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Projects The Lowtruck Model A Sedan build

Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by lowtruck, Sep 22, 2015.

  1. lowtruck
    Joined: Aug 26, 2009
    Posts: 259

    lowtruck
    Member
    from Omaha

    I'll do my best to keep this intro brief, but I've been down a long road with this car already and a little background is going to be necessary if what follows is going to make any sense.

    I got bit by the bug to build a hot rod when I was in college. I lacked the resources or knowledge to do much, but I starting reading all the books and magazines I could get my hands on. While I was still in school, I completed an OT truck build with my dad, who is a very talented fabricator and mechanic. I learned a lot from him during that project about what it takes to do a job right, and that knowledge has guided everything I've done since. Thanks dad.

    By 2006, I had done my research and decided I wanted a Model A coupe or sedan. A kid I knew had a stock Model A chassis and was looking for a body to put on it. Through this search he stumbled across a "field of old cars" not far from my hometown and bought a Model A Tudor body. I jumped at the chance to go with him to pick it up, hoping that I might find something similar for myself. That didn't happen, but I fell in love with his car. It was pretty straight compared to some of the disasters I had looked at, and it was a '30-'31, which was what I wanted. We unloaded it and I left saying "if you ever want to sell this thing, call me first."

    It only took a few months for my phone to ring. He wanted an MG or some such nonsense and needed money. I used my first real, post-college paycheck to buy the car. Here's my dad and I taking it for a test drive the day it came home with me.

    dad model a.png
    That winter, I went to the GNRS for the '32 Ford 75th anniversary deal and was totally lit up. I bounced around the building like a heated atom, soaking up inspiration from the Great Ones that I had been reading about for years.

    gnrs001.jpg
    gnrs002.jpg
    While I was in LA, I went to the Petersen Museum to see the car that had been in my dreams since I was a little kid. I'll never forget walking up the stairs and seeing the Pierson Coupe for the first time. Your first impulse when you see that car, even when it's sitting still in a museum, is to duck and cover your ears. THAT was the feeling I wanted from my car. But how to make a Model a Sedan look less like a pregnant doorstop and more like a swoopy race car? (More on this later.)

    gnrs003.jpg
    I was able to do a little work here and there over the next year or so, both in my dad's home garage and in the shop I was renting with some friends. I installed lower door skins and patched the cowl bottoms, but I still didn't have a chassis and, most importantly, I didn't have a clear direction. I knew that I wanted a big chop and a deuce shell. A lot of the chopped sedans that I saw (then and now) were ridiculously channeled and z'd clown-rods. I knew I wanted a "traditional" car, but I was still learning what that meant. I was also learning the hard lesson that it's much easier to daydream about throwing a hot rod together than it is to actually do it. As it turns out, youth and enthusiasm will only get you so far.

    Around this time, a friend found a craigslist ad for a dirt-cheap Model A frame a few hours away. It was complete with a very locked up driveline and engine, but missing the entire front suspension. I stripped the frame bare and it sat on blocks next to the body for some time.

    body frame field.JPG
     
  2. lowtruck
    Joined: Aug 26, 2009
    Posts: 259

    lowtruck
    Member
    from Omaha

    Life, as it tends to do, intervened. To make a long story short, I got married to the girl of my dreams and moved to Wichita; six hours away from the car. While this obviously slowed progress, I didn't forget about it for a second. I continued to research and started to zero in on a truly traditional car. Here's a sketch of what I had in mind at the time…

    dwg 2.jpg

    On trips back to Nebraska to visit my mom and dad, I became acquainted with the gentleman that had sold the car to the guy I got it from. He allowed me access to his personal junkyard, which turned out to be full of early Ford bits. I bought a complete '41 front axle and brakes from him. He wasn't very kind to the car when he removed it for me.

    41.jpg

    I dropped the '41spindles off with Okie Joe at the Roundup in 2011 and a few weeks later took a trip down to his place to pick up a dropped Model A axle. To say that he lives in the country would be an understatement. My truck has never been so dusty.

    OKLAHOMA 3.jpg

    He used my spindles to make sure the camber was correct. He also threw in these spiffy NOS kingpins.

    axle kingpins.JPG

    Somewhere around this time I also picked up a '46 rear with a 3.78 gear from my pal Ryan (oldsboy on the HAMB), and as these pieces began to pile up in two different states, it occurred to me that I was pretty close to a rough mock-up. I had owned the car for over three years by this point and had never seen any of the parts together. In a weekend thrash, I built a flat front crossmember and a spring clamp, then started to excitedly throw parts together. Here's what a lot of vice-grips can do…

    first mockup 2.jpg

    I was super happy to see something that looked like a car for the first time. Still a long way to go; at this point there's no rear suspension, the axle is just sitting inside the stock crossmember. You may notice that the front wishbones look a little funny. At some point in the life of that poor '41, someone had bent them in an effort to get more caster in the frontend. Those had to go.
     
  3. lowtruck
    Joined: Aug 26, 2009
    Posts: 259

    lowtruck
    Member
    from Omaha

    In 2011 I took a major leap of faith and quit my job to attend McPherson College's Automotive Restoration program. The focus of the program is restoration of early cars using early tools and techniques; imagine the shop class of your dreams and you'll be close.

    I can't overstate how much I learned in my time there, particularly about sheet metal fabrication. I managed a little work on the Model A while I was in school. I scratch-built a door patch to repair the crappy job that I had done years before.

    door skin.JPG

    I also built a '32 grill shell for the car. I wrote up a thread on that deal...

    http://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/threads/scratch-built-32-grill-shell.714847/

    grill shell.jpg

    While I was in school my time to work on the car was fairly limited, but I did get around to a little chassis work. The rear crossmember on my frame had been cracked and "repaired" at some point in its life and had a big chunk of leaf spring booger welded to the top.

    cracked rear crossmember.JPG

    Since I was planning to use a '46 rear spring, I needed to redo the rear crossmember anyway. I used 2x3 tubing to fabricate a Z at the rear, then chopped the daylights out of a '40 rear crossmember and came up with this.

    rear frame crossmember.jpg

    Around this time I scored a '39 transmission and was actually able to pull it from the car.

    trans.jpg

    The car had been sitting for a while; this was on the floorboards…

    trans newspaper.jpg

    With the chassis roughed in, I moved the car to the world's smallest garage behind my house in Wichita. I had been daydreaming about chopping this car forever, and after years of deliberation, looking at pictures, drawing pictures, and messing around in Photoshop, I finally settled on a 6" chop.

    chop.jpg

    chop 5.jpg

    I had to roll it out that night to see just what I had done…

    chop 3.jpg

    It's only roughed in here, but you get the idea. After 5 years of looking at a stock-height sedan, it's amazing how much this changed the car's attitude. It's getting a lot closer to the evil looking car that I had been imagining, but it's still not totally there.

    chop 4.jpg
     
  4. lowtruck
    Joined: Aug 26, 2009
    Posts: 259

    lowtruck
    Member
    from Omaha

    Time for another move and more life-changing stuff. To shorten another long story, we moved to Tulsa and had a baby, both in the same month. Meet Violet...

    violet.JPG

    As you can imagine, progress on the car slowed a bit, but I was able to do some here and there. For one thing, I finally settled on an engine. Several years ago, my dad found a '55 265 Chevy. I've always loved the good old small bock, and thought it would be cool to have the very first one (with all its quirks) in my car. But when I pulled the head off, it looked like it had been floated up from the Titanic. Bummer. In the years to follow, I considered several other engine options, but fate steered me back to a 265 Chevy. In one of those right place, right time deals, I met a guy who was updating his '55 Chevy with a modern chassis and driveline. As the story goes, his dad bought the car in the early 60's, then parked it for a few years because of engine issues. When the son (current owner) turned 16 around 1970, he started to work on the car and one of his first moves was to go to the local parts house and order a remanufactured 265. He got the engine installed, but for one reason or another, the project stalled and the car sat in storage for years. (You can see where this is going.) Fast forward 45 years and the car is pulled from storage with plans for an LSA crate/Morrison frame/etc. The 265 is of no use to him, so it went home with me.

    265.jpg

    It has never been fired and turns over free. It still has the friggin' warranty information wire tied to the generator.

    While in Tulsa, I also made a gauge panel. This was another area where my plan changed a dozen times, but I kept going back to the strictly functional theme that I want to follow throughout the car. I want nothing hanging on it that doesn't absolutely need to be there. As such, I made a panel to mount only oil pressure and water temperature gauges. A tach will come later, either on the column or on the driver's side of the dash.

    dash layout.jpg dash 2.jpg

    I engine turned it in the mill using a kratex stick, but I intentionally didn't measure the movement on the x-axis. I wanted it to have a handcrafted feel, like an early Bugatti, not a store-bought, mass produced feel.

    bugatti dash.jpg

    I’m happy with the result…

    dash final.jpg
     
    Blade58, kiwijeff, AHotRod and 2 others like this.

  5. lowtruck
    Joined: Aug 26, 2009
    Posts: 259

    lowtruck
    Member
    from Omaha

    While I was in Tulsa, I chopped a Model A coupe for someone else. It was a nice car with a deuce frame, good stance, etc. As I finished tacking the door tops on, I stepped back to look at the proportions. My first thought was that it looked good, and my second thought was that it looked exactly like every other Model A hot rod in the world. This moment pushed me over the edge and convinced me to do something that I had been thinking about for some time. I found a windshield frame from a '32 (5-window or sedan) and committed myself to doing whatever I had to do to make it fit and look right. Here is a picture of this mess roughed in.

    baremetal chop.JPG

    I made the cuts low on the A-pillar to avoid an awkward "dogleg" in the pillar as it starts up straight and then changes angles. This will make it more difficult to finish, but I think the look will be worth it. This move adds a little swoopiness to the otherwise boxy car and pulls in some of that Pierson Coupe influence. Unless a '32 header panel falls into my lap in the near future, I am planning to scratch-build the area above the windshield.

    This was a little over a year ago, and the car was then broken into pieces once again. You guessed it, another move. This time back to Nebraska. With the car back in my dad's shop, I've been able to get some additional work done on the chassis. Some time ago I picked up a '40 crossmember with the plan to use the trans/pedal mounts as Henry intended them, just stuffed between Model A rails. A little cutting and it looks like it belongs there.

    frame x.JPG

    Incidentally, I had seen center crossmembers done like this on the HAMB (particularly those by Mr. Bass, who is a personal hero of mine), but it’s a pretty old idea; here’s an old speed handbook I found with an illustration of this very setup inside.

    tex cover.jpg

    tex smith chassis.jpg

    I also fabbed some motor mounts. The 265 has no side mount provisions, so I used a saddle style adapter and made some quickie frame-side mounts.

    motor mounts.JPG

    Now we’re getting somewhere...

    chassis 1.JPG

    chassis 3.JPG

    This pretty much brings us up to date. It's been a long road to get here, and there's a long road to go, but all I can do is keep pushing. I'm going to do my best to update this thread with progress on a weekly-ish basis, so if I haven't lost you yet, stay tuned for more of the world's longest hot rod build. Thanks for reading.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2015
    A Tudor, kiwijeff, Hotrodmyk and 4 others like this.
  6. Um are you still writing? Let me interrupt, I like your rendering real well and it looks like you got a good start on the old sedan. Good on you. ;)
     
    volvobrynk and patmanta like this.
  7. Nice project, and Yes, that is a cool drawing!
     
  8. lowtruck
    Joined: Aug 26, 2009
    Posts: 259

    lowtruck
    Member
    from Omaha

    Done writing. I guess that was kinda long, thanks for sticking with me.
     
    volvobrynk likes this.
  9. Not a problem my young friend, I just didn't want to rude out when I started running my mouth.
     
    volvobrynk likes this.
  10. Awesome .
    Wasn't short but worth it :)
     
    volvobrynk likes this.
  11. Jalopy Joker
    Joined: Sep 3, 2006
    Posts: 28,615

    Jalopy Joker
    Member

    I guess the intro was brief but, bled into a well done story about a Cool ride and it's dedicated owner
     
    volvobrynk likes this.
  12. 3wLarry
    Joined: Mar 11, 2005
    Posts: 12,804

    3wLarry
    Member Emeritus
    from Owasso, Ok

    Guys...I personally know this little turd (Joe) and he is VERY talented and worked at Hot Rod Garage here in okiehoma for awhile...btw Joe, Jason said he misses you :D
     
    kidcampbell71 and volvobrynk like this.
  13. Really nice work,and good looking homemade grill shell!
     
  14. Binger
    Joined: Apr 28, 2008
    Posts: 1,733

    Binger
    Member
    from wyoming

    Great build. I have that old speed book too. I like the section about 'souping' up model B engines. Subscribed!
     
  15. Malcolm
    Joined: Feb 9, 2006
    Posts: 7,876

    Malcolm
    Member
    from Nebraska

    Great to see you getting after it, Joe! I'd love to come check it out sometime...
     
  16. Gonna be a cool little car, looks great!
     
  17. maplefrm
    Joined: Aug 15, 2010
    Posts: 520

    maplefrm
    Member
    from Central IL

    Great story so far, keep going and thanks for taking the time to write.
     

  18. Did ya see how fast that frame went together? I bet you blinked and missed the best part :)
     
    Malcolm, volvobrynk and 3wLarry like this.
  19. jkski
    Joined: Jan 27, 2009
    Posts: 137

    jkski
    Member

    The progression from starting thread to the last one, you can see a lot of quality in your skills and ideas for your ride. Keep at it !
     
  20. 2935ford
    Joined: Jan 6, 2006
    Posts: 3,729

    2935ford
    Member

    Yeah to the 265.......great motor and as traditional as any!
     
    kiwijeff and volvobrynk like this.
  21. TBone69
    Joined: Aug 21, 2007
    Posts: 829

    TBone69
    Member
    from NJ

    Cool Build, gonna "borrow" that instrument panel design, I dig it!
     
  22. brady1929
    Joined: Sep 30, 2006
    Posts: 8,814

    brady1929
    Member

  23. lowtruck
    Joined: Aug 26, 2009
    Posts: 259

    lowtruck
    Member
    from Omaha

    Larry called me a talented turd, I have arrived!

    Seriously, thanks man. I miss you Okies too, gonna have to visit one of these days.
     
    volvobrynk and 3wLarry like this.
  24. 3wLarry
    Joined: Mar 11, 2005
    Posts: 12,804

    3wLarry
    Member Emeritus
    from Owasso, Ok

    don't get the big head...and get your butt back down here and build me a frame for my Trpu...;)
     
    kidcampbell71 and volvobrynk like this.
  25. DDDenny
    Joined: Feb 6, 2015
    Posts: 16,059

    DDDenny
    Member
    from oregon

    My crystal ball tells me there's a trip to Nebraska in Larry's future.
     
  26. lowtruck
    Joined: Aug 26, 2009
    Posts: 259

    lowtruck
    Member
    from Omaha

    Haha. Would love to. First I need to find time to work on my own junk.
     
  27. lowtruck
    Joined: Aug 26, 2009
    Posts: 259

    lowtruck
    Member
    from Omaha

    Thanks Nick. It's in Norfolk right now so I'm just working on piddly stuff here. I'm trying to push to get it to Omaha soon. If the weather's still decent maybe I'll have a little garage party.
     
  28. smithy1
    Joined: Jun 2, 2010
    Posts: 61

    smithy1
    Member

    Hey! I have the matching front crossmember!!
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Great build! I like where it is headed.
     
  29. Great story, great build so far. Don't take too long to finish it though, I'm not gonna live forever and I want to see the end results!
     
  30. lowtruck
    Joined: Aug 26, 2009
    Posts: 259

    lowtruck
    Member
    from Omaha

    Ha! I spotted that on your build thread the other day and thought "Gee, that matches mine."

    I love your car by the way. The tractor radius rods are over the top cool.
     

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