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.
We continue to thrash on Bill Evans’ coupe. If you’ve been following the build you know that virtually everything on the car is scratch-built. A number of talented fabricators have been involved in the project over the years, but occasionally we come across a detail that wasn’t thoroughly sorted. The engine cover’s an example. It didn’t bolt up square, plus it had a bit of a twist to it. Here we’ve begun to build up one side to visually flatten it out:
You’ve seen photos of the rear bulkhead and relays, computers and electrical components mounted on it. Note also that it’s right above the gas tank. We wanted to install a firewall between the two, so Gary fabbed up some double-duty Dzus brackets that locate both the new firewall and the trunk interior tin.
Last month’s Spokes & Solids run included a visit to Don Orosco’s Monterey Speed & Sport, home of one of the most celebrated hot rods ever, the Dick Flint Roadster. By serendipity, we may have been the last group of homegrown hot rodders to get up close to it. In November the little red Model A will be crossing the block at an auction to be held in that notorious bad boy barrio: New York City’s Upper Eastside. Hopefully the car won’t disappear into some mega-collector’s underground bunker somewhere; or worse, roll into a shipping container and vanish overseas.
Flint’s roadster appeared on multiple 1950’s magazine covers, ran at El Mirage, and after a no-holds-barred restoration by Olle Eriksson and Jesse Cruz at Orosco’s shop, won its class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
A WWII Navy veteran and member of the Glendale Sidewinders, Flint returned after the war and went to work at Alex Xydias’s So-Cal Speed Shop. He soon began assembling the parts and pieces for a hot rod he’d been building in his imagination throughout the long war years. He started by buying three junk Model A roadster bodies. From these he assembled one good one, channeled it over a Z’d frame, and took it to Neil Emory at Valley Custom in Burbank where together they worked out plans for the build. The body was shaved, the seams filled, the quarters smoothed, and the signature track roadster nose, grille and nerf bars were fabricated. Later, Dean Batchelor fit a full, five-piece bellypan.
Flint assembled a robust 286 inch ‘40 Mercury flathead for the car. It ran a Winfield Super 1A cam, Johnson lifters, a Fleischmann ignition, block-letter Edelbrock heads, and three 97s on an Edelbrock manifold — all backed by a ’39 box with Zephyr gears. At El Mirage, in the summer of 1950, Flint was clocked at 143.54 MPH.
The car went through a number of hands over the years before winding up at Don Orsco’s. Flint sold the car in 1961 for $2500. The folks at RM/Sotheby’s set a pre-auction estimate at $700,000 to $900,000. Not bad for an old Ford hot rod. You can find a comprehensive history in the summer 2001 issue of The Rodder’s Journal. The photos here were poached from a cool little website for fans of traditional cars called Hot Rod Disorder.
A couple of years ago local builder Clay Slaughter decided to celebrate his birthday … big time. He and buddy Tim Edwards put together a reliability run, then capped it off with a barbecue, live music, and a body drop. They called the event Spokes & Solids, you can see photos of the cars and party here.
Fast forward a couple of years and Spokes & Solids has evolved into an event we look forward to. This year’s running started out grey, but the chill and a threat of afternoon rain didn’t dampen the turnout. Clay used the day to debut his own recently-completed roadster:
Sid McCormick bought the used flatty out of Carl Bigg’s ’42 Merc woodie, patched it up, and dropped it into his primered ’29. That’s Tony Vida’s red Deuce just behind it:
Bill Evan’s ’34 coupe spent time in a number of shops before finding its way to Seabright. A car that’s passed through several hands presents a number of challenges, especially one like Bill’s. As you know from our previous posts, virtually everything on this car is handmade. From its hybrid tube chassis and front suspension to its highly modified body, aluminum interior and complex electronics, everything’s been designed and built from scratch.
As the car evolved, it became clear some of the early solutions weren’t going to work. To be fair, some never had the opportunity to be road-tested. Others were just bad ideas from the start.
When the coupe came to Seabright, the Vintage Air AC/Heater unit had been mounted in the trunk, on top of the gas tank. This presented numerous plumbing, ducting and air quality complications, none of which had been sorted out. We decided, as outlined in an earlier post, to move the AC unit to the firewall. Gary had this in mind when he originally built the dash/console, so, after a bit of modification, we made the move and completed the plumbing.
As we prepped the interior for detail paint and sound deadening it seemed like a good time to also complete the ducting for the AC/Heater. The unit provides a defroster outlet, all we had to do was get the hot air to the windshield.
We kicked around the idea of a bezel for the vent opening, but considering the limited height of the chopped windshield and the aesthetics of the dash itself, any kind of raised trim would stick up in Bill’s forward view like a pimple. A simple slot would be much more appropriate. Read more…