The standard hot rodding definitions don't make a whole lot of sense anymore, do they? We just got through a summer show season in which we saw a bunch of "traditional" hot rods built out of fiberglass, many "contemporary" cars that looked way out of date, and rows of street rods that will never see the street.
Now, as if to go out of his way to blur the lines even more, Ken Fenical of Posies Rods and Customs builds a '29 Ford pickup, nicknamed "ThunderRoad," that is obviously inspired by the current return to traditional rods but that is technically sophisticated, presumably high-budget, and remarkably distinct.
"I couldn't understand," he explained, "why perfectly intelligent people were giving so much attention to a rat rod coming through the gate at a car show. So I began trying to see what they saw, and I realized that they were observing a real hot rod, but one that was unfinished. So I decided that I would actually build one finished, and I was going to do it with up-to-date technology. The only thing original on my car is the body. Every thing else is 2004."
In a hobby where so many traditional guys are boasting that everything on their ride is from the '40s or '50s, Posies has flipped the whole thing on its head by building a traditional-looking rod from all new parts.
Actually, the raw material for his pickup is a '29 Model A body found at the Hershey flea market in 2000. That original steel has been reworked extensively during the 19-week buildup, starting with a 5 3/4 -inch chop and more custom components and technical tricks. Underneath, a handbuilt tube chassis is loaded with front and rear suspension components from the Posies catalog, hopped up with a little creative engineering.
Despite the mountains of amazing details all over this rod, Posies commitment to keeping everything 2004 doesn't mean it has to be exotic. For example, the distinctive burgundy paint is a Ford Taurus color (2004, of course). Posies chose it for the simple reason that it is a mass-produced, two-stage paint that can be found anywhere and repaired cheap.
The pickup isn't that simple on the inside, however. One of the most noticeable components, the handbuilt aluminum dash, has all the character of a piece of furniture from the art deco era. The other is the injected Roush 402 Ford motor. You could call it a modern interpretation of an old time hot rod mill, but this race-ready engine makes the sort of power that would leave a '50s hot rodder standing there with his mouth hanging open.
Ken got a lot of help with this project and wants to especially acknowledge Tim Lephart for 5 months worth of Sundays working on the pickup. He also credits Rich Lewis from Posies for all the work he put into the project.
If it's all about getting attention, we wondered if ThunderRoad was getting the response Posies wanted.
"I'm getting most of the attention from guys who build cars, and from rat rod owners who appreciate the fact that there's horsepower in it. I got a good response leaving the fairgrounds in Columbus. The only way out to the street was through some water somebody had poured out. My daughter pointed out to me that they put it there so I'd do a burnout. Needless to say, we launched it and about a block away I got a standing ovation. I'm not sure if the public should read that, but it was fun.
So is it traditional, is it contemporary, or what? We're not sure, but maybe the fact that it's fun is all that really matters.
ThunderRoad '29 Model A Pickup
Posies Rods and Customs
Drivetrain: Posies has been using Ford racing engines in his last several projects, and figured the Roush 500hp 402IR engine with aluminum heads perfectly suited the statement he's making with ThunderRoad. The "Weber-style" eight-stack induction evokes the look of mechanical fuel injection but with the precision of electronics. At 500 hp, the engine provides daily driver reliability and eyeball-flattening power. The custom air snorkels are built by Posies and painted to match the wheels. The radiator is from Walker. A Wilcap trans adapter ties the Roush to the 700-R4 transmission built by Deltrans, who modified the torque converter based on tire size, gear ratio, cam duration and vehicle weight. We will look more closely at the wicked Roush mill in next month's R&C.
Chassis: ThunderRoad rides on a 1 3/4 tube chassis and cage, sprung with Posies SuperSlide springs in the rear and Ellipta Slide springs in front. A small-diameter steel driveshaft from Mashar Driveshaft connected to a 9-inch Ford with 3.73 gears and a Posi gets the wheels turning and disc brakes from Wilwood slow 'em down. Borgeson changed the ratio on the '56 Chevy steering box.
Wheels & Tires: The distinctive wheels are 20-inchers from the Colorado Custom Sugar City line. They have been painted RR Bronze, the same color used on the air snorkel tubes. The rubber meats ThunderRoad rolls on are BFGoodrich G Force radials measuring P285/55R20 in the rear and a pair of sport bike tires up front. Front and rear motorcycle fenders, painted flat black, are in the works.
Body & Paint: The steel body is the only genuinely old-time component on the vehicle, modified with a 5 3/4-inch chop to the top. A '33 roadster top was modified to work on the '29. Hinges and door handles were retained, along with the cowl gas cap. The tonneau-covered custom bed is built from aluminum. The CW Moss grille is flanked by H2 Hummer headlights in flea market buckets. The .080 aluminum visor and .120 aluminum fuel tank were built at Posies. The rearview mirrors from Valley Auto feature '57 Chevy heads on tapered stainless rods that are adjustable. Ken can extend them five inches for highway use, and loosen a wing nut to push them in close to the visor during shows. The burgundy paint is a PPG factory mix, chosen for the fact that it is not obscure or exotic. And the LED third brake light? "I've never built a hot rod--and never will build another hot rod--with a third brake light--but if I'm professing 2004, it needs to have them.
Interior: Rick Futrell and Russ' Trim Shop in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, handled the upholstery chores, using yellow leather from Car Tech in Michigan (the 1962 Pep Boys Falcon seat covers used as inserts are the single departure from Posies goal to keep it all 2004). The custom dash houses the Haneline gauges in a woodgrains instrument panel. This piece also houses the Vintage Air AC system. Shoulder belts from Juliano's are fastened to the out-of-sight side rollbar. The steering wheel and column are also from Juliano's. The tall center hump conceals the two 2 1/2-inch oval stacked exhaust pipes, a heat shield, the driveshaft, and a bridge for the wiring (from Painless) and brake lines. Other components include the Lokar hand brake and spoon gas pedal.
Low-buck, garage-built hot...
Low-buck, garage-built hot rods, like R&C Editor Jim Rizzo's Budget Beater roadster pickup, appeal to Ken Fenical of Posies. ThunderRoad is his response to this style of hot rod.
The rear suspension uses a...
The rear suspension uses a full spring on the bottom and an quarter elliptic on top. The system is adjustable with a nut and screw set-up to allow up to 2 1/2 to 3 inches of height adjustment. Note the custom C-shaped hangers, which captivate the springs, so they stay put even if a bolt breaks.
The custom headers were hand...
The custom headers were hand fabricated at Posies from 90-degree mandrel-bent primaries connected to a main pipe that continuously tapers from 2 to 2 1/2 inches and connects to the exhaust pipes at the firewall with ball flanges. The headers were coated in black HPC. Mufflers are from Flowmaster.
The quarter elliptical springs...
The quarter elliptical springs on the suicide front end act like the lower half of a four-bar suspension set-up. The leaf springs take the place of the lower bars and the adjustable upper diagonal rods above them act like the upper bars. The springs and diagonals do all the suspending in front; the shocks ride for free.
After the top was chopped,...
After the top was chopped, the roof was raised 5/8 of an inch above the door openings to raise the roofline and reduce the flat surface. The cowl was raised the same amount and the top of the windshield was radiused 5/8 of an inch underneath the visor. The grille shell was lowered over the radiator and leaned forward 3/8 inch to provide a little more of a rake to the profile.
The aluminum bed is protected...
The aluminum bed is protected by a cage built from 1 3/4 tubing, the same as the cab.