Have Roadster, Will Travel

Have Roadster, Will Travel

As you read this, I will be deep into my 1,040-mile trip to Oklahoma from Detroit. It’s a hike projected to last close to 16 hours through a handful of Midwestern states. While prepping my gear, winter weather advisories flashed from every electronic device I owned and snow lashed down from all sides.

In a warmer time in 1960, Charles Kearney also faced a 16-hour trek — except this time Detroit was the destination instead of the starting point. A New Orleans native, Charles and his Louisiana-based crew wanted to see how they stacked up at the U.S. Nationals at Detroit Dragway.

Before there was any thought of national competition, Charles’ drag machine was nothing more than a $40 Model ‘T’ touring body and a big idea. It wasn’t long before the tub was shortened and paired with a set of 1930 Model ‘A’ rails. Up front, the 98? chassis sported a narrow Anglia front axle and hand built friction shocks. Dunlop-wrapped American Racing 10-spokes helped point the roadster in the right direction. Out back, power was transferred through a Ford Banjo rear with 3.78 gears and a meaty pair of M-H slicks.

Like countless other rods, the mill was the focal point of Charles’ ‘T.’ Rather than taking on the assembly process himself, he looked to his pal known simply as LeBoeuf to piece together the 461 c.i. Oldsmobile motor. Its build sheet was a laundry list of the period’s top components: Isky cam, Hilborn injectors, Grant pistons, Joe Hunt magneto and Moon timing cover. This combination catapulted the little A/Roadster into the mid-10 second range.

Inside, the cockpit served as a rolling showroom for both the Cannon Brothers’ upholstery handiwork and Charles’ attention to detail. Highlights included Naugahyde panels, Moon pedal and a butterfly wheel scavenged from an AMT Parts Pack (sic).

The total package was sprayed in a beautiful Keynote Blue lacquer and complimented by an abundance of chrome and polish. Although it took more than 2,000 miles round trip, the Louisianans’ roadster was named “Best Appearing Car” at the 1960 U.S. Nationals and landed a three-page spread and a cover spot for the April 1961 issue of Hot Rod. My guess is that it made the long journey home to New Orleans a little more enjoyable for Charles and his crew.

-Joey Ukrop 

Photos by Eric Rickman, Hot Rod, April 1961


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