Growing up with a Top Fuel racer as a father, do you think Tyler Hilton had a chance in hell escaping the gearhead gene? Since we're engaging in this discussion here, that answer's clearly obvious. But, it goes well beyond that. As a return gesture, the younger Hilton reinvigorated his dad Bob's interest in the hot rods he grew up around, and before long, the two were building cars together.
The effort of theirs that first caught my attention, in a big way, much like it surely must have for many others, was of course this coupe: Tyler's stylish Model A. It doesn't set any trends; there's nothing revolutionary about it...and that's precisely what sets it apart from the others attempting to accomplish the above mentioned. It's pure hot rod, period.
Again, like many, the first place I laid eyes on Tyler's coupe was at the Lonestar Round Up in Austin, Texas, a few years back. Initially, I figured it to be an old build with a fresh redo—details and execution screamed true vintage. But as it turned out, Bob and Tyler had recently completed the 1930, with a mere six months under their respective belts to do so.
It all started with, as Bob recalls, "a body from the estate auction of a three-generation Model A restoration shop business...[it] was in immaculate, almost perfect condition. The 354 Chrysler Hemi engine was bought at the Springfield, Ohio, swap meet as it looks currently—carbs, log manifold, original pitted chrome. It was an original old race engine—origin unknown." But it wasn't simply a matter of mating cherry tin with aged mill. "We have always been intrigued by very period-correct hot rods and decided to build something that looks like it would have been on the cover of a custom/rod little book, circa 1961," Bob continues.
And that they did, indeed—in that short time span, father and son Hilton produced quite the period poster child. Based on a custom-built chassis reminiscent of a Model A (kicked up 10 inches in the rear, 4 up front, "to achieve that heavy East Coast channel look without sacrificing as much interior room") the coupe body has been dropped 6 inches over with its roof section left stock height and dusted in "modified" PPG 1959 Pontiac Dusty Orchid metallic, further adding to the perfect 1960s vibe. The firewall, wheels (a mixture of 1940 Ford and 1950 Merc), suspension, and engine have all been treated to a complementing white, those rollers capped with screw-on Moon discs, "sanded and polished to a mirror finish...a different touch that gives an early custom hot rod feel," as Bob describes. Inside, one of the few areas the Hiltons offered up to outside assistance, old barstool seats were repurposed as buckets, ultimately covered with black leather along with the surrounding paneling by Ray Butche.
Not only has the Hilton coupe been on the road for a few years now, it's done its time on the track as well. "Tyler ran a 13.00/106-mph pass at the HAMB drags in Mokan, Missouri, smoking the bias-ply street tires for almost half the track," Bob proudly remembers. And the roadworthy recollections don't stop there. When asked to comment on any other memorable accounts he surmised: "When Tyler grenaded the first of many Muncie four-speed transmissions leaving the 2011 Lonestar Round Up after receiving a Builder's Pick award from our now friend, Jimmy White of Circle City Hot Rods."
Rod & Custom Feature Car
The Plains, Virginia
1930 Ford Model A coupe
Model A–based frame features a 10-inch kickup in the rear, 4 inches up front, to aid in what father Bob Hilton refers to as "heavy East Coast channel look." Suspension-wise, a 1936 Ford axle dropped by Oklahoma's Joe Casto features same-year split wishbone, Chassis Engineering transverse leaf, and Pete & Jake's shocks hung with modified F-1 mounts. A smooth-back Ford 9-inch rearend, geared with a 3.70 Posi, is hung via a '40 Ford front spring! A 1956 F-100 box handles the steering. All work by the Hiltons.
Purchased in "as-shown" condition, externally speaking, the 1956 Chrysler 354 Hemi was machined by D&D Engine Services (Cincinnati) and assembled by the Hiltons, who used a "wicked" Schneider cam, J-E 11.5:1 pistons, and stainless valves. Six fully functional, non-progressive Stromberg 97s top a ported and polished Weiand Drag Star intake; ignition is stock MoPar points; and exhaust exits 1936 Ford driveshaft headers. As mentioned, Tyler literally bangs gears in his coupe through a Muncie M-22 four-speed...his third one to date—thanks to a Wilcap adapter/flywheel and Lakewood scatter shield, as well as a Hayes clutch.
Wheels & Tires
Mirror-polished Moon discs cover '40 Ford 16x4 wheels up front and 15x5 Mercurys out back, with 4.50-16 and 7.50-15 Firestone Deluxe Champion bias-plies from Coker. Early Ford drum brakes are used at all four corners, the fronts based on '40 hydraulics fitted with finned Buick drums.
Body & Paint
Other than its 6-inch channeling, the pristine 1930 body is fairly as-was, with the slight exceptions of the PPG Pontiac Dusty Orchid paint and chrome roof insert, all performed by the Hiltons. Additionally, Bob and Tyler added stylish nerf bars, the rear encapsulating 1956 Dodge Royal taillights and the front flanked by vintage Yankee Owl aftermarket sealed-beam headlights. A Brookville 1932 grille shell has been treated to a chromed custom insert.
A Brookville 1932 dash features a vintage Mercruiser insert with N.O.S. Stewart-Warner gauges, and supports an F-100 steering column topped with a vintage white-rimmed, three-spoke Superior wheel. Bob and Tyler spared a pair of barstool seats from the garbage, now serving as buckets covered in rolled and pleated black leather, courtesy of Cincinnati's Ray Butche. Between the repurposed seating is a handmade trans tunnel/center console.