A Real 50's Hot Rod: The Roadster Bill Bair Built

A true Southern California hot rod, owned by William J. Bair from 1939 until his death in 2003.

These are just some of the pictures I took of the roadster soon after I brought it home and throughout the "fix-up" process.  We'll start at:

The beginning...

The car came to me October 31, 2009 not running.  But I still couldn't be happier.

I so much wanted to drive it, it hurt! I just needed to do so much before its wheels were rolling again.

First off, the gas tank was out, as was the ruined leather seat.  Somehow the car never had a fuel level meter --even the water temp gauge wasn't working.  The heads were leaking water and, of course, the brakes were frozen.  Finally, none the car's fluids had been changed in well over a decade.

The list of things to do was growing even before I could restart the engine for the first time.

Here is how it looked when I brought it home:
Everything caked with grime. Probably not even once wiped down in decades.
The seat was separated from the car. Liberal use of natural jute for a sound deadening.
The gas tank was out, this is where it should sit. 15 Gallon tank is supported by wood & plumber's tape.
Total loss, left outside for years.  The only use it had was a a pattern for the new seats.
Restoring the leather seat was perhaps one of the bigger challenges.  I just wanted to make sure the new seat was correct. The 'antiqued' style red leather was discontinued decades ago, only vinyl was available.  But I had to have leather!  So I custom ordered it dyed to match a sample out of the car.
I also needed a proper upholsterer to stitch the new hides to my exacting standards.  Mark from Rudy's Custom Top in Hollywood was the only person to work on car other then myself, and I had to trust him. There were no margins for error.  We used old pictures and the torn up seat to replicated it to what it looked like in 1959.
Pictures of the seat done are further down the page.

The Engine:

Flathead Ford V8s are my favorite engines. So working on Bill's V8 was a pleasure.
Nothing very hard to do, it was all fairly strait forward repairs --mostly top-end stuff.  Plus additional cleaning, torquing, adjusting.

I took my time and did it right.


The engine was actually in great condition inside with very little wear that could be seen.
All the head bolt threads were chased, and gasket surfaces scuffed.  I had the heads milled flat (not shown) at H&H.  I also rebuilt the Stromberg 97 carbs myself.
You may have guessed by now, I don't have an indoor garage.

June, with the seat restored, it was time to enjoy the car.

OK, here is the finished seat.  Rather then reuse the noisy old springs, I used foam. 

I never planned changing any part of the look of the car.  The biggest change was the addition of a chromed generator.
I have to be honest, in all the photos that came with the car, the engine never looked as good as with me.  Bill had an electric fan and alternator --I don't know if I could have lived with that.
Second biggest change, was the addition of three under-dash gauges in a 50's Eelco gauge cluster. A temp gauge in each head and a much needed fuel level gauge --these are basic hot rod staples.

I finally drove the car for the first time in May 2010.  I learned so many new 'old' things about hot rodding working on 'Daytons', so named for the wheels.  The car was a window into some of the things only done in hot rodding's heyday, 1945-1959.
Here is the car --done.

Work Completed:

Here are some of Daytons roadster jobs I performed:
Had the heads milled
Replaced spark plugs & wires
Replaced ignition coil
Replaced ignition switch
Replaced intake gasket
Rebuilt 97s w/.41 jets
Added a temp gauge to each head
Added some dash lights
Replaced the missing fuel pressure regulator
Replaced rubber fuel lines
Changed all fluids
Installed a new Optima Battery
Installed new battery cables and a cut-off switch
Replaced crank pulley with a double pulley
Swapped out electric fan for mechanical
Swapped out alternator for generator
Installed a voltage regulator
Rerouted under dash wiring for proper function
Replaced motor mounts
Rebuilt the brakes:
- relined front shoes
- replaced all rubber lines
- replaced all wheel cylinders
- replaced master cylinders with nos
- replaced brake springs
Repacked all wheel bearings & replaced hub seals
Cleaned & stripped gas tank of deteriorated paint
Added an on/off valve to gas tank
Added an in-line fuel filter
Installed a fuel level sender
Installed a fuel gauge in dash
Installed poly spring liner
Reproduced lost front license plate bracket
Restored seats to original glory
New front racing tires, for safety
Replaced tubes in the 'monster' rear tires 

Body: 1928 Ford roadster (I originally thought it was a '29), customized with sheet metal & lead, '32 grill, 3-piece sheet metal hood, black paint circa 1959
Frame: 1932 Ford V8, w/Model A front crossmember, '32 rear crossmember, trimmed front & rear frame horns
Front Suspension: 1932 heavy axle w/3.5" drop, complete wishbone, 1941 shocks
Rear Suspension: 1937-41 V8 axle, 3:78 gears, 1940 spring, no shocks
Steering: 1937-41 style Ford box turned on it's side, 1939 deluxe "banjo" steering wheel
Wheels & Tires: 1940's Dayton Wire Wheels, front - 16x3.5" w/new Firestone 5.00 racing ribbed bias, rear - 14x4" w/older Cornell 6.50 bias, ALSO rear - 15x5" w/Inglewood Tire Service 13" wide retreaded slicks hand grooved
Engine: 1942 Ford block, bored .040 over, 4.00" stoke, Winfield SU-1R camshaft, Edelbrock heads, Weiand intake, Stromberg 97 carburetors, adjustable tappets, 8BA oil pump (suspected), 1932 radiator
Transmission: 1937 (believed) stock Ford 3-speed, shortened closed driveshaft
Brakes: 1939-40 Ford, w/adapters attached for use of the knock-off wheels
Electrical: King Bee headlights, 12V generator, 2-bolt Ford distributor, vintage wiring, dash lights, '39 brake lights, vintage license light, electric fuel pump, Optima battery
Misc: Canvas non- folding top, leather covered foam & wood seat, custom made windshield of unknown origin,vintage leather interior insulated with natural jute, metal dash w/Stewart Warner gauge, 1932 speedometer, non-operable fuel pressure pump, vintage Model A floor mat

Blog Posts:

To see all blog posts related to this car going all the way back to the day I found it; CLICK HERE.  Then at the bottom of that page, click "Older Posts" to go to the next page to see even more.


Rolls & Pleats Magazine, issue 37 (late 2011), featured car
Little Pages, by Rod & Custom Magazine 2011, featured car

And, The Jalopy Journal, by Ryan.  Post of the Day, November 1, 2010.