Miller Time

Steven & Shane Hill
Whittier, California
1929 Ford Model A roadster pickup

There are a number of ways to start a hot rod project. One could start with an original vehicle, or an older hot rod, or piece one together from all-new repro parts. Or it can be done the hard way: piecing together a hot rod from parts procured at swap meets and from like-minded rodders. There are no prizes for guessing which route Steven and Shane Hill took with their ’29 Model A roadster pickup, though it actually all started with the engine.

The father and son team wanted to work on a project car together after Shane purchased a ’32 banger engine some 12 years ago. After disassembly and inspection they discovered it was a crack-free and near-perfect block. They discussed what a great base it would make for an overhead conversion. As Steven told us, “The late Jay Steel of Taylor Engine in Whittier (California) offered to supply a Miller overhead conversion, and proceeded to rebuild the Miller head with large intake and exhaust valves, heavier springs, and a healthy port and polish. The engine was also converted to run insert main and rod bearings, with a drilled crankshaft for full oil pressure. New Taylor connecting rods were installed as well as JE pistons. Jay modified a 265 Chevy dampener, and the flywheel is a 12-pound billet piece. An M-13 camshaft from American Cams was used. With a well-built engine to build upon, it was time to decide what to put it in.”

A Model A roadster pickup was what the Hills settled on, and pretty soon they had purchased a body from Jay Kennedy, then spent many weekends at swap meets searching for parts. Mel Gross supplied a not-quite-era-correct (but infinitely preferable to the ol’ three-speed) rebuilt T5 transmission, and a Magnum 4-inch dropped axle is one of the very few new parts used in the build. A ’40 Ford rearend was selected, converted to open drive using a Hot Rod Works conversion kit, though as a ’40 spring is behind the axle rather than above as on a Model A, the chassis required stretching to suit. This was entrusted to LimeWorks, who are conveniently located not far from either Hill’s home in Whittier. They performed a fantastic job, but on reassembly Steven wasn’t happy with the ride height, so Kiwi Steve’s Hot Rod Shop in nearby Brea Z’d the rear by 7 inches to achieve the desired altitude.

Steven admits that if they did it again they’d probably look for a better body and bed, as countless hours were spent straightening and prepping them for paint, but the flip side of that is doing the bodywork and watching Shane spray the car in his home garage (which also houses his ’27 T lakes racer, incidentally) ranks as one of his most memorable experiences during the build. One of the things this writer likes most about this cool little truck is that there are a lot of neat touches and reused vintage parts, from the wishbone ends used for lower rear shock mounts, to the spring shackle plates used as tailgate latches. The finished truck gets used a couple times a week, has participated in the Pasadena Roadster Club reliability run, and has run a best quarter-mile time of 17.29 at 74.46 mph at the Forever Four Club’s Antique Nationals. Not bad for a pile of parts that came from all over, huh?

Chassis

An original ’29 Model A chassis was stretched to mount the spring behind the rearend, though the original 103-inch wheelbase was retained. The frame was then Z’d 7 inches. A Magnum 4-inch dropped I-beam mounts on a Chassis Engineering spring and Pete & Jakes shocks, with Ford spindles and ’39 Ford hydraulic brakes. A master cylinder from the same year is used, combined with a pedal assembly fabricated by Shane. Mel Gross supplied a ’55 F-100 steering box, attached to a Shane-built column.

Drivetrain

The engine that started this whole project is a 200ci ’32 Ford four-cylinder, machined by Taylor engine and assembled by Jay Steel and Shane Hill. It uses a ’34 Ford factory counterweight crank, Taylor billet 4340 rods, vacuum degassed and shot peened, and 8:1 JE pistons. An M-13 American Camshaft cam was reground, actuating the oversize valves in a Miller head. A pair of Stromberg 97s, rebuilt by Jere Jobe’s Vintage Carburetion, mount to an Evans intake and wear O’Brien Truckers air cleaners. A 265 Chevy generator bracket was repurposed, while ignition is taken care of by PerTonix and Packard 440 wires. A 1 1/2-inch-diameter Reds header leads to a 2-inch ceramic-coated system, fabricated by Tony’s Muffler in Whittier, CA. Mel Gross assembled the BorgWarner T5 transmission, which features a LimeWorks shifter. Driveline Service of Whittier built the driveshaft, hooking to a ’40 Ford rearend converted to open drive. Shane fabricated the torque arm, while Kiwi Steve’s Hot Rod Shop designed and built the split wishbone-style suspension, using ’48 Lincoln front ’bones (see page 28 in our October 2013 issue for more details).

Wheels & Tires

Bent-spoke Kelsey-Hayes wires are used at each corner, all measuring 4.5x16, though a rubber rake is provided by wrapping the fronts in 450/16s and adding 700/16s to the rear.

Body & Paint

The body and bed are original ’29 sheetmetal, restored by Shane before he sprayed the PPG Delstar enamel Washington Blue in his home garage. The only deviations from stock are the Brookville rear roll pan and ’32 dash, the ’32 grille shell, and the 2-inch chopped windshield. The taillights came from a ’37 Ford, while Guide 682-C headlights lead the way. A ’20-25 Model T gas tank now sits in the bed.

Interior

That previously mentioned ’32 dash holds Stewart-Warner Wings gauges, while Shane’s homemade column sports a Bell-style 14-inch four-spoke wheel. That stock-looking bench seat is actually from an ’88 Dodge mini van, upholstered in “distressed leather” Naugahyde by Jason Loose, a trimmer from New Zealand who was visiting the United States at the time! Owner-installed Kwik Wire wiring ensures everything works, with aircraft latch–type seatbelts wrapping up the simple interior.


The Avocado Hauler

Jim Quast
Orange, California
1929 Ford Model A roadster pickup

Like the Hills’ pickup Jim Quast’s truck was also pieced together rather than starting as an actual vehicle, but this one is all repro. However, Jim’s love for roadster pickups goes back further than this truck. Whilst he’s an avid enthusiast, he admits he’s not a builder, and that what he enjoys most is the planning, parts chasing, and watching and helping the builder bring the car to life.

“In 2006 I wanted a Model A roadster pickup and started looking for one. I wasn’t having much luck, but on leaving the L.A. Roadsters Show at Pomona my son spotted one sitting by itself with a For Sale sign. It was a red ’29 with a small-block Chevy and Corvette rear suspension. It looked pretty decent and the price was right so I bought it. Being a Ford guy, the Chevy motor had to go, so I started looking for a shop to do a little work on it. I found that shop in my hometown of Orange, California: Don Lindfors’ Altered Engineering. I met with Lindfors and we clicked pretty well, so I brought it in for a simple engine swap to a Ford and a little clean up. Well, things got pretty out of hand as he started modifying it; I would stop in and Lindfors would say, ‘Jim, I think we should change this, or modify that.’ I’d agree and before we knew it the truck was down to the bare frame. By the time it was all back together a short nine or so months later we entered it in the Grand National Roadster Show where it won its class.

“I enjoyed the truck for a number of years but had the opportunity to purchase a ’32 Ford three-window coupe from Don and ended up using the ’29 as a down payment. Although I love the ’32, and still have it, I really missed the little pickup. Within a very short time I started talking to Don about building another one. We formulated a plan, with the biggest issue being he had closed Altered Engineering and gone to work for PerTronix as the head of Exhaust R&D and no longer had a shop in which to build it. He agreed to do it out of his home hobby shop since it was going to be a down and dirty, primered, crate motor type of truck.

“Well, as we started the build, things got out of hand (déjà vu!). He convinced me for the amount of work we were doing it wouldn’t be that much more to build it right and build it nice. So I thought about it and told him to build it the way he would want it. So my small-block Ford crate motor became a full-race Ford 2300, and the dirt track styling was his idea. The wheels on this truck are from the first red ’29 that Don gave back to me when he put Salt Flats on it after the trade-in. About the only concession he made was putting in the automatic. He really wanted a T5 manual trans, but at my age I’m tired of shifting. After us just kind of playing with it for about a year, Don decided to have another go at the GNRS, but this was in October with the show being at the end of January. So he spent the next four months in the garage every night after work and every weekend thrashing away. He had it ready for Randy at the paint shop at the end of December and it went to upholstery with just two weeks before the show—and he still had plenty to finish after getting it back. The last few bits got finished up as it was going on the trailer to head for the show, where once again I was fortunate enough to come home with a big trophy. This has turned out way beyond my wildest dreams and never would have happened without the big effort from Don, Randy the painter, and Greg Burrows for helping me chase parts and keeping an eye on Don so he kept working!

“We named the truck ‘The Avocado Hauler’ both for the green paint and the fact that Don made me bring him avocados from my tree to bribe him to keep working.”

Chassis

Starting with an aftermarket ‘32 chassis, Don Lindfors pinched it for the ’29 cowl, then stepped and pinched it in the rear for the pickup bed. A Super Bell I-beam was custom drilled and mounted using Brookville hairpins and Panhard bar, and a Posies leaf spring, with ’37-41 Ford-style spindles. Lindfors drilled the ’40 Ford backing plates and used a Ford Maverick master cylinder and Brookville pedal assembly. A Vega steering box also found its way into the mix.

Drivetrain

While Jim originally planned to use a small-block Ford crate motor, it didn’t suit the dirt track theme that developed during the planning stages. What better than a four-banger? (Knowing Lindfors as we do and his penchant for Pinto motors, guess what now sits between the ‘rails?) Bill’s Automotive put together the bottom end of the ’74-vintage, 144ci SOHC four, using 0.030-over JE pistons, and the stock crank. Lindfors took care of the top end, employing an Esslinger Engineering hydraulic cam in a same-make aluminum race head. He also used a very rare TWM intake, with a pair of Weber DCOE 40mm side draft carburetors, the distinctive sound being music to this writer’s English ears! It’s probably no surprise that the ignition and wires are PerTronix products, as is the single header, a modified Patriot lakester item. Lindfors also custom-fabbed all the necessary bracketry, including the engine mounts. A C3 automatic was assembled by Malone’s Transmission in Orange, CA, with a mild shift kit. Out back there’s an 8-inch Ford rearend, with 3:1 gears, hung on ladder bars and aluminum coilovers.

Wheels & Tires

Hot Rod Wires from Roadster Wheel are used, 15x4.5 at the front with 2.5-inch backspacing, and 15x7 at the rear with 3-inch backspacing, all wrapped in Firestone rubber; ribbed tractor tires and grooved dirt trackers front and rear, respectively.

Body & Paint

The Brookville body features a custom recessed firewall, while the ’32 grille shell and Vintique insert were both chopped, as was the windshield. The Brookville bed received a roll pan and airfoil tubing taillight stands (with ’37-style lights by Lindfors) before Randy and R/T’s Custom Paint & Body sprayed the British Racing Green.

Interior

Orange Auto Upholstery custom-made the bench seat before covering it in the finest black “hide of the Naugacow”, according to Lindfors, adding German square-weave green carpet to the floor. The steering column, wheel, and Safety Shifter are all from LimeWorks. With an Odyssey battery under the body, Lindfors wired the truck with custom old-school cloth-covered wiring, using Classic Instruments in the ’32 dash. Swap meet lap belts and seat warmers complete the interior.

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