This hot rod affliction has turned into a worldwide plague. In the last couple of years we’ve been fortunate enough to work with customers from Australia, New Zealand and France – and they’re all building cars that are as cool and traditional as anything you see here. Yesterday we were honored to have a visitor from Japan. Masanori Kimura is a talented fabricator and photographer. His quarterly publication, Frontend Magazine, has been on the newsstands for six years. Loaded with eye candy, it chronicles the traditional hot rod, chopper, and custom culture worlds. Masa dropped by with his “interpreter” Yuri, an absolutely delightful Japanese student from Santa Monica.
Yuri apologized profusely for her inability to translate car-guy and fabricator lingo for us, but it was no problem. Those were the words and phrases Masa fully understood.
We hung around the shop, Masa took a bunch of photos, and we took them to lunch down at the beach in our own cars. By coincidence, Todd Anderson showed up with his newly upholstered roadster just as we arrived back at the shop.
Sid Chavers did the work on Todd’s car. Sid fully insulated the body, then stitched the interior and trunk and capped it off with one of his Bop Tops. The interior is simple and traditional, and like everything that comes out of Sid’s shop, the craftsmanship was flawless. Needless to say, Todd is stoked.
Todd Anderson’s roadster was in the shop today for some post delivery dial-in. We torqued the heads, changed the oil – and raised the tail end up another inch. While seemingly insignificant, this inch was what Todd’s car needed to sit just right. To do it, Gary had to mill out a new pair of spring plates. You can see that inch in the second photo; the original plate is on top, the new one just below it.
Todd has a friend named Tony Vida who hadn’t seen Todd’s finished car, so Todd asked if he could bring him by the shop. They’d be coming over in Tony’s Deuce roadster; “a car,” Todd hinted, “that we might like to check out.” Mr. Understatement.
Todd and Tony arrived, we BS’d in the shop for a bit, then went out to the curb to see Tony’s car. Here’s what we found:
I’ve been working on my dad’s ’29 roadster — which means when its done I’ll have two open cars in the stable; that’s two open cars and no coupes. In spite of the incredible winters we’ve been enjoying, it still makes sense to have a closed car in Northern California. So something has to go…. For family reasons, it can’t be my dad’s. It’s got to be my roadster pick-up.
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.
Our friend Marc (’41 Ford Pick-up) uncovered this little gem a couple of years back and instantly fell in love. It comes from a time before the widespread availability of low cost fiberglass-bodied T-bucket “kits.” Originally built in 1964 by Kurt Neilsen of Campbell, CA, it features an original ‘27 Model T roadster pick-up body and cut down Model A bed channeled over a modified Model A chassis. Kurt chose the ’27 body because it offered a little more room than the earlier T’s often used in these builds. A ’57 Ford donated its running gear – a 292 inch V8, three speed trans, and positraction rear end. The beefy nine inch is still in the car.
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: Read more…
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. Read more…
Woodie in the house! Carl Bigg’s ’42 Mercury has loads of character. It’s also extremely rare. Just over six hundred were built before production was cut short by World War II.
Longer and a little more luxurious than their Ford siblings, these Merc woodies were among the flagships of all of Henry’s cars. Carl’s car probably enjoyed a great life, but eventually it was literally put out to pasture. At some point in the 70’s it was rescued from its resting place in an orchard by a young surfer from Santa Clara. He treated it to an amateur restoration, then drove its wheels off; Early Ford V8 Club event tags from throughout the western U.S. decorate the maple header above the windshield.
Wabi Sabi is a Japanese idiom that describes the kind of rough, natural, imperfect beauty that only comes with age. We call it patina, and this woodie is loaded with it. Carl has done much to fix things on the car without disturbing its natural state of grace, but recently its driveline began to complain. The engine ran rough, it wouldn’t hold oil pressure, the transmission was popping out of gear. It was time for some attention. Read more…
A couple of weeks ago Carl Bigg’s Mercury woodie came into the shop for a major transplant. If you read our last post, you’ll remember that both the engine and transmission had issues: near-terminal cracks in the block, missing teeth throughout the transmission, etc. While the woodie had lived a long and hearty life, a revitalization was overdue. We set out to hunt down a rebuildable block, and tore into the transmission:
EDITOR’S NOTE – Pardon the delay in posting this update. We delivered Carl’s woodie on Wednesday afternoon and hit the road the next morning for the LA Roadster’s Fathers Day Show. I’ll post photos of the event in the next couple of days. If you haven’t been following this woodies’ progress (Part One, Part Two) here’s a quick recap: The car was treated to an amateur restoration decades ago, had served its past owners well, covered tens of thousands of miles, and was long overdue for a rehab.
The engine and transmission were obviously on their last legs, but as we spent more time under the car, we found other problems as well. The aftermarket fuel pump had been attached precariously to the rear cross member with a big plastic snap-tie, the hot wire splice was a bare connection, and the ground was spliced with a wire nut. Hoses and wires draped over the exhaust system and, when the driver side pipe was added for dual exhaust, its routing prevented full travel of the clutch pedal. The wiring under the dash looked like a snake farm, and none of the circuits appeared to pass through fuses.
It’s as if this woodie had broken down in the 1960’s on a surf safari to Ensenada and the young owners had patched it up just well enough to get back across the border. Somehow, by good grace and great karma, those patches had held all these years. But at this point, the woodie had a good chance of becoming a rolling bonfire.
A project like this needed a Patron Saint. It might otherwise have been a goner. When Carl originally brought the Merc into the shop we discussed rebuilding his motor. When it rolled out of the shop it had a hot little flathead, a rebuilt transmission, rebuilt linkage, a new fuel system, rerouted exhaust, the switch to 12V completed, and more. There’s still much to do, but kudos to Carl for stepping up and doing everything safely and correctly. This is one lucky woodie.
When the motor came out it had valve issues and near-irreparable cracks. The arm and pin in the third photo are part of the clutch linkage. The elongated hole is an indication of its years in service. It was originally round.
We were fortunate to locate a new block and, now in Carl’s car, it features a 3 5/16 bore, an Offy intake and heads, forged pistons, new valves with adjustable lifters, a couple of rebuilt 94 carbs, and a refurbished ignition system. The combustion chambers in the new Offy heads come rough cast, so we spent some time polishing.
With few companies manufacturing speed parts, hot rodders in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s used junkyard ingenuity to coax more performance out of their cars. It didn’t take these guys long to discover that the taller ratios offered in the Lincoln-Zephyr gear clusters allowed them to wind out further in first and second gear, a definite advantage both on and off the track. The fact that a 26-tooth LZ cluster dropped right into a ’39 Ford transmission case made this conversion extremely popular.
Taller transmission ratios don’t automatically translate to better performance. Heavier cars with stock motors actually lug down under taller gears, but the kind of stripped-down, hopped-up soup jobs we drive definitely dig ‘em. Francis Bonamy’s ’36 five window falls into this latter category. With its hot flathead he has no trouble getting off the line in a hurry. We built one of our Banjo Pinion Seals for Francis. After it arrived he came back and asked if we could build him a transmission. What made the project especially cool was the fact that Francis lives in France.
The popularity of this conversion wiped out the supply of OEM 26 and even rarer 25 tooth LZ clusters years ago, but reproduction units are now available. We located one at a reputable supplier, and went off to hunt down a ’39 trans to build. Our buddy Brian Eakin had one available and, like all Brian’s stuff, it was in immaculate condition. The thrust washer faces were cherry as was the case and all the components we’d be using. ’39 transmissions come in two flavors: Standard and Deluxe. The Standard uses the old-style synchros and narrow shift fork. The Deluxe uses the later versions. While our new box was in great shape, it was a Standard. To be able to update the synchros, we’d need both a mainshaft and shift fork out of a Deluxe. We’d also need a ’36 style bearing retainer and rear mount so the trans would drop right into Francis’ chassis. Paul Jennings, one of the veteran Ford authorities in our area, came through with the parts. Read more…
John Walsh wanted traditional looking brakes, but with serious stopping power. Could ’40 Ford backing plates be modified to mount ’58 Buick self-energizing, Bendix-style brakes, along with wider (2.5 inch versus the ’40 Ford 1.75 inch) brake shoes? Here’s how it was done…
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: Read more…
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.
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 when 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.