It’s been awhile since we posted progress photos of Bill Evans’ coupe. It’s not that we haven’t been busting ass – we promised Bill delivery this Spring – it’s just that the details on which we’ve been laboring, taken individually, didn’t seem especially newsworthy. Taken together though, they add up to a boatload of work.
The aluminum hood sides Gary built needed stiffening at the trailing edge so they’d match, and maintain, the contour of the cowl. We started by fabbing a pair of beaded stiffeners and riveting them to the hood sides. Gary then edge-welded the assembly, taking care to maintain the contour.
Bill’s VintageAir system in the coupe includes a defroster, which required a vent to be let into the top of the dash console. Like the hood sides, the dash top has more shape in it than appears to the eye and the installation of this vent turned out to take quite a bit of labor.
We finished the aluminum panels in the trunk and Gary fashioned a pair of over-center style supports to hold up the deck lid.
Bill’s coupe arrived at our shop with a third brake light mounted in a custom recess molded into the deck lid. It looked cool — but presented a problem when it came to routing the wiring. We’ve tried to keep the trunk clean and simple and we didn’t want any wires hanging loose., so we decided to run them along the edge of the deck lid hinge. We clearanced the top of the hinge where it enters the slot in the aluminum panel, then added “two walls and a top” to fashion a channel that directs the wires, unseen, to the electrical panel behind the trunk tin.
The original fiberglass body of Bill’s coupe had been extensively modified, including re-hanging the doors so they hinge at the front, rather than the original suicide-style. Unfortunately, nothing had been done to reinforce the jambs and they’d begun to crack.
We built up the backside of the jamb with several layers of fiberglass mat, then fabbed up a pair of plates that tied the jamb to the steel cage inside the body and to the wooden door surround. These plates were bolted through the jamb on the front (you can see the countersunk holes in the photo), and epoxyed to the backside.
We then cut back the jambs, filled the countersunk holes, and built it back up with a couple of layers of fiberglass mat. With all the fiberglass reinforcement, plus the new steel tying everything together, these jambs shouldn’t go anywhere.
To say we’ve had issues with the Engine Control Module is an understatement. The ECM that arived with the car wasn’t even the correct one for the engine/trans combo. Our only communication with this unruly box is through an OBDII interface. Instead of face-mounting this OBD socket somewhere on Gary’s beautiful dash console, we decided to hide it inside. I built and mounted a bracket and Gary cut a panel that also provides access to the shifter and VintageAir controls.
The grille insert had been custom made, but needed a little dental work. Gary squared it up. The window slots in the reconfigured doors had too much arc in them to ever seal against the car’s flat glass, so I filled and squared them up, too.
The rear end needed a lot of tuning. We clearanced the body to give the four-bars ample room to travel, machined spacers to keep the four-bars from kissing the tires, then replaced the coil-overs to get the fenders up off the tires and soften the ride.
We’re in the home stretch, but there’s still much to do before the car goes to Bill’s painter in Arizona. We’ll keep you posted.
First, let me apologize for taking so long to post these photos. In this age of Instagram, folks expect to see pics posted within minutes of the show’s opening; for us dinosaurs still doing websites, it can take a few days. Especially there are other irons in the fire (like new flatmotors, grandbabies, and the looming delivery of the Bill Evans coupe). Hell, it’s a wonder we find time to post anything.
There were a record 18 contenders for the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster trophy this year; so many that they spilled into adjoining buildings. To cut to the chase, this year’s winner was a Bobby Alloway-built, Hemi-powered, ’33 roadster. Sporting dozens of modifications so subtle few of us could even spot them, the flamed roadster looked as if it had driven off the cover of Street Rodder magazine. I’m sure it‘s destined to drive back on. Exquisitely crafted as could be expected, it was also a very safe and non-controversial choice for the nine foot trophy.
Other contenders included this tribute-build of the famous Grass Hopper roadster. If you’re anywhere near my age you remember building the Monogram model kit — and trying to keep from smearing glue on the hundreds of little chrome parts.
Pinkee’s in Colorado built this Deuce roadster. Powered by a vintage Hemi, it featured a seemingly fussy accumulation of one-off parts that came together in a pleasing and well-proportioned package.
Over the last few years, Thee Inland Emperors car club has built and entered a number of popular AMBR contenders. Back in the day, car clubs often organized around the construction of a car to race or show. While the Emperors have yet to nail the nine foot trophy, in the eyes of traditionally-oriented attendees they’ve produced nothing but winners. Emperor Dustin Smith’s mint green Model T was no exception. Built around a complete Model A driveline, including mechanical brakes, its tapered, handmade frame rails were perfectly proportioned to the tiny T body.
Not an AMBR contender, but a beautiful roadster nonetheless, the Packard-inspired Mulholland Speedster came out of Troy Ladd’s Hollywood Hot Rods.
Two of my favorites in the Suede Palace were Ed Corvello’s Jingle Town Special and Greg Hopkins’ Model A coupe. Ed’s cool banger-powered tub is named for a historically ethnic and counterculture neighborhood in Oakland; Greg drove his coupe all the way out from Alabama for the show. The dual-grilled Zephyr was an oddity. Its patina looks as if it came from a splattering of brake fluid.
Built in the 1950’s, this Cad-powered ’40 coupe was collector Al Engle’s first hot rod. Al, a Bay Area Joker and Santa Cruz Woodie guy, gave me a tour and the interior gave me a jolt of nostalgia. My dad dug this maroon/white combo and used it in cars he built.
If it’s the same car, I have an old photo of this Olds woodie on my shop wall (poppin’ a parachute at the end of a drag strip). There couldn’t be two of these cars… The chopped, purple-paneled Pontiac was pretty crazy, the VW bus was pretty silly, and the red coupe was just plain nice and simple.
Two of my favorites were off in a side building, out of the limelight. Chris Casny’s roadster makes me want to yank the roadster pick-up sheet metal off my chassis and drop a roadster down in its place. Robert Lomas’ white, channeled, ’33 three window had perfect proportions, ‘cause that’s how Robert Lomas builds ‘em. I really liked the color, too. Along with the Pierson Bros. coupe, I bet it’ll inspire a new wave of white hot rods.
The big buzz going around the show wasn’t about the cars, it was about the return of Hop Up magazine. Originally published in 1951 Hop Up enjoyed a second revival in 2000 when publisher Mark Morton brought it back for ten issues. Speaking the truth (En Hop Up Veritas) to “nineteen hairy-legged readers,” Hop Up’s traditionalist content immediately made other magazines irrelevant. After Issue X, Mark sat on the title until he found new owners to whom he could pass the torch. When it comes to tradition, the new publishers, Tim Sutton, John Gunsaulis, Justin Bass and Marcy Molkenthen, totally get it; Hop Up couldn’t be in better hands. You can check out the new website — and sign up for a subscription — here.
If you’re the kind of guy that found your way to our website, you probably don’t need to be told who Earl Evans was. Evans was the compete hot rodder. He designed his own speed equipment. He made his own patterns, did his own castings and then machined them himself. Using his own products, Evans assembled his own engines, then dropped them into cars which he drove to record-breaking speeds.
Evans heads and intakes were known for their quality and performance and became extremely popular with racers. A savvy marketeer, “Pappy,” as he was known to his customers, was always quick to point out that the Reg Schlemmer roadster that appeared on the cover of the first issue of Hot Rod magazine owed its dry lakes success to Evans speed equipment. It was just one of many.
This Evans Super Dual intake is rare in that it has suffered neither a modern-look bead blasting nor a pimped-out over-polish. The finish is pretty much as it left the Evans shop – with about 70 years of mellowing. The casting lines and machine work is crisp and sharp; it looks as if it’s spent most of its life on a shelf. If you’re looking for true, high-end vintage speed equipment, it doesn’t get much better.
I know a handful of you old guys are into traditional flathead motivation so here’s a bit of real-deal jewelry that may be of interest. This is a complete intake/carb/air cleaner package that came off Gary’s Deuce roadster. Tattersfield + Thickstun + Stromberg. These are all original hard-to-find pieces, not re-pops, and they’re in excellent condition. Here are the details:
INTAKE: Original Tattersfield hi-rise 2×2. “Electric & Carburetion Engineering Co. Los Angeles” and serial number are visible in casting. With the exception of one small chip near the generator mount (see photo) intake is in excellent condition and fully polished.
CARBS: Pair of small logo 97’s: Old chrome bodies still look great. Carbs have been totally rebuilt including new discharge tubes and rebushing of one of the throttle shafts. We did the machine work here in our shop and used all new English Stromberg parts. #47 main jets, intake ran strong on a 284 inch flathead.
AIR CLEANER: Original Thickstun, in excellent condition. Modern filter material has been installed inside without modifying the original air cleaner.
EXTRAS: Throttle linkage plus a one-off fuel block with integral fuel pressure gauge.
Bill Evan’s car has resided in a number of shops over the years, but when it came to Seabright we committed to finishing it. This month his coupe passed a milestone in its life: a tour of the neighborhood under its own power. Its LT4/4L60E power train combo is controlled by an after-market Howell Engineering computer, our chore now is to get all those little electronic signals cooperating with each other. There are quite a few:
Here’s a good example: The box that controls the Retrotek push button shifter outputs a “Hey, we’re in Reverse” signal that’s supposed to trigger a relay that in turn launches the coupe’s back-up lights and camera. You with me? The problem is this trigger signal doesn’t put out enough voltage or current to fire a relay. I tracked down an ex-employee of the now-defunct company who advised me that “Yeah, that was a known issue.” We have a couple of potential solutions – electronic and mechanical – we’ll keep you posted.
You can see the back-up camera and LED lights we mounted in an anodized panel above the car’s molded roll pan.
For some reason, the entire front side of this roll pan was left open. On a wet day, the two deep cheeks on either side of the license plate would quickly fill with the water flung off the inboard disc brakes. Hey, this would be valuable in drought-stricken Northern California; you arrive home, back in over your wife’s flower bed, and offload three or four gallons of water. You’d be a hero, right? We’re working on a solution.
Bill’s license plate retractor is now wired, plumbed and operating, but as you can see, a modern plate totally fills the recess in the pan. There isn’t even room for a frame. Here we ran into a bit of luck. Arizona, Bill’s state of residence, had a three-year-only (’32 thru ’34) license plate that was narrower than standard and pressed out of copper. Bill scored this example on eBay, you can see how much better it fits the recess.
Gary is finishing up the Chip Foose-designed door panels he built for the car. We’ve already installed the power door latches and power window hardware, now we’re working on the installation of the window rubber so it can go right in after paint. While the window openings in Gary’s panels are dead straight, the ones on the door sides had a few S-turns. Once we finish building and blocking the fiberglass, we’ll be able to drop an actual flat piece of glass down the slot.
With the addition of a battery cover in the luggage area, most of the trunk tin is done.
Pebble Beach, the Rolex Motorsports Reunion, Concorso Italiano – they’re some of the better-known events at Car Week down at the south end of Monterey Bay each August. They’re also pricey to attend. One of the few events free to the masses is the Concours on the Avenue, held Tuesday of Car Week on the streets of downtown Carmel. Entrants are hand-picked so there’s always a fascinating mix of sports cars, race cars, antiques and classics. The people-watching is just as entertaining.
This year the organizers contacted the Santa Cruz Woodies club and asked if we couldn’t arrange for a number of cars to make the trek south. The concours is not only at the far end of the Bay, it’s at the other end of the spectrum from our irreverent, sometimes raunchy woodie events. Club president Rowland Baker promised to behave and put together a group to participate.
The woodies were staged outside the event with another outlaw gang, the R Gruppe Porsches. We then paraded down Ocean Avenue to individual registered and numbered parking slots. The group included this family-sized ’52 International, a Chrysler Town & Country “barrelback” sedan, and a stunning ‘42 Hudson Super Six, one of 18 built. It motored off with a “First in Class.”
Rowland Baker’s ’49 Dodge had a lot of folks scratching their heads. He’s yanked the lazy flathead six and refitted the car with a vintage Red Ram Hemi. Beautifully executed, it looks like it could’ve been a factory option.
There were a few hot rods on the Avenue, like this high-end ’34 roadster, but the real bad boys were the R Gruppe. Once snubbed by Porsche aficionados, these cars are now the darlings of the guys that actually drive their cars. They’re stripped down and lowered, fitted with built motors, bigger brakes, better suspensions and more. They’re one-off and, if their prices are any indication, they must be awesome to drive.
Quint Meland’s new Deuce roadster is a tribute, although somewhat more civilized, to the Model A he raced in high school. The car arrived at our shop with a 351 Cleveland motor and a C4 trans. Our first task was to swap in a big 400 inch Oldsmobile and Turbo 400 Quint had built at Mondello Performance. It took a lot of shoehorning, you can see photos here…
When we left off, Gary had started to build the headers. A key part of the tribute, Gary was able to capture the look of the original roadster’s headers, but at a level of craftsmanship appropriate to the new build.
Installation of the Olds motor required a lot of peripheral work, but in some cases it gave us an opportunity to improve upon the car’s original build. The throttle had been positioned right up against the brake pedal. Unless you had the feet of an eight year old, braking in a panic situation could have led to disaster. Moving the throttle meant modifying the transmission tunnel and carpet, but it helped better align the throttle cable with the linkage while making Quint’s footwork much safer and more comfortable.
We wrapped up the build on Quint Meland’s roadster (I’ll post more photos soon) and made a last-minute decision to blast down to the L.A. Roadster show. Quint’s build had been a long thrash, so it was a treat to get out of the shop for a few days.
This year’s LARS was the 50th annual and the internet had been humming with photos of roadster caravans from all corners of the country on the road to Pomona. After our run to Neal’s Hot Rod Party a couple of weeks back I wasn’t up for another eight hours in my roadster pick-up, so we made the trek to Southern California in our mohair-lined, sofa-seated, flathead-powered luxury liner:
We stayed in Monrovia and our first stop was at Ed Belknap’s little slice of paradise. Our friend John Oliver had just arrived from New Mexico in his recently completed three window. More on this cool car in a minute…
The LARS Swap Meet is legendary and we were in line Friday morning for its opening. This five window was amongst the cars for sale. An older build, it had an Eastwood-Chapouris pedigree and sat just right. I’ve got a big itch right now to swap my roadster pick-up for a closed car and this coupe could’ve easily filled the bill.
For some reason there seemed to be a lot of ’33-’34 at the event this year. Probably because their comfortable cabins better accommodate our older, fatter asses. This cocoa-colored coupe was immaculate and the green, 59A-B powered roadster was probably my favorite car of the entire weekend.
Neal Jenning’s Hot Rod Party started back in the days when the big, Memorial Day West Coast Kustoms event was staged in the park in Paso Robles. Held at Neal’s shady spread in Atascadero, it was always a welcome break from the heat and hordes in downtown Paso. Small and low key, the party seemed to always feature the coolest cars, friendly folks, and enticing projects in Neal’s well-equipped shop.
When the WCK moved south to Santa Maria, the NHRP kept going – this was its 14th year — with an added twist: a lengthy run through the rural back roads of San Luis Obispo County. This year included a couple of stops, the first at craftsman David Wheeler’s shop in Atascadero, the second at a collector’s ranch east, far east, of Santa Margarita.
Local Santa Cruz fabricator Clay Slaughter and his wife Alicia check out the scene from his ’29 roadster. Santa Cruz was well represented, as were flathead motors. I’m a major sedan delivery fan and this ‘41 was exceptional.
Quint Meland likes big motors. While his high school peers in Southern California were still messing around with flatheads, Quint dropped a 303 inch Olds V8 in his Model A roadster and went racing. Extremely successful, even as a young gun, his drag racing strategy was brilliantly simple: find out where the big name guys were running — and go somewhere else.
As a pilot in Viet Nam and later with TWA, Quint went on to run bigger engines, but his love of hot rods never let up. Several years ago he acquired the Phil Cool 1978 AMBR roadster. Running a blown L-88, this landmark car was famous for putting the “hot” back in hot rod. It ended a run of silly, over-the-top show cars that had dominated the Grand National Roadster Show for a decade.
With the Cool car, Quint’s just the caretaker of the Cool car. He had designs on a roadster of his own and, like his high school ride, it would feature an Olds motor. Quint contacted Mondello Performance and work began on a 403. Bored .30 over, it features Mondello’s Edlebrock heads, flat top pistons, a Comp Cam, roller rockers and a pair of 500 cfm Edlebrock four-barrels on an Offy intake. The motor arrived at our shop bolted to a Turbo 400 trans with a 2900 rpm stall converter.
Next Quint needed a car into which he could drop this monster. His ultimate goal was to build a tribute to his high school roadster, but to make it a little more civilized. Quint’s wife Shirley often rolls with him so the decision was made to step up to a Deuce. A good candidate eventually turned up in Arizona. Nicely built, it sported creature comforts like heated seats and a giant stereo.
Builders take note: This 351/C4 combo will make a nice package for someone and is still available. Drop us a line if you’re interested.
The Olds/TH400 package was going to take some shoe-horning, so Gary applied his machine shop magic, shaving fractions of an inch off in multiple places. He machined the pulleys, cutting an unused groove off each. He machined the water pump and modified the fan mounts, grabbing a couple more fractions. A little here, a little there, and eventually the big Olds dropped in. At this point it should take no more than a small — very small — relief in the firewall.
Once in place, the C4 trans mount was modified to accommodate the TH400 and everything was locked in fore and aft.
Many of you saw Michael Dobrin’s article on Gary’s roadster in Hot Rod Deluxe magazine. We spent the day with photographer Tim Sutton who snapped this at-speed photo spread laying in the bed of my truck as I raced along next to Gary on the street in front of the shop.
At the time, Gary wasn’t running a hood. He had a full hood for the car, but felt it would be a shame to cover up that handsome flathead. Maybe a hood top would be in order. Louvers were already an element in the car’s traditional character – there are a hundred in the deck lid – so they’d be a factor in the design of this project, too.
Job One was to massage the top panels so they’d fall perfectly into place. It’s more work than you’d imagine; the hood hinge bracket had to be sectioned and the reveal reshaped before Gary got perfect height and gaps.
Layout of the louvers on a Deuce hood is a challenge and over the decades guys have come with a lot of creative patterns, some successful, some not so. The hood’s trapezoidal shape, the roll at the cowl and grille shell, even the pattern of the louver layout on the decklid, all must be taken into consideration. Doane Spencer got it right, of course, and Gary looked to Spencer’s iconic roadster for inspiration. Gary actually punched out rows of louvers on individual panels, then moved them around on the hood until he was satisfied with the count and the alignment.
Gene Meschi has nice cars. They include a beautiful full-fendered Deuce roadster, a steel Deuce three window with a blown flattie that we’re especially fond of, and this yellow ’34 pick-up. The truck is Gene’s wife’s. An older build, it’s sturdy and well put together. (Gene handmade the stainless grille himself). But the truck had brake issues. Gene and his wife live up in the Santa Cruz mountains and the downhill run into town was getting sketchy. Old car service and repair really isn’t our thing, but this wasn’t just another greasy old Ford, so we dove in.
The problem quickly became evident. The truck was running Wilwood discs up front and drums in the back. After a little research we found that the calipers had the largest pistons available in that product line — and that the master cylinder was too undersized to drive them.
Not wanting to have to bend new brake lines, we hit the internet for a bigger bore master cylinder with approximately the same form factor. We also wanted one that was American made. We eventually found the big brother: a Ford master cylinder built for F-350 trucks and buses. We did have to modify one of the brake lines, but otherwise it was a neat fit.
We cleaned up the calipers and the rear wheel cylinders, blew out the brake lines, put everything back together, and bled the system with fresh fluid. A test drive, a little fore-aft adjustment with the proportioning valve, and Gene was down the road.
Details, details. Progress continues on Bill Evan’s coupe, lately we’ve been going through work that came to us completed, but needed additional attention. The rear end is in the car, but had no venting. Gary machined a fitting and added a vent line. There was also a bit of slop in the front end. We thought it might be in the steering rack, but after investigation it turned out to be in one of the A-Arm’s spherical bearings. Gary machined an adjustment tool and corrected the problem.
We next moved onto the brakes. Installed and supposedly operable, they’d been sitting awhile so we pulled ‘em apart for a check. Good thing we did. The master cylinders were a mess. Whatever brake fluid was used appears to have accumulated moisture, then leaked and coagulated over time. It also etched the walls of the cylinders. We were able to clean up the mount and linkage, but couldn’t save the master cylinders. Fortunately replacements were available.
Our good friend Marc Kaplan has three pick-ups underway. They’re all totally different and all totally bitchen — but I’m not sure whether to envy him or write him off as certifiably nuts. To take some of the load off his plate, he decided to bring his ’41 Ford into us for wiring.
It’s a cool truck, and well on its way to completion. The paint, a darkened shade of Ford’s Cloud Mist Grey, is brand new and beautiful — but would present a challenge on a number of levels. It would have to be protected, and it would keep us from welding or mounting anything to the firewall. For this reason we opted to mount the fuse panel and accompanying relays and electrical components under the seat. We began by drawing up a wiring diagram specifically for the project.
Because the panel would be under the seat, the routing of wires to and from the dash and out to the various circuits would be a little more complicated — so we also put together a porting plan. All the routing, conduit, grommets, etc were sorted out and sized before we drilled anywhere in the freshly painted body.
This year’s GNRS was once again blessed with T-shirt weather. While awesome for a car show in January, it’s a forewarning of the water rationing California is inevitably due to face this summer. Up in the Bay Area we just closed the books on our driest calendar year on record, we’re now coming to the end of our first January ever with no measurable rain.
The drought has been especially hard on the Central Valley; it’s turned their fertile topsoil into bone dust. Driving south to the show on Interstate 5 I was caught in a massive dust storm and had to pull off the highway – way off – a number of times when I couldn’t see past my windshield wipers. The white-out conditions, combined with the reek of the massive Harris Ranch feedlot, had me imagining myself trapped in a blind, smelly hundred car pile-up.
While not exactly stinky, the eight-car line-up for this year’s America’s Most Beautiful Roadster trophy was, by general consensus, underwhelming. Bill Grant’s Deuce roadster was pretty neat. A real Henry car, it featured a 265 small block, a ’40 trans and a ’32 banjo. Lots of chrome with a bit of a kustom vibe, it could’ve driven straight out of the late 1950’s.
Paul Gommi’s phaeton has been around awhile, he added fenders for the show. The car features a perfectly chopped top and more bolt-on accessories than an ELA low rider. I was told that a car designer once commented that Paul must’ve rolled through a Pep Boys with a giant magnet. Paul responded with display cards justifying every part and piece on the car. These cards, a veritable history of early accessories and speed equipment, continued all around his display.