Any of you guys remember that old Lennon-McCartney song, covered by the Beatles and Joe Cocker? The chorus went something like “Oh, baby I get by (Ah, with a little help from my friends,) That sentiment still rings true. All anyone needs is a little help from their friends, yes? The same goes for building a hot rod.
Beginning with a derelict ’31 Ford Tudor body that had long ago been abandoned among the yucca plants of western Nebraska, William Wonder of Onawa, Iowa, with the help from his friends and fellow members of the “Classics” Car Club, transformed this forlorn sedan into a hot cruiser. . .with attitude.
Featuring no less than 30 subtle body modifications, it’s been chopped four-inches by the owner and Jim Beck of Onawa. A ’78 Ford moon-roof has been tastefully molded-in as well as a sunvisor. The windshield posts have been filled and smoothed and the windshield “set-in.”
Those over lapping Model A doors have been trimmed and “flush-fit,” with the rear corners rounded to match the curvature of the window glass. The original drip rails were removed and body lines tapered to the front.
The familiar Model A rear body seams have been removed and the rear body has been “notched” to accept the wider-than-stock ‘glass rear fenders, which were more in proportion with the wide rear rubber. A custom steel rear pan was fabricated from an extra sunvisor to match the one in front. It has been narrowed and recessed for the license plate. Tail lamps have been frenched into the body above the rear pan and were originally the third brake lights from the decklid of a’76 Toronado.
A steel Bitchin’ firewall and front floor section were installed along with Bitchin’ rear wheel tubs, widened an additional eight-inches and fitted to a fabricated rear floor section.
Steel splash aprons and running boards flow into a set of ‘glass ’31 front fenders that have been modified for A-frame clearance. Rather than simply “box” the fenders around the upper A-frames, a pair of gracefully-executed, simulated air intake scoops were formed into the stock fender lines.
A filled ’32 grille shell is accented by a stainless grille insert and a three-inch dropped headlight bar. Original-style script headlamps house halogen bulbs and the repro cowl lights do double duty as turn signals/emergency flashers. The fiberglass, one-piece hood is hinged to open straight up, using Pinto/Mustang II hinges. The custom-fabricated aluminum side panels are by Duane Miller of Onawa.
Bodywork, custom touches and paint were handled in William’s garage by Guy Doyel of Magnolia, Iowa. Paint is ’93 GM Black Sapphire Pearl Metallic and is accented by Blue Pearl “ghost” flames – the edges dusted in Sovereign Blue Metalflake. The flames were designed by the owner and laid on by Iowans Guy Doyel and Roger Hackett.
It’s been said that all good rods begin with a solid foundation and one-third of this one is still genuine Ford issue. A pro-street subframe, ordered from Total Performance, came as a kit with dual leaf springs, stainless shackles and spring clips, a tri-angulated sway bar and HD gas shocks.
A ’69 Ford nine-inch rearend housing was narrowed to 36” before being dipped in chrome and fitted with a set of 3.89:1 gears by Mark Renshaw of Tekamah, Nebraska. A set of chrome plated wheelie bars add to the car’s aggressive stance.
Up front, a ’80 Pinto surrendered a factory cross member, which was molded to the original Model A frame by William and Charlie Meadows of Onawa. A-1 Racing provided all new upper and lower control arms and 5-bolt disc brake rotors. The front spindles have been ground smooth and the manual Pinto “rack” polished to a shiny finish. Additional glitter comes from chromed lower control arms, chrome Heidt’s tubular strut arms and chromed backing plates on the rotors.
HD gas shocks hold up the stock front springs that have been relieved of one-and-a-half coils for just the right amount of “rake.” The rest of the original ’31 frame has been fully boxed, molded and smoothed with molded-in tubular engine and transmission cross member. Welding chores were handled by Rick Gries of BNR Racing in Onawa. The frame was base/cleared in ’92 Ford Ultra Blue Pearl Metallic by Guy Doyel.
An owner-fabricated aluminum front spreader bar is fitted with an aluminum license plate bracket that lays the plate down similar to the one in back, while at the same time, force-feeding air to the dual 11-inch cooling fans behind the ’32 grille.
A pair of LTL saddle tanks were mounted to the frame along with a polished stainless, drop-out battery box. A Bitchin’ louvered, polished aluminum belly pan kit was modified to fit the pro street chassis.
The clean, low-mileage original engine is a ’63 vintage Ford 390 big-block, rated at 330 horsepower with 10.5:1 compression and 406ci heads bumps the valves. The engine retains a standard bore, crank and pistons and a TP144 hydraulic cam.
Engine building chores were handled by Mark Renshaw. A ’68 Ford C-6 automatic from K & S Transmission Services in Omaha, Nebraska features a shift kit, chrome pan and front cover. A Hurst Pro-Matic 2 shifter transfers power to the differential via an ’87 Corvette polished aluminum driveshaft shortened approximately five inches.
Outside, the engine features a polished aluminum factory timing cover and polished billet Mallory Uni-Lite distributor, further accented by a chromed coil, chrome rear sump oil pan, chrome Chevy one-wire alternator with custom-built low-mount brackets, and a set of nostalgic, polished and finned aluminum Cal Custom valve covers with rare, ’78 GMC Street Sedan emblems.
Topping all this is a somewhat rare, Edelbrock FX66 cross ram intake with roller bearing and cable linkage. A pair of matched 600 c.f.m. Holleys with chromed center-pivot bowls feed fuel via a series of custom-bent, polished copper lines with owner-fabricated fuel log actually made from an 11/16” lug nut.
Steve Shamburg of Tekamah, Nebraska worked his magic on the Holleys and bent all the lines. Despite their radical appearance, the dual fours are quite docile on the street (until you stomp on it,) and runs well on 92 octane pump gas, although she really likes the 108 octane stuff!!
Exhaust is vented via a set of custom-built Sanderson headers through a 2 ¼” aluminized exhaust system by Don’s Exhaust. A pair of three-inch polished stainless mufflers exit beneath the rear license pan with an authoritative rumble.
Rolling stock is courtesy of polished Centerline “X” style wheels, 15 x 12” rear and 14 x 6” front, mounted on 31 x 16.50 x 15” Mickey Thompson’s and 185 x 14” SR60 Revengers respectively.
The interior is a combination of gray leather, gray tweed fabric and silver gray carpet by Chas Dillender of Oakland, Nebraska. Seats are’87 Dodge Shelby Daytona and feature 6-way power, tilt and lumbar controls. The dash and LeCarra sterring wheel are also wrapped in matching gray leather.
The original dash was cut out, the gas tank removed and then reinstalled at an angle. A second upper dash rail was “flipped” and grafted to the lower section of the Model A dash for that “finished” look. Vintage Series gauges were installed along with a complete JBL stereo from a ’90 Thunderbird Super Coupe. The interior moldings are painted ’93 Lincoln Dark Charcoal Metallic.
Specialty power windows, power remote door locks and purple neon underneath are all tied together with a wire loom from Ron Francis and some additional expertise from Rick Deen Electronics of Whiting, Iowa. Dark gray smoke-tinted glass features “etched” bullet holes for that ‘30s gangster touch when the car is displayed with William’s Model 1927 Thompson rifle.
Now that the car’s gone taken from idea to the street, William says the sedan is very quick and drives like a dream, even though the ride is a little harsh. In spite of this, he feels he achieved the look he was going for, saying the ride is a small sacrifice considering the looks the car gets when he drives it on the streets of his hometown, which boasts the Widest Main Street in the U.S.A.! Just goes to show what you can build at home, in your garage, with a bit of determination and a little of help from your friends!