brian Bass