The mating of Ford’s old Model A bodies to Ford’s more graceful, more substantial Deuce frames has been a common practice throughout the better part of hot rod history. But who do you suppose might have birthed the original notion? Without a “way back” machine, we’ll likely never know who is owed their due propers. Therefore, the best we can do to honor the unsung originator of this time-tested tradition is to just go on and mate another Model A body to another Deuce chassis.
Today for those who desire a clean-as-possible execution, the “A-V8-mate” has been made a little easier. Thanks to artists, Eric Schill of Riley Automotive in Commerce City, Colorado, who’ll custom build an A-V8 chassis to his customers’ individual specifications, and Henry Richards of Steadfast Manufacturing in Mansfield, Ohio, who has recognized the need for a kit-formed body sub-rail conversion, which enables the Deuce chassis to better accept the Model A passenger car body.
Although he had to purchase a complete, running, and registered ’30 coupe to acquire a well-preserved body, Mark Schneider of Lakeside, California, now has a rust-free, solid start on his latest hot rod project. Schneider knows exactly what he wants: an accurate example of a late A-V8, true to tradition, but with an extra helping of attention to detail. For the body swap and impending chop, a ringer has been called in: hot rod builder, Jimmy Benitez. For the past eight years, Benitez has practiced his craft at the Jalopy Shoppe in Escondido, California. This job will begin there, and continue at Benitez’s new digs, Coastal Auto Restoration & Performance in San Clemente, California.
Our Steadfast sub-rail kit was sourced through Riley Automotive. The parts arrived, as seen here, but sans instructions of any kind. The cut-to-fit sub-rails come long, but at first they appeared slightly wider than necessary as well. A telephone call to the manufacturer helped to clarify the reason for the extra width.
As we now understand, most Model A Fords are badly rusted and their wheelhouses will likely require replacement anyway. With new wheelhouses grafted into a slightly more outward location, overlap clearance can be gained where the lower portion of wheelhouse will eventually meet the upward curve of the ’32 framerail.
However, this rust-free California coupe has cherry wheelhouses, and its owner prefers that they remain in their original locations. So know that from here, Jimmy Benitez will have to work a little harder than Steadfast intended. This is in order to compensate for the slight bit of extra sub-rail width.
This job’s challenges will include the salvaging of a functional rumble seat, no matter what that entails. Here with air chisel in-hand, Benitez begins to persuade the hinge-mounting bracketry from the old coupe’s quarter-panels.
A quick pass with a spent 3M Roloc, 3-inch abrasive disc on an angle die grinder helps to coax the Ford factory’s spot-welds out of hiding.
Next Benitez drills out the spot-welds, being careful not to drill too deeply into the second layer of metal.
A little later on, the vertical braces will be shortened as necessary to accept the height of the swoopy sub-rails. The wide triangular pieces will also require modifications, which must not alter the hinge geometry of the rumble seat’s lid.
Although a new floor crossmember is included in the Steadfast sub-rail kit, we’ll likely want to retain as many of this coupe’s original pieces as possible. Once the original is removed and its condition is assessed, a final decision will be made.
“Rodney, here; straighten this for me,” Benitez says with crossmember in-hand. “Then you can sandblast it—and blast those other pieces over there,” he says. For anyone who might be thinking that I’m only taking pictures on these jobs, I’ll have y’all know that I usually end up working on cars.
Before the body can be set on the fresh, Deuce chassis, sections of the old Model A sub-rails must be cut away. A cutoff disc on a die grinder does the job, but back at the home shop, I have something that Benitez might like a little better. I’ll bring that in for day two.
With the obvious clearances made, several measurements are taken before the body is lifted on. If we can eliminate the possibilities of any unforeseen interferences, we’ll lessen the chance of damaging parts, damaging the body, and/or damaging our own bodies for that matter.
The wheels and tires used here are just temporary rollers. The removal of the left-rear wheel and tire should make the rehearsed dance steps to follow a little less clumsy.
Of course the Jalopy Shoppe does have a nice, functional two-post lift, but on this day it was in use. So, Benitez has called upon three of his burliest buds to set the body in place—as he and yours truly carefully observe the operation.
With the body in place, a few more relief cuts were made where the wheelhouses and lower reveal corners would not overlap the width of the ’32 frame. This is why Steadfast recommends relocating reproduction wheelhouses further outward. Even so, Benitez is willing to do what’s necessary to retain this car’s original wheelhouses.
Before any permanent fabrication begins, tire inflation is evened out. Then numerous measurements and level checks are recorded. These steps are absolutely paramount for establishing the best possible body-to-frame relationship. If it isn’t right at this stage, it’ll never be right—and the naked eye will detect imperfection.