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May 1, 2015

’42 Mercury Woodie: Fire in the Hole

by Dave

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.

Most of the wiring had been replaced – or just bypassed.

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.

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April 20, 2015

Building a ’39 Ford Transmission with Lincoln-Zephyr Gears

by Dave

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…

April 15, 2015

Self-Energizing Brakes

by Dave

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…

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February 20, 2015

’34 Ford Coupe: First Time around the Block

by Dave

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…

February 19, 2015

’34 Ford Coupe: Heading for the Finish Line

by Dave

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.

Hood_1 Hood_2 Hood_3Hood_5
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February 8, 2015

2015 Grand National Roadster Show

by Dave

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.

Alloway 2015 AMBR

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August 19, 2014

Monterey Car Week — Downtown Carmel

by Dave

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.”
Carmel 2014_1 Carmel 2014_2 Carmel 2014_3 Carmel 2014_4

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June 17, 2014

50th Annual LA Roadster Show and Swap Meet

by Dave

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 my brother Mike’s mohair-lined, sofa-seated, flathead-powered luxury liner:
Mike's Ply

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…
John's Coupe Read more…

June 5, 2014

Neal’s Hot Rod Party

by Dave

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.

Below: Neal hands out detailed navigational instructions. You need ‘em. One wrong turn and you could end up in Bakersfield.
NHRP 14_1

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April 27, 2014

’34 Ford Pick-up: Putting on the brakes

by Dave

Gene 1934 Pick-up_1

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April 16, 2014

’34 Ford Coupe: Brakes, Fuel Lines and more

by Dave

Bill 3:4 View

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.
Bill Post 11_15Bill Post 11_14

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.
Bill Post 11_1Bill Post 11_2

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January 27, 2014

2014 Grand National Roadster Show

by Dave

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.
2014 GNRS_01

The grille shell on this Deuce has been shortened, narrowed and dropped; a shitload of work that IMHO only resulted in the loss of the graceful proportions of the original.
2014 GNRS_02

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.
2014 GNRS_032014 GNRS_04

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December 12, 2013

’34 Ford Coupe Part X: More Details

by Dave

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:
Engine Cover Kink

It was also too shallow to effectively enclose the pulleys. We likened it to a gal with a really short skirt – and really ugly knees. Here Gary has added material and has begun lowering her hem:
Engine Cover 1Engine Cover SkirtEngine Cover Mounted

After the cover was installed we mounted the radiator recovery tank, and discovered the hood wouldn’t quite close over it. A quick section and a notch job and it was good to go.
Puke Tank

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.
Bulkhead before firewallFirewall MountsTank FirewallTrunk Tin


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October 21, 2013

Up for Auction: The Dick Flint Roadster

by Dave

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.


October 18, 2013

2013 Spokes & Solids

by Dave

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:
Clay's Rdstr_1

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:


Pachi Bengochea brought his slippery little ’29 all the way over from Winnemucca. It’s a long haul, but he’s done it more than once.
Pachi Rdstr


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