A+ Model A
Working in the world of automobiles, people often ask me, “What’s your favorite car?” Depending on the audience, I tailor the technicality of my answer to suit. Way back when, I would have blurted “Willys! A 1941 Willys Gasser with a straight axle, candy paint and a blown and injected Chrysler stuffed beneath the hood! It’d sit real high, be real loud and everyone would see me coming.” Don’t get me wrong, I still would love a Willys, but through the years my tastes have changed ever so slightly.
There was a very short span where I wanted a Deuce. We’ve all been there. Yet as I run the numbers, I realize that for the price of a ’32 Ford body, you can get a whole lot of car—maybe even a running and driving one. So with a Deuce off the table, I’ve gravitated towards Model A’s and, to be perfectly honest, I can’t get enough of them.
Next weekend, I’ll be in Pomona wandering around the Grand National Roadster Show. Now in its 70th year, there will be plenty of cars big and small, old and older. Some will be freshly finished and some will have been built nearly a century ago. Yes, the AMBR competition has its merits, but I’m most excited to see the Model A display. Here’s the official description:
This will be a special display in building number nine with historic and iconic roadsters, coupes, sedans, Tudors & pickups. You will see hot rods, street rods & race cars built by Barris, Boyd, Brizio, Lil John, Chrisman, Pete & Jake, Magoo and many others. Plus multiple AMBR winners along with NHRA and Bonneville record holders.
A real mouthful, isn’t it? That’s more than a week down the road, so no need to get too riled up yet. To be honest, I haven’t given the show too much thought. But as I walk into Building Nine, I can only hope to have a similar feeling as I did yesterday when I came across the car you see here.
For my money, Lee Barrett’s 1929 Model A is the quintessential mid-’60s Model A roadster. From its Cordovan Brown lacquer and magnesium Americans to its narrow whitewalls and raked stance, it hits all the right notes. Full fenders were the best choice on this particular car, and the fuel-injected smallblock Chevy doesn’t hurt either. Inside, Lee followed forward-looking trends of the day with narrow-pleat beige Naugahyde and mahogany accents. For the center console, he built a custom engine-turned panel and outfitted it with Stewart-Warner instruments. The matching steering column drop is a nice touch too.
Prior to this week, I had never seen Lee Barrett’s Model A. But as I was flipping through the January 1965 issue of Hot Rod, I immediately paused when I stumbled upon it. “Wait a second,” I thought. “This car seems familiar.” My mind skipped back to this year’s H.A.M.B. Drags where I came across Joe Russell’s Model A roadster out in the parking lot. Even though they were built 50 years and 1,500 miles apart, they drive home the ’60s look—a look that, with any luck, we should see a lot more of in the coming years. I can only hope so.
Photos by Andy Southard, Jr. HRM, January 1965