You know the feeling: You want to build a hot rod that perfectly suits your style, but it also has to give you a bit of a charge every time you take it out. Something traditional will work, but not in the already-been-done-a-hundred-times way. That's where Richard Holte was when he started thinking about building his first hot rod a few years ago. He wanted a Ford in the style of the early '50s, and he wanted to use as many OEM parts as he could. After pondering a few different body styles, he decided on a Model A Tudor sedan, and he finally found one listed in the Minneapolis paper. Antique iron doesn't thrive well on its own in Minnesota, where Richard lives, but the '29 he found is a tough old survivor.
"Everybody has heard about finding a barn car," Richard says. "That is just what this was. The car was all original, missing only the starter motor, wiper motor, and rear window. I carefully looked over the sheetmetal and searched for Bondo and didn't find any. I was concerned, though, because the body was covered in gray primer that looked to be sprayed from a couple of cans. I later discovered that it was put on to protect the metal, not to hide anything. I purchased the car immediately."
After three years of collecting parts, Richard was ready to start making progress. Builder Kurt Senescall at Creative Metalworks in Blaine, Minnesota, convinced him to make it a highboy, unchopped, and set on Deuce rails.
Although deciding on the body was difficult, picking the right engine was even harder. Here, as before, it had to be traditional but attention-getting. He thought about Nailheads, early Cads, and Ford Y-blocks, but he finally went for an early Hemi because of the "wow!" effect--and because he didn't see a lot of them at Minnesota rod gatherings. The choice became a challenge when it was time to wrestle the big motor into the pinched Deuce rails. The clearance between the block and the steering box barely lets light through.
For all the imagination that went into planning the sedan, and all the modifications that were part of building it, the final result is a clean and cool hot rod that looks a lot simpler than it is. Like the best rods, this one keeps surprising you the more you look at it. That's the effect it had on us when we saw it at Back to the Fifties in 2004. By that time, it had already racked up some respectable mileage.
Now Richard is thinking about converting the distributor to an electronic ignition and swapping the four-deuce intake setup for a less cool-looking but more streetable four-barrel. What does that tell you? Maybe that Richard is as serious about the street as he is about style.
'29 Ford Tudor Highboy
There's plenty of power in the '55 Chrysler Hemi to pull this Tudor along. Wheeler Racing (Blaine, Minnesota) balanced the 331, bored it 0.060-over, and added a set of modified OEM heads. A row of rebuilt Stromberg 97s from Sundem Carburetor Service (Minneapolis) was bolted to a Cragar manifold on top of a Moon valley cover. The rail reduces the impact of pulses from the pump, and cast-iron exhaust manifolds pipe the exhaust to glasspack mufflers. Current comes from a 12-volt-converted '57 DeSoto generator. The Hemi is backed by a 727 Torqueflite (rebuilt by Chuck Lofgren) and a 9-inch Ford rearend with 3.50:1 gears and Posi.
Creative Metalworks muscled up a set of Deuce rails from American Stamping using a Deuce Factory front crossmember, a Chassis Engineering '33-'34 centersection, and a POSIES rear crossmember. Hairpins were added in front, and a dropped I-beam axle was hung on reverse-eye leaves from POSIES. A Vega box is used with F-100 steering. The narrowed rearend was modified for a buggy spring and four-bar setup. Mid-'50s Buick aluminum drum brakes were mounted on early Ford spindles in front with Ford drums in the rear. The master cylinder is from a '56 Chevy.
Wheels & Tires
The tall sedan body called for some proportional rolling stock, provided in the form of Stockton Wheel Service 16-inch steelies. The capped rims wear Firestone 5.50 and 7.50 bias-ply rubber.
Body & Paint
Rather than go the radical chop route on the original steel body (which retains about 80 percent of the original wood), the Tudor stayed tall. Creative Metalworks filled the top with a Lincoln Town Car roof, added a slight visor, and modified the driprails. The '32 grille was tweaked a bit to drop it between the framerails. BLC headlamp buckets hold repro Ford lights. Paint prep sheetmetal work was done by Bo Vescio's shop in Roger, Minnesota, where the sedan was shot, top and bottom, with copper DuPont paint. Ken Madden from Andover, Minnesota, took brush to body to add the finishing pinstripes.
Richard kept the clean and cool look on the inside by having John Zechbauer (Stillwater, Minnesota) wrap the OEM front seat frames and springs in cream-colored Naugahyde. The custom '49 Olds dash--which required moving everything back 4 inches to make it fit--looks just right. It's filled with OEM gauges that were rebuilt and converted to 12-volt by APT Instruments International (Bloomington, Minnesota). The '41 Chevy steering wheel includes the very rare spinner accessory.