Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
1931 Ford Roadster
In these times of digital this and electronic that, social media, Internet forums, and eBay, it's almost surprising that more cars don't get built the way Bear Metal Kustoms (BMK) put together Will Radcliffe's '31 Model A roadster. See, Will wanted an entirely different roadster to start with. You may remember the copper-accented roadster that BMK built a few years back? Well, the company's Jason Pall had put it on eBay, where Will saw it and called to get a few more details before bidding. Pall's first question was "How tall are you?", which was followed by, "You won't fit in it," when he learned Will is around 6 feet, 3 inches. This was swiftly followed again with, "But we can build one tailored to fit you!" Thinking about it overnight, Will called back the following day and the wheels were set in motion.
Here's where the phone calls, Facebook, BMK's website, and text messages come in, as BMK is situated in Morro Bay, California, and Will is based in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas. Not exactly neighbors! In fact, builder and customer only met in person three times throughout the process: once at the beginning, when Will flew into Los Angeles and accompanied Pall to buy the base for the project—a stock Model A minus engine and running gear—again at the West Coast Kustoms' Santa Maria show where the car was assembled but not finished or bodyworked; and finally at the Long Beach Autorama in 2011, where the car debuted. After the Grand National Roadster Show last year, it was shipped to its new home in Texas.
According to Pall, "Will gave us a lot of leeway during the build, though we kept in contact through texts, Facebook, posting pictures to our company website, and talking at least three times a day on the phone. The main plan, or theme, for the roadster was to use the Oakland/Pontiac grille and tie that into the Ford body. We used the upper part of the stock '31 grille as the lower section of the new grille, then filled the top of the Oakland grille, and retained the center bar. The hood was then modified to flow into the grille. The top of the cowl was also totally reworked, losing the windshield stanchions and reveal, before adding mounts for the Brooklands windscreens.
"As the project progressed, the art deco theme evolved from just using that grille to incorporating similar-era lights. One day a box showed up at the shop from the customer. Inside was a pair of Electroline headlights. He also sourced Electroline taillights and a Pathfinder center light."
What had started as a tidy driver took on another direction as it received some rare vintage pieces, as well as some cool modern accessories. Take the Studebaker dash insert, for instance, or the Schroeder Sprint Car steering box, Brooklands screens, and Crafty B fuel filler.
Despite the slight deviation in direction, the roadster's still very much a driver, Will clocking up the miles when he's not working. Speaking of which, there's a good chance both car and owner may be heading for Italy to work for a while in the not too distant future. We can't think of a better way to cruise the Italian coastline and confuse the supercar cognoscenti!
The original '31 Ford chassis has been swept up 3 inches in front (check out www.bearmetalkustoms to see exactly how this was achieved) and Z'd 10 inches in the rear, with tube crossmembers and a floor substructure built by BMK. An aluminum gas tank now sits behind the driver, filled through the rear deck. A 4-inch dropped I-beam with Mr. Roadster spindles and GM disc brakes is supported on a Posies transverse spring and Mr. Roadster hairpins, along with lever shocks.
A late Camaro gave up its Vortec small-block, T5 manual trans, and 10-bolt rearend. BMK adapted a tri-carb manifold to the later model engine, enabling a trio of Rochester 4GC carbs to be installed. Internally stock, the engine looks all the better for wearing a pair of Wysco finned valve covers, BMK-fabbed air cleaners, and stainless rams horn exhaust manifolds. These lead to a muffler-free shorty system terminating at the lower edge of the cowl. The T5 was rebuilt in-house at BMK—"everything but new gears," according to Pall—and uses a performance clutch and modified B&M short shifter. BMK also shortened the Camaro driveshaft for the roadster, connecting to the triangulated four-link–suspended rearend. A pair of Pro 1 coilovers handle bounce.
Wheels & Tires
ET wheels from Team 3 are used all around, with 15x4.5 Gassers at the front, and 15x7 Fuelers bringing up the rear. Those Gassers are wrapped in Hurst "Super Cushion" radial rubber, despite their bias-ply appearance, with pie-crust cheater slicks from the same company putting the power down.
Body & Paint
The combination of the swept and Z'd frame, and the body being channeled the height of the frame, make for a very low roadster. We've discussed the work in the grille and hood in the main text, but the door tops, dash rail, and cowl top were all reworked, all seams between panels welded and smoothed, and louvers punched in-house in both the decklid and along the center of the hood. A '32-style dash was molded in, as were clearance notches for the rearend in the fenderwells. Ben Mills in Los Osos then sprayed the metallic purple.
The Studebaker insert—its shape nicely echoed by the oval mirror—in that '32 dash contains Classic Instruments gauges, the Grant steering wheel connecting to a cowl-mounted Schroeder steering box. Jimmy Z. in Cayucos covered the aluminum interior panels and custom seat with brown leather, incorporating pockets in the doors, while black rubber matting edged with leather covers the floor and trans tunnel. A Moon gas pedal was used, with matching aluminum pads on the Mr. Roadster brake and clutch pedal assembly. Suffice it to say, there's no A/C or stereo in this roadster.