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Featured Projects Building My First Roadster in San Francisco

Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by J.Ukrop, Sep 7, 2020.

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  1. J.Ukrop
    Joined: Nov 10, 2008
    Posts: 1,303

    J.Ukrop
    SUPER MODERATOR
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    On May 12, 2020 I turned 27 years old. It was at that moment that I realized that if I didn't take action, I wouldn't have a hot rod on the road before I was 30. I had just finished my Triumph chopper project and had loose plans to put together a Panhead next.

    After mulling it over, I knew that it was time to switch gears and finally chase that dream of building a hot rod. Not just any hot rod, but a 1930-'31 Model A roadster.

    It's important to point out a couple things here. First and foremost, I live in San Francisco where space is limited to say the least. I do all my writing for The Jalopy Journal and The Rodder's Journal in my closet-turned-office (affectionately dubbed "The Cloffice") and my bedroom is a glorified broom closet. Despite the high cost of living I knew that, with enough scrounging, I could make a hot rod happen. Hey, it's just like a motorcycle with four wheels, right? I had simply run out of excuses. I knew it was time to get rolling.

    I've never bought an old car. Not even a semi-old one. That's why when I began my search, I looked to the H.A.M.B. for help. I started a thread here, and you guys told me what to watch out for.

    Initially, my plan was to start with a running, driving car. Well, I soon realized that was completely out of my price range for a steel roadster. After numerous dead ends, I decided I needed to take the time-honored hot rod approach and put one together myself. I have absolutely no car building experience whatsoever, so this is a learning process. I'm lucky to have my family in Michigan/New York helping me through this, and a host of great friends in SF who have lent me a hand thus far. I've only had the car for month and I'm hooked.

    So, without further ado, let's get to the build thread...
    IMG_3939.jpg
    Here's where it all began. Body on frame, car on trailer, lots of hair on head. It doesn't run and I'm holding the door in place. I'll dive into the roadster's backstory in a Jalopy Journal column in the following weeks.

    Note: I know there's a handful of you who are just itching to turn this into a thread about titles, paperwork and similar topics. I've spoken with California Highway Patrol and we're going to get everything sorted out. Thank you for your concern.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2020
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  2. chop job
    Joined: Feb 16, 2013
    Posts: 581

    chop job
    Member
    from Wisconsin
    1. WISCONSON HAMBERS

    Nice start have fun and take your time to build the you want.
     
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  3. J.Ukrop
    Joined: Nov 10, 2008
    Posts: 1,303

    J.Ukrop
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    So what's the plan here? Like so many early hot rods, the idea is to build this car in two phases. First, we'll have a pre-war hot rod with a hopped-up banger and mechanical brakes. Then, once I get a better feel for the thing, my friend David di Falco (@six5monster) and I are going to work together to channel it, beef up the frame, swap to juice brakes and drop a flathead between the rails. His roadster has always been a favorite of mine, and you may remember it from my "Fly in Amber" feature a few years back.

    Screen Shot 2020-09-07 at 9.52.30 PM.png
    Here's David and his roadster. You can get the full story here. We'll dive into inspiration a bit more later.

    So my roadster build started with some grimy but overall solid pieces. The car came from Northern California, so there wasn't too much rust to worry about. There are some pinholes that will be addressed in the future, but it's overall solid. The body had been propped up against a wall for decades, and I was encouraged to see how solid the subrails were. The first time I saw it, I thought of an old whitewashed fence. It looked as if it had been painted with house paint! It wasn't perfect and it didn't need to be. It was a good start.

    IMG_3862.jpg
    Dreaming big!
     
  4. J.Ukrop
    Joined: Nov 10, 2008
    Posts: 1,303

    J.Ukrop
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    With the car in the garage, I was able to take a step back. "Holy smokes," I said. "This is actually starting to look like a car." Here's the first loose mockup. IMG_9582.jpg
    IMG_9583.jpg
    With the fun and games out of the way, it was time to get down to business. Since the banger turned over, I figured I would hit it with the same strategy that I do for old motorcycles: address each system as individual projects. First and foremost, I removed the Zenith 2 carb for an overhaul.
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    Other than the spiders (deceased) the carb wasn't too bad. I gave it the full cleaning treatment.
    IMG_9679.jpg
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    IMG_9719.jpg
     

  5. GregLast
    Joined: Sep 5, 2020
    Posts: 1

    GregLast

    I'm going through a Coupe right now that I'm not making any real changes to, but this makes me want to pick up a new project so I can have some fun with it. Tuning in to see what you are up to.
     
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  6. J.Ukrop
    Joined: Nov 10, 2008
    Posts: 1,303

    J.Ukrop
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    Next came the ignition. Once I decided that I was going to convert the car to 12V negative ground, I knew that I wanted to run an electronic ignition. I had good luck with that setup on my last motorcycle project, and I eventually stumbled upon FSI for the banger. The installation was pretty straightforward. Finding TDC with the pin in the divot was exactly like on the Triumph, so that made me pretty happy.
    IMG_9680.jpg Out with the olde...
    IMG_9722.jpg
    In with the FSI!

    Next, I scoured the H.A.M.B. and discovered the Full Metal Jacket Odyssey PC680, which should work for both the banger and flathead iterations. Using the stock lower battery box, I created a battery tray. It is insulated with rubber and clamped down so that there is no movement in any direction. The battery box will be painted black.

    IMG_9774.jpg
    A little cardboard mock-up.
    IMG_9804.jpg
    Fin.
    IMG_9805.jpg
    Also, while paint was drying, I made a little panel and detailed the master kill switch to look like bakelite.
    IMG_9838.jpg
     
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  7. A Boner
    Joined: Dec 25, 2004
    Posts: 5,726

    A Boner
    Member

    Loose mock-up looks great...inspiring! Are you sure you aren’t too tall to chanel it. Keeping the body on the top of the frame gives you 4”more of precious interior body height...part of the looking through the windshield, not over it and having a cushion for your ass to sit on. Always liked a chopped top over a chanel job... 5282C0B9-30AA-4F8E-B231-26ABDB95ED81.png
     
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  8. I've got a legit channeled 50's built A roadster hot rod, I'd trade for a one with a decent body with subrails still intact, if that interested you...
     
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  9. J.Ukrop
    Joined: Nov 10, 2008
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    J.Ukrop
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    After weighing my options, I ended up pulling the trigger on a PowerGEN from the fine folks at Powermaster. I installed it along with a new belt. Its slightly larger size required me to customize the lower radiator hose (aka hit it with a hammer) to make everything fit. Also, with a little guidance from @hotroddon I found a source for radio suppression cloth-wrapped wire.
    IMG_9776.jpg
    Around this time, I pulled off the side cover to adjust the valves, test the oil pump, re-lubricate and re-gasket. I was surprised to see that at some point someone installed adjustable lifters. It only took a little bit of cleaning to get things tidied up.
    IMG_9855.jpg
    Part of working on a project that needs absolutely everything is celebrating the little victories. Like getting a radiator cap! That being said, if anyone has an old quail one or a Motor Meter they're looking to part with, let me know.
    IMG_9822.jpg
    Although this is a build thread, it's also going to highlight some of the places this project has brought me. I was driving through the Sunset district of San Francisco when I came across an estate sale. Out in the driveway, there was a big bin of old electrical components. I sifted through them casually. After picking out a pile, the guys there asked me what I needed the stuff for. "I'm building my first car," I told them. "It's a 1930 Model A." They didn't believe me. I showed them a picture and, when they realized I was telling the truth, they warmed up. Later on, they asked if I could re-wire their 1957 BSA, which I may do sometime the line for some extra money. Anyways, here's what I picked up. IMG_9772.jpg
    A note on wiring: All wiring is of the cloth-wrapped variety, correctly crimped and heat-shrunk. Not-so-era-correct waterproof terminals are used in areas that I think may get wet, strangely enough. Out of sight, out of mind...
    IMG_9808.jpg
    IMG_9809.jpg
    I cleaned these up later, but you get the idea. Speaking of cleaning, it felt good to finally get the action side of the engine spruced up.
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    Got some great hardware/components from my new friends at the All Ford Store in Campbell, California.
    IMG_9870.jpg
    Also, can't beat the giant Western Appliance sign in nearby San Jose.
    IMG_9872.jpg
     
  10. J.Ukrop
    Joined: Nov 10, 2008
    Posts: 1,303

    J.Ukrop
    SUPER MODERATOR
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    One of the more exciting parts is that I now have a new activity in my life—perusing the H.A.M.B. Classifieds. On there, I found a great gauge panel that was within my price range and fit the look of the car perfectly. Note that I installed the jewel light from the estate sale as an indicator right in the middle. Works great. On/off portion for behind the ignition switch is in the mail. IMG_9919-1.jpg
    Next, let's talk about the seat. Since this is a low-budget build, I managed to find a seat from an old school bus in the "Free Stuff" section of Craigslist. One day on my lunch break, I drove over to Oakland to pick it up.

    The sky was filled with smoke from the latest round of wildfires, and the seller was a young woman from Ohio with blue hair. She showed me both of her school buses, the second of which had the seat I was searching for. Unfortunately, it was still bolted down—and I didn't bring any tools. "I can come back another time," I said, trying to be as accommodating as possible. "No problem," she said. "I have tools, but it's a two-person job." Moments later, I was underneath the bus with crescent-wrench in hand as she worked the impact driver from the interior. As I lay on the hot pavement, I couldn't help but smile at how absurd the whole scene must look on that hazy California day. Hey, anything for hot rodding, right?

    The following morning, I bought my first real angle grinder. I used it to cut down the seat frame. I'll securely mount it later on. It's not perfect, but it's an era-correct upholstered seat—with seat belts!

    61974771768__563C1534-DCA1-43E3-B41B-8471B4CC219E-1.jpg

    IMG_9906.jpg
    (Seat feat. a shoutout to @Kid Rocker)
     
  11. J.Ukrop
    Joined: Nov 10, 2008
    Posts: 1,303

    J.Ukrop
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    Nobody ever said they had to match to hang them on my wall, did they ;)
     
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  12. Looking good Joey!
     
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  13. 31Apickup
    Joined: Nov 8, 2005
    Posts: 2,307

    31Apickup
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Congrats on finding an A roadster, look forward to your adventures with it!


    Sent from my iPhone using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
     
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  14. J.Ukrop
    Joined: Nov 10, 2008
    Posts: 1,303

    J.Ukrop
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    Thanks! If it can be 1/10th as cool as the "Bachelor Button," I'll be one happy camper.

    And thank you @31Apickup, it's a dream come true. I dig your pickup!
     
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  15. Marty Strode
    Joined: Apr 28, 2011
    Posts: 5,143

    Marty Strode
    Member

    Joey, You do have a title, "SUPER MODERATOR" ! Good luck with the project.
     
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  16. Ryan
    Joined: Jan 2, 1995
    Posts: 19,247

    Ryan
    ADMINISTRATOR
    from Austin, TX
    Staff Member

    I'm so excited for this thread. Can't wait to see where ya go!
     
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  17. Mikko_
    Joined: Aug 3, 2018
    Posts: 187

    Mikko_
    Member
    from Sweden

    Think I have a new favorite thread now. :)

    I'm doing the exact same thing, except that I have a phaeton and I'm 1 year older than you.
     
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  18. bowie
    Joined: Jul 27, 2011
    Posts: 2,446

    bowie
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    I’m coming along for the ride. Looks like real good pieces, for your starting point. Best of luck in your endeavor!
     
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  19. corncobcoupe
    Joined: May 26, 2001
    Posts: 5,064

    corncobcoupe
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    Bitchin' project.
    Way to go Kid.
    Following.
     
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  20. GordonC
    Joined: Mar 6, 2006
    Posts: 2,082

    GordonC
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Cool story. Looks like it is going to be a lot of fun!
     
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  21. As a teenager (15-17, 1956-1958) growing up in North Beach, there were a lot of Hot rods around, but you had to look to find them. They weren't out every day, But they came out Friday nights for the street drag races on The Great Highway, near Play-land Amusement Park, which is now long gone. Yes, garage space is at a minimum today as it was then. Where there is a will there will be a way. Good luck to you in your endeavor. Knowing the history of Hot Rod-ding in San Francisco, you should do okay. There were a lot of car clubs around then, and perhaps some of the old-timers will contact you if for nothing more than to re-kindle memories.
     
  22. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 4,877

    jnaki




    upload_2020-9-8_5-26-20.png

    Hey J,

    That place was around back when I was going to San Jose State College in 1965. It was on San Carlos, which is a major street running from the college West to Highway 17 which led to Santa Cruz on the coast for some great surf adventures. It is also a nice area for a hot rod roadster road trip. In that whole coastal area near Soquel.

    When you get the roadster rolling, that would be a nice shakedown cruise. We did that drive in our El Camino many times and once in an open cockpit Austin Healy. It is one great drive out of the hustle and bustle of San Jose, even before the Silicon Valley mish-mash.

    Jnaki

    We bought a refrigerator from Western Appliance for our apartment. Did you ever see a couple of college kids trying to get a big single door refrigerator up two flights of stairs? It was a definite comedy of errors... But, we saved the delivery fee !!! Then when I moved back to So Cal, sold my interest to my roommate. It was a fun time back then.

    Keep the build photos coming... it looks great.
     
  23. J.Ukrop
    Joined: Nov 10, 2008
    Posts: 1,303

    J.Ukrop
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    Thank you everyone for the words of encouragement. I have a feeling that this is going to be a very fun learning experience. What I failed to mention earlier in the thread is that pretty early in the build, I challenged myself to work on the car every day with hopes of getting it running in a month. No rushing of stuff, just making sure to keep a steady pace. The main reason was that I was leaving town for about a month and I wanted to leave off on a high note.

    So, with the fluids changed, gas tank installed and wiring finished up, I rolled the car outside for the first time since I got it. There was a construction crew working next door, and they couldn't fathom what they were looking at. "It's a Ford roadster from 1930," I told them with pride. When I went to adjust its position in the "driveway," one of the guys walked over and was happy to lend a hand. I told them I planned to start it for the first time in at least 50 years. Unfortunately, they couldn't stick around for the show.

    And so, with my camera on a tripod, I decided to go for it. I had turned over the starter the night before, so I knew something was going to happen.



    Of all the vehicles I've ever started for the first time, this was the most exciting! Note that the smoke was from all the oil I put in the cylinders to lubricate prior to startup. After running it some, the smoke went away.
     
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  24. J.Ukrop
    Joined: Nov 10, 2008
    Posts: 1,303

    J.Ukrop
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    I can't wait to head down there once the car is up to par. Hahah the fridge story sounds familiar. Anything to save a little money. Did you ever go to Falafel's Drive In when you were there? It's been around since the '60s. The food was tasty—and so were the milkshakes!
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2020
  25. J. A. Miller
    Joined: Dec 30, 2010
    Posts: 1,405

    J. A. Miller
    ALLIANCE MEMBER
    from Central NY

    Sounds good Joey! That grin will be on your face for awhile!!
     
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  26. corncobcoupe
    Joined: May 26, 2001
    Posts: 5,064

    corncobcoupe
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    Priceless Video

    Way to go Kid.
     
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  27. Mikko_
    Joined: Aug 3, 2018
    Posts: 187

    Mikko_
    Member
    from Sweden

    Congratulations to the startup.

    Were did you source the cloth covered radio suppression wire?
     
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  28. 51504bat
    Joined: May 22, 2010
    Posts: 2,140

    51504bat
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Since you're using the stock Model A gravity feed gas tank make sure you have a working manual gas shut off valve and use it. Don't want the needle to stick and end up with a pool of gas in the garage. IIRC they make electric shut off valves as well.
     
  29. Congratulations my friend, I knew you would eventually find yourself a early car you could make into a period hot rod.

    The excitement of bring that 4 banger back to life is priceless, looking forward to your next installment. HRP
     
  30. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 4,877

    jnaki





    Hey J,

    Being college students, we did not want to hang out with high school kids. (sorry...) So, we went to those ever present San Jose State College parties all over the two-three block radius of the campus. But, we also upped our so called "maturity" level by going to a downtown, ritzy, hotel bar and having several martinis until we had to walk home a little wobbly, a few blocks back to our apartment.

    It was an interesting place back in those early days. It was a nice place, but I would not want to live there permanently. Santa Cruz/Soquel is more our style. A laid back lifestyle and there is no pressure to do what anyone else is doing. As a matter of fact, my wife and I almost put money down on a 2.5 acre lot on top of a small hill with ocean views one way and within the other 360 degrees mountains/city views. That was a long time ago.

    Jnaki

    Wow, it sounds like where we live in So Cal. We are not rabbits that gather at the slightest inking of social disorder. We just sit back and stay locked in until this whole thing is over. Safety levels up or down, nothing has changed since February when we were all affected. So, we are satisfied with our surroundings and are just having some kind of fun waiting things out.

    Stay safe and healthy... Keep up with your roadster build. We are all watching, so there is no pressure at all !!!
     
    catdad49, J.Ukrop and Stogy like this.

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