Lisa’s 1928 Ford Full-Bodied Roadster Build Was A Family Affair

The 1928 Ford roadster is one of the most popular hot rods in the car world, and has been for some time. But most Model A’s are designed with with an open engine and no fenders, which gives them a real 1950’s hot rod attitude. Lokar Performance Parts’ Brian Downard took a road less traveled building this roadster for his wife.

California always had the stuff that sat low and looked cool.              – Brian Downard

“I guess a lot of my influences come from my father, plus my early exposure to street rods was in the early ’70s. That was when guys put fenders on them, and a lot of cars look much like the restomod musclecar thing going on now,” Brian said.

When asked about inspiration, Brian responded instantaneously. “California always had the stuff that sat low and looked cool. Anything low is going to look cooler. I remember getting to stay up late one school night – clear back in grade school – and watch a movie with my dad. That movie was the California Kid, and I’ve been hooked on fenders and hoods ever since.”

Brian wanted the full-body look with a lowered stance – a look that he has favored from the time he was a young kid learning about hot rods from his father.

When it came to getting the ride height dialed in, Brian called in some pros. “Jimmy and Mike Barillaro from Barillaro Speed Emporium in Knoxville, nailed the way the car sits,” he said. “I think that is one thing people take away from this car with fenders, that it sits right and doesn’t have air ride. It’s just a cool, well thought out chassis, that allows you to drive it without knocking the fenders off of it!”

The Hard Stuff

All car builds incorporate fun stuff and components tht were easy to apply, and those are fun to talk about. In a pretty clean and traditional build like this, we wanted to know where the difficult areas of the build were. As expected, wheels were the first issue mentioned when the subject of tough decisions came up.

“Wheels and tires will make or break a car. I love the offset and the wheel design that we picked, but could not decide on a color,” Brian said. “I think using dark green instead of a dove gray was a huge departure, and one I am glad we went ahead and did.”

According to Brian, wheels can make or break the look of the completed project.

The amount of input others had on the color choice was evident when Brian told us, “I got teased so much from guys like Josh Henning at Goolsby Customs. I was going to say ‘the hell with it and leave the wheels gray’.” Now I am so glad I didn’t. It totally works, and I owe Josh one.”

Difficult Parts To Find

Along with the hard decisions, there are always difficult parts to locate, and those can make or break a build. In the case of Brian’s car – named Lisa’s Roadster – the difficult part was more cosmetic than functional.

“I guess the hardest part to locate with was the hood ornament. I really had my head set on having a knock off for the hood ornament that matched the wheels,” he explained. “Had it not been for my employment at Lokar and working with Kevin Ford, I would not have been able to have that part. Kevin made me one, and we are going to introduce it for 2017 as a new product for the company,” Brian proudly explained. “If not for Kevin, I would still be trying to figure out a cool hood ornament.”

The headlights are commercial units with a Lokar headlight braid. An H4 conversion with turn signal lights in the headlights complete the package.

As with any car build, there are lessons learned and things that we would do differently if we had to do it again. Brian told us that he was a big fan of almost everything they did with the exception of the camshaft. “I just used a GM crate engine, and went the route of easy and low horsepower so that we could cruise forever on today’s crappy fuel,” he stated. “I am good with that, until I jump in my Chevelle. That car has a pretty good little 327 ci engine with a big camshaft and an 11.0:1 compression ratio. As soon as I drive the Chevelle,  I start to wish for that engine in the roadster … Maybe someday,” he said with a sigh.

The Good Parts

After discussing the tough parts of the project build, Brian got down to the fun things and areas that he is really proud of. “I have two favorite parts to the build. One at the front and one at the back of the car,” he claimed. “The Super Bell front axle is the first piece that I have ever bought. It was so cool to open that box and see it in the garage. I wanted to take it upstairs and leave it in our bedroom until we were ready to install it, because it was cold in the garage. My wife quickly killed that idea,” he said.

The ’32 fuel tank is one of Brian’s favorite parts of the build.

“My other favorite is the ’32 Ford fuel tank in the rear. Namely, because it looks good, but also because it took my dad, my son, and Michael Young’s (Street Rods by Michael) help to get it in the car. We had a lot of fun trying to get that in the car.”

He said that Brian Waldron, another friend and co-worker from Lokar, came to his house one Saturday morning and welded the tank into place to make sure that it didn’t fall out. “What makes it special, is all the help and people coming together to make everything look like what we wanted,” Brian said.

Family Affair

In addition to the help from his friends Brian Waldron and Kevin Ford, Brian Downard’s stepmother Sharon added her touch by applying the pinstriping on the car. His wife Lisa and son Cale also played major roles in the build. Even his neighbor, Nell, jumped in to do the door panels to make sure the fit was perfect and stitched correctly.

Enlisting help from Nell the neighbor to help get the interior stitching correct, and his stepmother’s pinstriping make this build a real family affair.

Nell worked with a bunch of poster board patterns, a couple of sheets of PVC, and four yards of green vinyl from Restoration Parts Unlimited, Inc., (RPUI) to create the panels. They ordered two yards of green carpet from RPUI and had Gil Vigil, owner of Speed & Design Interiors to install the carpet and make custom floor mats. Everyone played a role.

Classic Instrument gauges highlight the Lokar Goolsby edition dash.

Brian wanted to give special thanks to “Lisa my wife, (the driver), my son Cale, my dad Mahlon Downard, Jimmy B for all the great ideas and super TIG welding, Mini Mike, Michael Young, Chuck, Bobby, Wanda,  Skip Walls, and Kevin Ford for the use of different pieces of equipment at the Lokar shop and miscellaneous drops of material.


  • Engine: GM 350ci crate engine
  • Trans: American Powertrain Tremec five-speed with Ram clutch and pressure plate
  • Headers: Hedman Hedders with stainless exhaust by Barillaro Speed
  • Chassis: Custom Barillaro chassis
  • Radius Rods: Pete and Jakes hairpin
  • Front Axle: Pete and Jakes super bell dropped axle
  • Chrome: Advanced Plating
  • Rearend: Moser Ford 9-inch with Moser axles
  • Brakes: Disc front and drum rear
  • Rear shocks: Ride Tech coilovers from TCI Engineering
  • Rearend setup: Pete and Jakes ladder bar
  • Tires: Front: 135 SR 15 Firestone. Rear: 235/75R15 Kuhmo
  • Steering box: Borgeson Vega
  • Steering column: ididit hot rod column
  • Wheels: WheelSmith
  • Motor Mounts: Custom from Barillaro Speed
  • Wiring: Painless hot rod black wiring harness
  • Battery: XS battery
  • Starter: Powermaster
  • Alternator: Powermaster
  • Gauges: Classic Instruments by Devin Butterbrodt
  • Dash: Lokar Goolsby edition dash
  • Taillights: Lokar
  • Headlights: Commercial with Lokar headlight braid. H4 conversion with turn lights in the headlight.
  • Turn Signal Switch: Quik Wire
  • Accessories: Lokar Pedals, shift lever, throttle cable, and dipstick
  • Fuel Tank: Tanks, Inc. 1932 Ford tank adapter and tank kit
  • Paint: Mixed and shot by Marvin and Theresa White
  • Pinstripping: Sharon Downard
  • Interior: Stitching by Nell Ann Hochanadel. Vinyl and carpet from Restoration Parts Unlimited, Inc. Installation by Gil Vigil of Speed & Design Interiors
  • Sound deadening: Design Engineering Inc., (DEI)

About the author

Bobby Kimbrough

Bobby grew up in the heart of Illinois, becoming an avid dirt track race fan which has developed into a life long passion. Taking a break from the Midwest dirt tracks to fight evil doers in the world, he completed a full 21 year career in the Marine Corps.
Read My Articles

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