Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's Almost Here!

Rod & Custom has published the article featuring the Bill Bair roadster, aka 'Daytons'.  They've put it in their annual series called 'Little Pages', a new enterprise for the magazine.  It will officially be on shelves May 3rd, 2011.  But I'm going to the newsstand everyday waiting for the shipment.  I seriously can't wait.
Oh sure, I would have liked to be on the cover.  But at least it was another local, Billy Crewl, who built the 40's Jack Calori clone, seen here racing on the El Mirage lake bed.
I did get a mention on the cover, see "Craigslist A-Bone Discovery".  And there should be a picture of me inside driving the car on Hollywood Boulevard.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Deuce Of Spades: Confessions Of A Co-Star Car

If you are into hot rods, then I'm sure you may have seen, or at least heard of Faith Granger's car-flick, Deuce Of Spades (2010).  A film about woman chasing a guy, chasing a girl.  The movie is set among a thriving car culture in rural So. Cal, 1952.  It happens to have a lot of cool hot rods in it, the coolest of course being my own...

I first met Faith while she was examining my roadster for it's possible worthiness for her project at Bob's Big Boy in Toluca Lake.  Somehow she convinced me to drive to Filmore, about an hour north of LA for a garage scene in her movie. That happened to be the first time I'd driven the roadster in the rain. And wouldn't be the last time I'd sacrifice myself for the film.  But I did it all for Faith --and I'd do it again.

The drag-strip was an old runway once owned by 5 & Dime magnate JC Penny.
I had my digital camera with me for the drag-strip scene, in Saugus, CA.  It was a big day for the movie, many pivotal plot scenes were shot in that one day, including the fight between "Fresno" & Johnny.

Like most of the car owners and actors in the movie (if not all) it was an all-volunteer effort --which might have been Faith's greatest feat of all.  Everybody was happy to pitch in, to varying degrees of course.  But we were all in the same boat; unpaid and following Faith's faith in herself that she would complete this wholly endeavor.

In all, my roadster participated only four full days to the film.  I say 'only' because there were some that must have given ten-times as many days, or more! They are the unsung heroes for the film.
Faith (seated) setting up the camera for a shot.
There were a lot of great people on the shoot, many were car-guys.  So granted, I'm still friends with some. Jerry, Kyle, Sam, to name a few.

I remember almost every moment of the shoot.  Which is odd because I had worked on quite a few movie locations in my early years in show business (production, not acting), and I don't remember that stuff!

Actors & extras for the 50's drag strip scene.
Necessary: a period correct dragster
Kyle Clifford (Art Delaney) removing non-period correct mobile phone from background.
Protagonist's car; Fresno's red A-V8
Here Faith applying fake blood to Fresno played by Frank O'Leary
Filmore Garage Scene

Johnny Callaway (played by Timoth Luke) & Art Delaney (Kyle Clifford) talk about girls while they take a break from wrenching on cars.

My car as background
This was the first day I participated in the movie.  You can't tell now, but it rained most of the drive up from LA.  It was an adventure to say the least.  With no wipers or top: it was a test of my commitment to the project!  Big-rig drivers where giving me thumbs up as I tried to pass them on the steep gradient of Interstate-5 going north.

Between scenes, Luke wearing a warm sweater as Faith & a tech do camera blocking.
All you see of my car in this scene is a blurry gold engine.
Due, probably in part to Faith's French upbringing and that the movie was dubbed in multiple languages, she got world-wide press coverage.  Below is an article from British culture magazine Dirty.  The car on the left is Sam's roadster, a Long Beach hot rodder I am now friends with.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Boxing My Model A Frame

The frame at the start... never to be the same.

I know... I said I would not box my frame.  But I've come to the conclusion I can't make my track-T's frame stiff enough with just a few cross braces alone.  In retrospect I could have found a better condition frame from the start. But with my budget, I doubt it.  And maybe had I not been so bull-headed, I could have boxed this frame at the beginning and now be further along.

One of six pieces in the kit.  I cut this into five parts, but only used two.

When I built my first Model A, it's frame was in such good condition it hardly flexed at all, and it jaded me for life.  Today I know it was is a rarity to have a original, tight frame.  And that many of Henry Ford's well-used frames now are loose & flimsy require boxing (when hot rodding) because of worn out rivets & rusty rails, etc.

I had to trim <1/4" off the top. My best option; use the torch.

Of course, re-riveting is still done today --but we'll leave that to restorers only.

Now that I have my heart set on boxing it, I considered making my own plates.  But a quick search online found that a kit is probably a good time saver over buying raw plate and custom making what was already readily available.
Ebay had the best deal for me, and this seller even had a 0.10 gauge steel kit with lightening holes already cut out for $100.  Just the thing for the "racer" concerned about his weight.

Measured twice, cut once, a couple minutes with the grinder, and...

The kit came quickly and as most kits go, it was made for an entirely stock frame, and meant to be welded to the outside edges of the frame.  It goes without saying, I had to modify it my way.  And if I really have to box it, I'm determined to have the frame boxed on the inside.  Why?  Personally --it looks better and it isn't as obvious.  But to do that required a lot of extra work; measuring, grinding, fitting, grinding, and fitting again.

Special Note: Whenever you consider boxing a frame, there has to be much pre-planning.  If your steering box in mounted in the rail like stock, you'll have to plan for that. All your body mounts have to be determined in advance as well.  The body bolts have to go all the way through the frame to the underside, or a cage-nut or bolt has welded on top or inside the rail.
Here I've welded in flanged nuts, I saw this in Street Rodder magazine recently.  I opened up the hole with a step-drill. Now the flange provides some girth to the nut with which to weld on to.

Next, I thought it would be classy to have the brake lines hidden within the frame rails.  Speedway Motors and other catalogs sell brake line bulkhead fittings for boxed frames.  But I'm staying away from many modern hot rodding conveniences.  Plus putting the line in the rail gives a cleaner appearance. Furthermore, it seems bulkhead fitting only come in AN, or 37º flare for aircraft.  All OEM parts are all 45º flaring.

The basics; double-flaring tool, a file, and brake line pliers.

So in the few days it took for the boxing plates to arrive I stopped by Pep Boys on Hollywood and bought 25' of 1/4" brake line and a pack or brake line nuts to start, about $20 in all.  I own all the tools I need to hand make brake lines from previous builds.  I now like to use the roll of brake line, it is less restricting then the pre-flared lengths.

If you've ever flared brake lines at home you'll be familiar with fluid leaking at the new flare.  It's rare to get the perfect 45º double flare with hand tools every time (impossible for me), so I learned an extra step that helps stop leaks before the first installation, I call it 'pre-seating'.
>>>After you have completed the flare (and remembered to put on a nut before you flared the tube), you can pre-seat the flare before final installation.  Once in the car, space may be limited for optimum nut torquing.
Place the female 'receiver' in a vise, in this case, the steel end of a rubber line as seen above coming out the frame.  Screw in your newly flared brake line with a flare nut wrench or box-end and tighten it into the end into the receiver very tightly.  Then loosen and tighten again, perhaps ten times.
You may actually be able to feel the flare being 'seated' under the force of your wrench.  Take the line off, and look at the flare. You'll see it's now shaped more like the flare in the inside of the receiver.  Now you are less likely to have a leak at your first brake bleeding.

As great as the lightning holes will look in the end, they will still be see-through.  This brought up another detail to be considered --having the inside of the rails look good.
I loosened the rust with wire brushes and gave it an initial rattle-can job.  But by the end of all the plate fitting and additional edge sanding, I now had to repaint it.  I masked the edges this time, and with another layer of paint, I had a nice smooth surface inside.
I also painted the back sides of the boxing plates.

Now that I've trimmed & fitted the plates, plumbed the front brake lines, sanded the edges for welding, and painted the inside of the rails, the easy part is actually welding.

After a little discussion with my friend Ed, I decided to simply stitch weld rather then fully weld in the plates.  Had I installed the plates as the maker intended (on the outside edge), I might have fully welded it for looks, and sanded the welds a little.  But as I put them on the inside, I saw no reason not to stitch it.

Before I tacked my first weld, I made sure my frame was sitting squarely on the sawhorses.  Once the plates are in, it's permanent.

I started the welding by first properly positioning each plate about 3/16" inside the lip of the frame all around, tack welding as I go.  Vise-grip pliers help here keeping the plate spaced.

I wanted an even pattern in the stitching.  And it wasn't until I first started welding the bottom edge did I think to weld from the center of one hole to the middle of a blank area on the plates.  I pretty much stuck with that theme throughout the welding.  The result was what looked like intentional spacing --not bad if I do say so myself.
At the top of the frame, I stitch welded the opposite... in other words from the middle of the blank area to the center of a hole.

Just over an hour of welding and fiddling I was about done.

I went ahead and welded in some additional metal bar and a plate to the center crossmember as I planned on doing earlier.  The plate will protect the driver from a broken U-joint (you'll see why some time later).

All-in-all I think I did a swell job.  Although now that the weight of the frame is significantly higher, I believe the custom look will make up for it (because it's not really a real race car, shh.)

Finally, I performed the "flex-test".  I stuck a coin under the horn of the frame, the frame is so stiff that the other side rose the about the same amount.  A week earlier the frame was so flimsy it would have failed with a quarter dollar and visibly flexed with ease.  Now I can't twist it at all!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Chip Foose's Overhaulin' Model A at Auction --Not Sold

In a 2007 episode of the TLC channel's popular car-makeover themed TV show, Overhaulin'.  Host Chris Jacobs "lifted" the show's first & only Ford Model A "hot rod", a 1930 touring. Today, if you are interested in owning that car, it is for sale for incredible $100,000+!


The car was on eBay recently for a ten-day auction starting April 1st through the 11th. With nary a bid, nor question posted, the auction closed as quietly as it started.  The opening bid was set at $99,900 (which included a reserve).  Which raises the question; Was the selling price too high???  In this authors opinion --hell yes!
Why would the seller think that a lowly two-door touring car be worth anywhere near the price of the ever increasing value of a 1968 Shelby Mustang, or worth more then many real Henry Ford '32 roadsters?  At this price, it would also make this one of the most valuable Model As in the world, and perhaps one of the Top-10 most valuable modern-built Model A hot rods?

Perhaps this Chip Foose quote might let you in on the seller's false sense of value:
History of the Overhaulin' TV show builds: "Overhaulin' builds an incredible car in just a week." Could they build a traditional hot rod in seven days? "Chip Foose replies that if you took 30 guys at a shop and had them work 16 hours a day, you could do it." Thus, a normal shop with a few guys couldn't do it. Foose continues, "Besides getting this kind of job done in this kind of timeframe would be expensive. ‘An average shop rate is probably $2,500 per guy per week, ‘says Chip. ‘If you do the math, if it's straight time, that's $150,000 in labor alone.'" So with this type of labor and the multitude of custom-crafted parts, including frame, suspension, engine, and interior this Model A has upwards or over 200K into it.

1950's Y-Block Ford engine

This isn't news to me, but we all know that some guys get carried away, and spend more on a car then the car will ever be worth.  We call it a "labor of love", but this is plain stupid! So does association with Chip Foose add like $65,000 in value?

Room for the kids.

Now the last time this car was for sale was April '09 on Craigslist for $75,000 according to  So has the car really gone up that much in value in these "tough economic times"?  Or is the seller just casting a line hoping someone might tickle the hook, then give them a generous discount?  Maybe down to $75,000?

Whatever the seller is thinking, someone should give him the bad news...  your touring-car (he called it a roadster?) price should be slashed in half!  Then slash is again by 25%, now maybe you can sell it.

UPDATE Dec 2011:  No surprise the car is still currently for sale in St. Louis, now for $115,000. To see it CLICK HERE.