The Hilton Coupe, Part 2

Six months seems to be the running theme with the father-and-son team of Virginia's Bob and Tyler Hilton. At least it is when it comes to the build times each of their Model A coupes required to go from parts and pieces to driven masterpieces, according to the elder Hilton. The family, which nearly literally has nitromethane running in their veins (dad's an ex Top Fuel racer; both avid vintage drag racers), not only builds everything from their home-based shop in The Plains, well north of Richmond, Virginia, they drive what they build...hard, far, and regularly.

At the end of one summer, Tyler and Bob decided it was time to add another 1930 Model A to their stable of hot rods and race cars—with the upcoming Detroit Autorama as their deadline...a mere six-month window. As winter rolled around, the project, albeit shy of a couple minor details, was lugged the 500-plus miles to Cobo Center to be put proudly on display downstairs at the Autorama Extreme. From there, the Hiltons hauled A, literally, back home, wrapped up the loose ends, then proceeded to put 3,500 miles (round trip) on the coupe's 1936 Ford odometer to attend the Lonestar Round Up in Texas. "The car went from Virginia to Austin and back with no mechanical or major problems. Driveability with this car was the key to success, along with matching that with major sheetmetal modifications," recounts the elder Hilton.

The road to Austin and back initiated with a set of 1932 'rails from JW Rod Garage, jigged up at Dropped Axle Productions (Cincinnati) prior to being brought home for the beginning of the build. The chassis was completed by kicking the rear section up a couple inches, sweeping the front up an inch and into a flat crossmember, and building a tubular center crossmember from scratch. The suspension integration ensued (consisting of a heavy Deuce axle dropped/drilled by Joe Casto, split 'bones, and so on), followed by the installation of the Chrysler Hemi and T-5 drivetrain combo.

Unlike their other coupe, the latest Model A was destined to sit atop its new Deuce foundation—actually, according to Bob, "The body has been ‘anti-sectioned'–extended downward 2 inches, increasing the height of the beltline. It has Model A sedan doors, which are 1 1/2 inches longer, and sedan front subrails. The rear quarter windows have been relieved and reshaped to give them a more symmetrical appeal." That left room to devote laborious efforts to a healthy top chop, which again, Tyler and Bob took upon themselves to accomplish...with quite the results, we might add. Giving the car a brooding attitude to go with that roof lowering, most everything from the chassis up was coated in deep, glossy black (pre-paint bodywork by Brandon Bowling and Son). To adequately complement as well as contrast the dark exterior, Ohioan Ray Butche laid out the interior in Oxblood vinyl.

In comparison, other than their Hemi mills and origin of manufacture, the Hilton coupes share little. What they do share identically in common: expert craftsmanship and execution, perfect melding of period styling, and the fact that they're the fruit of a father-and-son team who know the true meaning of family heritage hot rodding.

Rod & Custom Feature Car
Bob Hilton
The Plains, Virginia
1930 Ford Model A coupe


Based on a set of JW Rod Garage 1932 framerails, the coupe's platform features custom-built crossmembers, as well as 2-inch rear and 1-inch front kickup. Suspension consists of a 5-inch dropped 'n' drilled heavy Deuce axle (via Joe Casto), split front wishbone, Pete & Jake's ladder bars, and transverse leaf springs, the rear being a 1940 front spring. Tube shocks, F-100 side steer, and a Dropped Axle Productions pedal assembly round out the chassis package.


The vintage drag racing family heritage is again represented with the coupe's powerplant: a 1956 DeSoto 330 Hemi, machined and assembled by Cincinnati's D&D Engine Services. Internally it's basically stock; externally features an Elco 6x2 log intake topped by a sextet of progressively linked (by Ross Racing Engines) Holley 94s, driveshaft-tube headers built by Matt at Geardrive Mfg., and backed by a Camaro T-5 via a Wilcap adapter. Rearend is out of a Ford Bronco, with a limited-slip 3.70 ring-and-pinion.

Wheels & Tires

Front and rear, the coupe rolls on 16-inch '40 Ford wheels (4/4.5-inch, respectively) wearing big 'n' little bias-ply Firestone rubber from Coker Tire (4.50/7.50-16, respectively) and '40 Deluxe caps. Drum brakes reside at each at axle.

Body & Paint

In house, father-and-son Hilton handled everything body-wise right up to final bodywork and paint (black Centari), chores which Atwood, Kentucky's Bowling and Son were given. Prior to paint, Bob and Tyler adjusted the coupe's profile with a bit of deceptive metalworking (adding sedan doors and subrails, and so on) to ultimately extend from the beltline down. Furthermore, the top was chopped 6 inches, without filling the insert section. Most exterior accessories are of 1932 Ford nature: headlights, Vintique grille, and single taillight.


As with the channeled coupe, the Hiltons relied on Ray Butche (Cincinnati) for the upholstery, this go 'round resulting in a stylish Oxblood vinyl layout with black rubber mat flooring. Sectioned 1936 Ford dash features original FoMoCo instrumentation, and supports an F-100 steering column with a Shroeder 17-inch Sprint Car wheel. Dash inserts, trim pieces, and metalworked trans tunnel are all custom-made.