This story ran in Greasy Kulture Magazine, number 60
My grandpa “Red” was a moonshiner in Alabama during prohibition. Pop had no idea that his outlaw antics were the original foundation that hot rodding would evolve from. Lightening the cars, swapping engines and out-running the law sounds like a bad Dukes of Hazard episode, but it was the real deal back then.
After selling everything to make bail, he jumped it and split to Arkansas for seven years. He worked as a mechanic at a Ford dealership until one day, when no one else would help a shoeless hillbilly wandering around the lot, Red showed him a car and the guy surprised everyone by paying with a fat wad of cash from his filthy overall pocket. That Friday, Pop’s pay was substantially higher than usual so he argued with the clerk until she explained that it was commission from the sale of that single car. He turned in his tools and became a car salesman for the next fifty years. Once the statute of limitations was up, he moved back to Alabama and opened the first used car dealership in Birmingham.
My dad grew up in that environment and had an older brother Lee, who was the real hot rodder in the family. His favorite, fastest car was a ’34 ford three-window couple with a hopped-up Mercury flathead in it. My pops always looked up to his brother, and while he had several fast cars over the years himself, he never owned a real, heavily modified hot rod.
A year or so ago, we both began searching for a car we could go in on together. I’ve got enough projects in the works that I wanted something already built. I agreed that I’d do the maintenance as needed and we could swap back and forth and keep the car at either my house or his. Pops lives in a retirement trailer park in Oceanside. The perfect weather makes it a great place to live but it’s hard on finishes when you just have a carport. This got me thinking maybe we’d find a crustier car that was solid mechanically but not so precious on the outside that salt air would degrade it over just a couple years.
I was at the Haifley Brothers shop in Phoenix, Arizona and spotted this thing completely disassembled and started chatting with Doug about it. They had found the car in a Utah barn, parked since the early 60’s. Some farmer probably painted that orange hue with a brush decades before that. It’s slapped over the original Niagra Dark Blue. A full-fendered rod with this ancient finish stuffed with all rebuilt mechanicals sounded like the car we’d been looking for. Pops liked the idea and we told the Haifleys to just build what they wanted and we’d surely dig it.
Doug and Kelly’s idea was to create what could have been a car built at home in the early 60’s and then buried in that back hills barn. Other than the T-5 trans, Vega steering box and an alternator, you’d be hard-pressed to find any modern conveniences on the roadster. They completely boxed the frame, stuffed in a 283 pulled from a ’64 Impala, patched all of the body rot and blended the paint into the old stuff. Doug built the floor pans from scratch, the wood seat frame and did all of the upholstery. Out back is a ’36 Ford banjo rear end. That’ll probably get swapped to a Ford 9” at some point, but so far it’s held up just fine and looks awesome.
I went to Phoenix in January to pick it up with a trailer. I had so much fun driving it around town that my buddy Joel drove the truck and trailer back and I did the 450 miles back home in car. It was way too enjoyable to put on the trailer. It spend the first half of the year at Pop’s place where he’s the star of the park. We’ve gone to a couple shows and meets and discovered that the car is just too much of a conversation starter. It didn’t take long for both of us to realize that driving and working on the car is the most satisfying. Now we go to a show and park it around the corner and go enjoy looking at all the cars without having to sit and talk the whole time.
My dad has been the most positive influence in my life and is the person I look up to the most. Driving and sharing this car with him has been as meaningful as it has been fun. I can’t help but think that Red and Lee would’ve been pleased.
Written by: Bill Bryant (Co-founder and Brand Manager here at Biltwell)
Photos: Geoff Kowalchuk
Early 1928 Ford Model A Roadster
Engine: 1964 Chevy Impala 283 / .40 over
Transmission: 1989 Chevy S10 w/4.3 T5
Rear end: 1936 Ford Banjo.
Front Brakes: 1956 Ford F100.
Front Spindles: 1937-1941 Ford.
Front Axle: 3 1/2″ dropped original model A.
Front wishbones: Split stock model A
Front spring: Stock Model A
Rear Drums & Backing Plates: 1940 Ford
Rear Wishbones: 1936 Ford
Exhaust: 1936 Torque Tubes
Steering Box: Vega
Shifter Lever: 1936 Ford adapted to T5 Top
Rear Spring: Model T (gives rear a 2″ drop)
Ignition: Pertronix Ignitor II.
Brake & Clutch Master Cylinder: 1962 Chevy truck
Brake Pedal: Early Ansen Style
Throttle Pedal: Modified ’34 Ford
Wheels: Wheels vintique 1940 Ford style.
Thermostat: 180 degrees
Slave Cylinder: 1962 Chevy truck.