A Cost-Cutting Coupe
A long time ago, I read an article that called a Model A a “Poor Man’s Deuce.” Even then, I knew that didn’t sound right. It seems that the further down the line we get, the less true that nickname becomes. That’s good (in a way), because this week I have Model A’s on the mind and I’d like to direct your attention to a particularly fine one that I’ve never seen before.
Today’s feature was built by John Petty of Lakewood, California, back in the late-’50s. A Chevy mechanic by trade, he brought professional level detailing to his personal project.
Right off the bat, it’s clear that there’s something a little different going on here. The four-inch chop is well executed, and I appreciate how he kept the full fenders too. It must be something about the stance…ah! It’s the wheels. Rather than running the more traditional 15-inchers, he opted for 14s on all four corners. Up front, he made his own, while the rear were robbed from a Chrysler Imperial. With the wide whites and the full wheelcovers, they definitely work.
Mr. Petty’s craftiness didn’t end there. As I pored over the ’31, I made a mental list of ways John cut cost. Here are some bullet points:
- Started with a solid Model A coupe
- Retained the Model A frame
- Kept the Model A radiator shell
- Upholstered the car himself
- Fabricated the aforementioned front wheels
- Built his own headers with cutouts
- Used early Ford suspension all around (The banjo rear may be a little ambitious…)
- Minimal brightwork, detail painted the underpinnings white instead
- Opted for smallblock Chevy power*
*It’s important to note that—like any hot rodder worth his or her salt—John spared no expense on his engine. The ’59 283 sports fuelie heads, an Engle Hardface cam, ’Vette valve covers and, for the piece de résistance, a Weiand 6×2 mainfold with a sextuplet of Strombergs. Reported compression was 13 to 1.
When the coupe was completed, it was sprayed with orange lacquer. Pair that with the whitewalls, white suspension and white top insert and you have yourself an eye-catching hot rod. The car was an attention grabber on the streets of Lakewood—so much that it landed a two-page feature in the November 1960 issue of Hot Rod Magazine. His total investment? $1,000.
So what ever happened to it? The article mentioned that he wanted to drag race the car once he installed a roll bar, but I have a feeling it would have grenaded the rear. Maybe it got parked somewhere in the Los Angeles area? I feel like there was a heavily chopped ’30-’31 coupe with 14-inch wheels that resurfaced after a long slumber in the past 10 years here in California. It didn’t have fenders, but the proportions looked similar.
Regardless of where John’s coupe went, let’s take a moment to enjoy it in its 1960 livery from the pages of HRM.
Photos by Dave Scott, HRM, November 1960