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Hot Rods Model A Roadsters - Why 29 on 32 Rails?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Bored&Stroked, Nov 8, 2008.

  1. I've never been into Model As - coupes or roadsters, and don't know enough about the body styles.

    Was wondering why the 29 roadster on 32 rails is the one that you always hear about? I don't hear squat about 28, 30 or 31 roadsters, just 29's. What is it about the 29 body style that makes it THE Model A roadster body to use as a hotrod body out of the 4 years they produced them?

    Are there any similar stories for coupes? Are certain years of the A coupe bodies more desirable than others? If so . . . why?

    I'm pondering building either a trad A roadster or coupe on 32 rails, blown flathead, etc . . . need to get my ducks in a row before I start the quest!

    I know my 32+ years . . . . just not earlier :cool:
  2. Von Rigg Fink
    Joined: Jun 11, 2007
    Posts: 13,428

    Von Rigg Fink
    from Garage

    good question..I always thought the 28-29 are the same, and the 30-31 are the same ..respectively

    so if it is a 28 or 29..on a 32 frame or a 30-or 31 on a 32 frame.

    slight differences between the 28-29 years and the 30-31 years.

    sorry its early on a saturday..aint gonna get much better than that from me yet:D
  3. skwurl
    Joined: Aug 25, 2008
    Posts: 1,620


    I've never heard a specific model a year on 32 rails.
    Edgar55438 likes this.
  4. Rob Paul
    Joined: Nov 11, 2005
    Posts: 1,264

    Rob Paul

    The 28-29 roadster looks better than a 30-31 (in my opinion) on 32 rails. There is no bead on the bottom of the body on 28-29 A's, and it seems to flow into the frame better, and is more pleasing to the eye.

    warren veiner likes this.
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  5. Deuce Roadster
    Joined: Sep 8, 2002
    Posts: 9,520

    Deuce Roadster
    Member Emeritus


    The above is a 29 body on a 32 frame. See how well the cowl sits down on the chassis ? See how the body fits the chassis better ?


    The above is a 1930 body sitting on a 32 frame. See the difference at the cowl ... where it meets the chassis ?

    Most folks think that the 29 body is prettier ... at the cowl than the more square 30 cowl.
    The reason that the Model A bodies became so popular on 32 chassis is that the 32 frame is a stronger frame, and it was a lot easier to install a V8 flathead in. Also the rest of the running gear is stronger. Young guys would get a 32 old sedan or 32 4 door ... junk the body and set a Model A roadster on the 32 chassis. Instant HOT ROD :)

    When racing at 100 mph ... the Model A roadster body was reported to be 5 mph faster than a 1932 roadster body on the same chassis/engine combination because the Model A has a much smaller cowl and was more streamlined ... or so the old timers say ... :D
  6. BeatnikPirate
    Joined: May 21, 2006
    Posts: 1,416

    from Media, Pa.

    A: The 32 frame looks better with the distinctive reveal on the bottom.
    B: The 32 frame is stronger due mainly to it's K member which the model A lacks.
    C: The 32 has a 3 inch longer wheelbase, which looks better and provides a little more engine room.

    If the car's gonna be channelled, you can't see much of the frame anyway but the 32's other advantages still exist.The 32 frame should be pinched if used with a model A body. An A frame is ok but should be stiffened with a K or X member, plus boxing, which applies to 32 frames too.
    Ziptar likes this.
  7. Bigcheese327
    Joined: Sep 16, 2001
    Posts: 6,675


    You might as well ask why all the teardrop taillights and top-shift 3-speeds are from '39 Fords, or all the flathead V8's are from '48 Mercuries. I think that some years just stick with people and anything that looks the same gets lumped into that category without further investigation.

    Plus, I think until the advent of the restoration hobby, not a lot of people knew that the '28 roadster they were hauling out of the dump wasn't a '29, they just thought Ford had left off the door handles.

  8. James427
    Joined: Apr 27, 2008
    Posts: 1,740


    I always thought it had something more to do with getting rid of the side skirts that cover the gap between the frame and the runningboards on an "A". On a 32, the frame itself IS the skirt between the body and running board so the grame itself was made more attractive looking. So, why not use the more attractive frame on 28/29's OR 30/31's.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2008
  9. Bigcheese327
    Joined: Sep 16, 2001
    Posts: 6,675


    I dunno, I find these pretty darned pleasing to the eye:



    The '28-'29 sometimes just looks uncomfortably small to me.

  10. SUHRsc
    Joined: Sep 27, 2005
    Posts: 5,078


    why are boobs good?

    28 and 29 are about the mentioned...main difference, 28 doesnt have outside door handles
  11. Back in the good ol daze, A's got plunked down on the 32 chassis since it was an easy and cheap way to do an engine swap - 32's came with a V8 - as well as a stronger frame.

    It was recognized as a good looking car right off and many copied the look.

    Keep in mind, the Model A passenger cars and pickups 28 - 31 all used the same frame.

    However, the 28-29 bodies had a different footprint than did the 30-31's.
    (We'll just call these 29's and 31's to make typing easy.)

    The 29 on 32 rails is probably the best looking hot rod roadster ever built.
    The 31's ain't too shabby and I realize that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that.

    Here's a couple pics to illustrate.


    A well done 29 on 32 rails can be a tough build to pull off.
    Most times the frame requires a pinch (narrowing the front frame rails around the cowl/friewall area.
    Some guys build the frame to come straight down off the body, but it doesn't look right to me.
    Much better if the frame sits inside the body lines similar to a highboy 32.
    The body overlaps the frame in other words.

    31's are a much easier build.
    They fit on a 32 frame without pinching, although some do.
    Witness Rolfs good looking coupe with mild frame pinch. (In the HAMB archives.) (It's the reddish looking coupe in the side view posted above. Post #9)

    Depending on how the 31 body is in the rear - speaking of roadsters only, but coupes are similar - you may want to leave the frame rails alone or spread each of them 3/4" outward so the frame matches the inside of the wheel wells.
    32 Frames narrow a bit in the back.

    The trick with both these builds - or the major PITA depending on your view - is the 32 frame rail is swoopy so as to match the curvier 32 body between cowl and wheelwell.
    Model A's of all years are flat in this area.
    Back in the day, some guys bandsawed out a filler piece to match between body and frame, but this strange little trick has fallen by the wayside to a great extent.

    What you need to do here is a mini-channel on the body, bring it down about 3/4" or so and the long frame/body gap is eliminated.
    Not hard to do although new body mounts will be required.

    Here's a couple pics of a 31 on 32 rails.


    So, aside from the performance gain of sitting an A down on a 32 frame, other factors entered into it.
    The V8's were getting popular and with a little work would outrun a built banger motor, but not in all cases.
    Some of the bangers were killer little cars and tough to beat.

    Eventually though, the V8's did the job and after the OHVs came in, that was it for the die-hard banger boys as far as the "Fastest Car in Town" title went.

    One thing that probably brought the 29 on 32 rails roadster to the front of the class was the SCTA back in the day.

    Roadsters were in the "Roadster" class and aside from engine size divisions and perhaps altered vs street classes coupes were shunned.
    Eventually though, cooler heads prevailed and the coupes ran their own class.

    Some of the smarter dry lakes racers realized that frontal area was where it was at vis a vis aerodynamics and started building Model T lakes roadsters.
    It wasn't long until the light dawned on the rest of them and they realized they were giving away a lot of horsepower simply shoving the air aside in their larger roadsters as compared to the small hole the T's punched through the pleasant at times and unforgiving at others transparent medium called air.
    Like water, air can be solid if enough speed is attained.
    I'm sure that many of you can relate the difference between belly flops off the high board as compared to the low board.
    Nothing quite like a 1 1/4 gainer off the high board to impress the girls . . . and make yourself sick and hurting the rest of the day.

    With the T's pretty much cleaning up the roadster classes, the answer to competing with them was easy . . . change the rules.
    It works for poiticians and it worked at the dry lakes.
    Now the T's were in one class and the rest had their own group to compete against.
    Fair, granted, but at first a lot of whining, but that's the way it goes in racing . . . and politics . . . although it's not usually the politicians who are whining.

    Realizing that hot rodding is comprised of a lot of bright and thinking enthusiasts it didn't take long for these guys to realize that the 29 roadsters punched a smaller hole in the air than the at times ungainly looking 32.
    And along with that, the little fact that the A on 32 rails car naturally sat lower in the back due to body design and just looking at a side view makes me think the A's are aerodynamically superior in the rear 1/3 of the car than are the 32's.

    Model A trunk lines on all A's are somewhat similar to the good looking 27 T roadsters in that they trend downward behind the rear cockpit rail whereas the 32 goes straight and then turns down.
    The Kamm effect may come into play here and the burble of unattached air coming off the A's cockpit never does re-attach and the resulting turbulence creates more drag than the 32's straight and somewhat level trunk line does.
    A 32 for reference.

    Probably just an opinion and I note that the 32's seem to do as well as the A's at the dry lakes.
    Even so, it would be interesting to compare the two in a wind tunnel.

    The 29 on 32 rails is probably the best looking hot rod there ever was or will be.
    The 31 on 32 rails is close and makes a good looking roadster.
    32's, the classic roadster to an extent, they're ok and a lot of fun not to mention they have a lot of good looking features.

    Easy answer there is to steal the best of the 32, pop it onto an A and you have the best of all worlds....
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2008
    The Brown Sound likes this.
  12. myke
    Joined: Dec 13, 2004
    Posts: 2,134

    from SoCal

    wow zach great pictures! That 2c car is awesome
  13. SUHRsc
    Joined: Sep 27, 2005
    Posts: 5,078


    thats Bill likes' car, picture from ryans "tom cobbs" story
  14. I note that a comment was made about the slightly more cramped quarters of the Model A roadsters as compared to the 32.

    Not true.

    I measured a 29, 31 & 32 roadster and found that all three cockpits are just about the same size plus or minus a 1/4" or so.
    Main difference is, the 32 cockpit is 2" deeper making it a little easier to get down out of the air, but a well constructed A seat and interior will get you down far enough for comfortable street or competition running.

    The roadsters in my post above are mine and the 31 has more leg room than does the 32.
    Mainly due to the build.
    The 32's seat back cushion is thicker than need be, but it's plenty comfortable to spend the day in....
  15. 29nash
    Joined: Nov 6, 2008
    Posts: 4,544

    from colorado

    I'll address a couple of your questions;
    "In the day" when there was a choice, when you could go find DOZENS of them in all descriptions in junk yards for $40 in running condition, the first requirement to make a car a "hot rod" was for it to have a a v-8 motor.

    A "Hot Rod" was a stripped down production car. Then of course when you got done stripping it down the gas tank stuck out and when Z-ing the rear frame that tank was in the way.

    All the way up into the 1950s when I was a kid there were zillions of 32, 33, 34 sedans in the junk yards for less than $20. 32 and up rails were stronger than Model A, but They all had buggy spring setup, all that needed to be done was Z the frame in the rear and throw on a lightweight body with the gas tank already built in. Matter of fact; most didn’t even Z the frame or even channel the body “in the day“. That come later.

    Why a Roadster? Because it catches less wind and consequently, everything else being equal, it's faster. The doors don't have windows making the package many pounds lighter.

    Why a '29? I have never heard anybody condemn the use of a 28, or a 30 or a 31. They all had the gas tank up front with all of the advantages of that.

    Why Fords? Even with a banger, a stripped down model A could outrun anybody else on the short run. Of course a Buick or Caddy could out on the road, but not down the dirt country trails, and they cost a hell of a lot more.

    A bone stock model A motor produces more, using power-to-weight ratio than any 6 cylinder Chevy, Plymouth, etc. Consequently it was the lightest setup of all, the model A, and it outshined the Chevys, Plymouths, etc all had more wood in them which made them harder to work with and weighed more.

    So, Darwin’s law, the survival of the fittest came into play, there were more Model A’s than all the rest of the small cars combined, and they were the best platform for the task.

    In my personal experience from the 1950s we wanted a car. Any car. Kids resist authority. In those days one was looked down on by most of society, (nothing has changed!!) It was a girl-getter to be a rebel. The rich kids got the girls by driving daddy’s caddy. The poor kids got the girls with a ride, of any sort. Or, if not girls, friends. A guy with a car had a lot of friends! For many a hot rod became that means.
    I was poor, I had to drive my dad's model A pickup, but he wouldn't let me take the fenders off, so not having a car, I was in the “Friend” category……….

    That's my practical analysis.

    I won't get into the fiberglass repops, but a "29 roadster body" would be my choice were I to decide to build an old school hot rod. It would have a banger, or at the most, a v860. So, to answer your question, if somebody produced a "30 roadster body", who would buy it, with '29s already available?

    I'll leave the aesthetic analysis to those that have developed a preference, based whatever their explanation is, as why some say the 29 "looks" better. Of course some people put all of the emphasis on the "look". That's all right, but for me nostalgia is about something else.

    A bone stock roadster body tossed on top of a later model frame to take advantage of the (in the day) availability of a v-8 motor chassis already set up, looks 'better, more traditional," than any of the 40k rods that people build now days. Why? Because I think so............................
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2008
  16. I'm thinking it had to do with availability. When the stock market crashed, it was late in 1929. Auto sales dropped dramatically. (sound familiar?) So what you had was tons of '28-'29 cars in the market place and much fewer '30-'31's. Supply vs demand.
  17. Zombie Hot Rod
    Joined: Oct 22, 2006
    Posts: 2,451

    Zombie Hot Rod
    from New York

    I'd think that a the time (in the 40's and 50's) that since the '32 frame was stronger and already set up for a V8, most guys would toss the lighter Model A body onto the '32 frame.

    I dont think that welding was as accessable to people back then as it is now. So I'd assume that alot of people tried to make do with the best combinations that they could just bolt together.

    This is just my assumption.
  18. iluvcarparts
    Joined: Aug 31, 2007
    Posts: 23

    from socal

    Hey Dale! If you are going to build a Model A I guess you don't need your '34 anymore. You can sell it to me!
  19. Weasel
    Joined: Dec 30, 2007
    Posts: 6,707


    One point to note - '28/29 roadsters are narrower across the A post area than closed '28/'29 body and cabriolets (closed car basis). Not sure about phaetons and rpu's but suspect they might be the same. So measure your body before you pinch Deuce rails. Something in my mind from way back when says Roadster 41 5/8" and closed car 43 1/2", however Jurassic era memory is fading :eek:, so check for yourself.
  20. 29nash
    Joined: Nov 6, 2008
    Posts: 4,544

    from colorado

    You assumed correctly. Welding was a specialty, the equipment took up a lot of space and was very expensive. Very few shops had welding equipment, let alone the home hobbyist. Electric welders were a pure luxury. My uncle had an Acetylene generator, a big tank that you put carbide in and added water to generate the gas..........
  21. jusjunk
    Joined: Dec 3, 2004
    Posts: 3,138

    from Michigan

    The next one I do and its gonna be a while will prolly be a brookville 29 on 32 rails..
    Magoo nailed it way back when and i need to do one just because they look bitchen.
  22. 067chevy
    Joined: Sep 18, 2005
    Posts: 2,073


    Since when does a 28-29 roaster not have a bead at the bottom of the body? Mabe I'm wrong.
  23. Jeem
    Joined: Sep 12, 2002
    Posts: 5,885

    Alliance Vendor

    Why 29 on 32 Rails?

    Because it's a NATURAL!
    30, 31 and yeah, even '32s work pretty good on '32 rails, but the '28-9 bodies have lines that work with the deuce frame (at least after some fitment issues).

    Look at the vertical and horizontally curved lines on the cowling of a '28 or 9 body. The horizontal portion at the bottom is almost a, right on the money, progressively smaller radius of the reveal in the frame rail. The vertical portion of the cowl's reveal ramps forward to meet with the horizontal portion of the reveal that makes a very natural reversing shape. These lines flow together, as well as, oppose each other so nicely. When coupled with the '32 rails, the combo just sings.
  24. First of all let me say that I prefer the '31 roadster body over the earlier version; but then I'm kind of prejudiced because thats what I've got. I think the '28 roadster looks great, but have learned to like the later one a little more.

    Another reason for the popularity of the A body on '32 rails that deals with aesthetics is the fact that a fenderless 28-31 on an A frame looks kind of goofy, at least in a lot of peoples opinions. Something to do with the step or set-back of the frame rail visible after the aprons and running boards are removed. Only way around that is either to channel the body, mount it on a '32 frame or hide it with side pipes as Mike Bishop did on "Old Bluey".

    Just MHO...
    Joined: Apr 21, 2001
    Posts: 1,606


    heres mine the only way it should be. billy

    Attached Files:

  26. joeybsyc
    Joined: Nov 8, 2006
    Posts: 803

    from PA

    There are 28/29s on Deuce rails that look absolutely killer, there are ones that look like ass... same with 30/31s on deuce rails... to lump them all together and say one bodystyle always looks better on deuce rails than the other isn't being realistic... i like them both when done right, i hate them both when theyre done poorly. Theres alot more to making the whole thing have "the look" than slapping an A body on Deuce rails, regardless of what year A Bone you've got... Look at the "Green Grenade"...that's just one car that comes to mind that just has the total "look" about it, and to me that car looks about as perfect as anything, yet there are a ton of other 30/31s on deuce rails I don't like at all... know what i mean?
  27. I've got the disease . . . you know the one! Where you haven't finished one project (quite a ways from it) . . . yet you're already thinking of another! I've never owned a roadster, so this may be something I start pondering. I have all the drivetrain parts, so it really is the body I need to think about.
  28. Hahahaha... that just about sums it up. :)
  29. Thanks HAMBers!

    My main goal was to learn the differrences between the 28-29 and 30-31 body styles and why one seemed to be more popular (or at least talked about) than the other as far as fenderless cars go. I haven't been into A's, so don't know the details (I always sort of lumped all 4 years together in my mind).

    Are the 28,29 versus 30,31 Coupe bodies similar . . . in how the cowl is shaped and how it lines up with the 32 frame reveal? I've never heard that many conversations in relation to A coupes - was wondering what the wisdom in along that line.

    Appreciate all the input . . . good posts by all!
  30. Here's a quick ID far as the roadsters go . . . and probably the rest.

    28-29 doors overlap the body at front and rear.

    30-31 doors overlap the body in the rear only, the front is flush.

    32 doors are flush at both ends.

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