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Barn-Find 1929 Ford Model A Roadster Gets New Life As Traditional Hot Rod

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 3/26/2019 Joshua Elzey
a truck is parked in front of a forest: 001-beal-1929-ford-model-a-roadster-front-three-quarter© Hot Rod Network Staff 001-beal-1929-ford-model-a-roadster-front-three-quarter

Kevin Beal has been involved with cars since he was six. As with many of us, the foundation of his interest came from his family. His grandfather had a great passion for Fords, and his father bought a new GTO in 1967. Though his dad sold the Goat in 1973, Kevin was able to buy it back 10 years later. He'd heard a lot of stories about the GTO, but had never actually seen it in person until he bought it.

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The GTO ignited Kevin's involvement in the hobby. Its restoration led to him to work for Ames Performance Engineering in Spofford, New Hampshire, which bills itself as the "nation's largest supplier of classic Pontiac parts." Kevin obviously found his calling at Ames, as he is now the company's owner.

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So, how did a Pontiac guy come to own a hot rod? Kevin met Eli English of Traditional Speed and Custom through his nephew, Ryan. Eli had brought Ryan on board, and an invitation was extended for Kevin to check out the shop's traditional builds. Kevin was amazed at the work they were doing with mostly old-school hot rods, and he hit it off with Eli instantly.

It turns out Kevin had been thinking about getting a hot rod, wanting to relive the earliest days of his car passion when he would ride around in his grandfather's roadster. Eli had a likely candidate for Kevin, a 1929 Model A roadster he had worked on years before for a farmer down the street. The car had been restored in the 1970s—Eli found car show judging sheets under the seat from 1979—but it had not run since the early 1990s. The farmer had been in ill health and asked Eli to get the car back into running order. Not long after the work was done, Eli heard that the owner passed away.

a truck is parked in front of a forest: 001-beal-1929-ford-model-a-roadster-front-three-quarter

The Model A then sat for another seven to eight years before the farmer's widow approached Eli to see if he would be interested in buying it. The paint on the car was still in decent shape, and the rest had always been fairly well kept up, except that mice had gotten into the car while it was stored in a wood-floored barn. They were in the door panels and had even chewed through the roof in places. "It was like a mouse condo," says Eli. "They were everywhere." Nearly a dozen of the critters scattered when the roadster was pressure washed.

Eli found a customer to buy the Ford, but thought of the car again when he met Kevin. Kevin took the opportunity to pick up the roadster and knew Eli was the one to turn the bone-stock A-bone into a traditional hot rod ready to hit the asphalt at highway speeds.

The first change Eli made was to dismount the factory 21-inch wire wheels and install 17-inch wires from a '34 Ford, using big and little rubber to give the car a bit of a rake and some attitude. While this lowered the car a few inches, Eli knew it had more to go and mounted reverse-eye springs front and back. This not only dropped the car but also tucked the tires up into the fenders without a big gap, giving the car an aggressive stance.

To get the Ford to look even more aggressive, the windshield was chopped and raked back. The body was stripped of much of its equipment, including the spare tire and carrier, the lights, the etched-glass wing windows, and even the bumpers and their brackets.

Because Kevin is tall, they took out the seat riser, thus lowering the seat 4 inches, then tucked the back of the seat 6 inches under the rear body panel so he would have plenty of leg room. Eli was able to reuse the old upholstery to complete the interior and rumble seat, and he kept the rest of the cockpit stock, including the gauges. They only had to buff the paint, including the dash, to bring back a nice shine with just a few cracks and patina to provide a clue to its age.

With the first objective met to simplify the roadster, next on the agenda was speed equipment for the motor. The stock four-banger received an updated head, header, and carb combo to get reliable highway speeds. This also meant the conventional unsynchronized three-speed transmission could be left untouched, as could the rear end. For an added traditional touch, the Model A retained its four-wheel mechanical drum brakes.

Altogether, this gave the roadster a little bit of hot rod and race attitude without a large-budget overhaul. It was certainly an exercise in simplicity by breaking the car down to its basic form to make it lighter and faster.

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