1929 Ford Model A Roadster - SOLD
     
  • Overview & History
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So what does “old school” really mean? It means this 1929 Ford roadster, built back when Eisenhower was just being sworn in back in 1956.

In the hot-rodding world, the words “old school” get thrown around entirely too much. Paint it satin black and suddenly you’re doing it “old school.” Use a Nailhead or an Olds engine or—gasp!—a flathead Ford, and people call it an “old school” rod. Never mind the fact that every single component on the car except the engine block was purchased from a catalog and built after the invention of the iPhone; and it’s kind of diluting the pool, don’t you think?

So what does “old school” really mean? It means this 1929 Ford roadster, built back when Eisenhower was just being sworn in back in 1956. It is traditional in every single possible sense of the word because it was there when the traditions were invented. It’s powered by a small block Chevy V8, which is no great shakes, but you need to remember that in 1956, this engine was cutting-edge tech, kind of like transplanting a hybrid powertrain into your rod today. And aside from things like the gauges and maybe the brakes, there are not many components on this car that could have been ordered from a catalog. Instead, this car was fabricated, crafted, modified, and built by guys who didn’t have a choice but to do it themselves.

It’s quite likely that the bright yellow paint dates from the ‘50s. It’s got the right shine, the right patina, and the right black pinstripe details to make it look as if it might have been done by the guys at the corner shop. A ’29 Ford roadster was as basic as you could get, the minimum bodywork needed to still technically call this an automobile. It’s really more akin to a 4-wheeled motorcycle, but we’ll get to the driving experience in a moment. The body was channeled over the frame, a time-honored modification that was also pretty fresh in the ‘50s and differentiates this car from the hi-boy style that would develop in parallel but on the other side of the country. It’s all steel and every part on the body that looks like it’s original, well, it is original. That’s a real ’32 Ford grille shell that’s been sectioned down to size, real 1929 Ford windshield stanchions modified for the lower windshield, and a real deck lid that’s been punched full of louvers, not pulled from a fiberglass mold. The thing fits together rather well, with doors that close like any Model A, needing a bit of a slam to make sure they’re secure but never a fight. Frenched 1950 Pontiac taillights with blue-dot lenses were another uncommon trick that’s tiresomely ordinary today, but back when this car was built, well, perhaps nobody else had done it yet. This car is all about context.

The interior is minimalist, no question about it. We don’t know where the bucket seats came from, probably some British lightweight, and they’re wrapped in pleated vinyl that was really the only way to do it. Matching door panels give this rod a more finished look and feel than many of its contemporaries and if we had to guess, they might have been done at a later date. It’s also possible that the carpets are later, but there were definitely guys giving their cars this level of fit and finish back in the day, so it’s hard to say; at the very least, the materials look suitably vintage and have been in the car for a very long time. The engine-turned instrument panel may also be original, although the gauges surely are not, although they’re vintage-looking Stewart-Warner dials that seem appropriate. The Lokar shifter and the steering wheel are modern items and if this were my car, I’d probably try to find something a little more appropriate, but they don’t stand out and they work just fine. Seat belts are a very good idea if for no other reason than this car can generate some pretty serious G-forces and they’ll help keep you in place and with that low windshield, maybe a set of goggles would be a good idea, too. The gas tank is in the trunk, which is nicely finished with some carpet and a simple access panel for the battery underneath. There is no top, no spare tire, nothing that would slow this car down, and if you need those things, well, maybe you’re a little too old for this car.

The engine appears to be a 1955 Chevrolet 265 cubic inch V8 with double-hump heads and a wicked Offenhauser intake with triple deuces. The carburetors were obviously scavenged, and while they’re all the usual Ford V8 type, one is Ford, one is Holley, and one is Chandler Groves, so they have clearly been on the car for decades. It’s got an adjustable linkage and runs most of the time on the center carb, which is the only one with a choke or idle circuit on it, but dive deep into the accelerator and all six barrels open up. At that point, you really should make sure this car is aimed in the right direction, because stuff starts to happen ridiculously fast. Quite honestly, I like it in “safe mode” with 90% of the travel activating the middle carb, which, as I said, is more than enough to be shockingly fast. You want more, you're on your own!

The finned valve covers were probably added sometime later but have a nice period look and there’s a replacement aluminum radiator up front that’s just smart. I don’t know what transmission it might have had originally, but there’s a sharp-witted TH350 3-speed automatic in there now that cracks off lightning-quick shifts and never stutters. The rear end appears to be a mid-50s Chevy piece, so that would fit in with the build period and it’s got a great-sounding glasspack-style dual exhaust system that’s aggressive but not tiresome, so the car’s actually quite drivable. Wood floors, a stock Model A frame and some clever engineering show off what was state-of-the-art in rodding. The front axle is a traditional I-beam with transverse leaf spring and trailing arms, while the rear uses ladder bars that have to be seen to be believed. Remember, these were the days before you could get an engineered chassis and bolt-on suspensions, but in the quest for more traction and better handling, especially in a short-wheelbase car like this, they devised some pretty clever stuff. It appears that those ladder bars are fabricated from wrought iron with tie rod ends welded to their leading ends, and despite the relative crudeness of the welds, the setup works and looks fantastically authentic. The four-wheel discs are a much newer addition, probably installed after a new owner realized that this car accelerates like a slingshot and could benefit from some safer binders. And those sand-cast Torque Thrust wheels may very well be decades old, wearing “traditional” big-n-little whitewalls: 6.70-15 BFG Silvertown bias-plys up front and 235/75/15 BFG Silvertown radials out back.

So how does it run? Incredibly! Pull out the choke a little bit and it fires quickly without a lot of drama, and you’ll be delighted by how smooth and powerful it sounds. Not stumbly, not cackley, just brilliant. Get it warmed up and throttle response is instantaneous. The transmission mostly stays out of the way, grabbing gears with some gusto and going about its business about the way you’d expect. The primitive suspension feels like an old car, but with all that horsepower pushing it, you need to pay attention because things happen in a BIG hurry. It never seems to get hot, the generator keeps the battery charged, and, well, for a car that’s 85 years old and a build that’s 60 years old, it’s remarkably easy to drive.

So if you’re really one of those “old school” guys who like them the way they used to be, it’ll be hard to get one more authentic than this. If you like cookie-cutter rods that are just like all the others, well, this isn’t for you. But it’s every bit as fast as something you’d build today and with the rat rod (what an awful term) phenomenon in full swing, showing up with a legitimate 1950s hot rod should be a pretty big deal at any gathering. You couldn’t build a car like this for the asking price and the authenticity is thrown in for free. Do a little automotive archaeology and find out this car’s history, and it’s surely a very special machine for the right person. Either way, it sure is fun!

Vehicle: 1929 Ford Model A Roadster
Price: SOLD
Stock Number: 111110
Mileage: 1381
VIN: A985333
Engine: 265 cubic inch V8
Transmission: 3-speed automatic
Gear Ratio: 3.25
Wheelbase: 103.5 inches
Wheels: 15-inch Torque Thrust
Tires: Front: 6.70-15 BFGoodrich Silvertown, Rear: 235/75/15 BFGoodrich whitewall radial
Exterior Color: Yellow
Interior Color: Black leatherette
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