Sunday, December 23, 2012


As you may have guessed, I'm as old as dirt. The early years were nothing but fun and work. Forty nine (count'em!!) years ago I drove the "A" Bone to Las Vegas and sold it the first night cruising Fremont Street downtown.

With what now seems like a small roll of "C" notes in my jeans, I rode a Greyhound bus back to Los Angeles and paid for my first two years of college with the cash.

Having been in Vegas for the last 45 years, I saw the "A" twice but never up close. Different colors both times.
I often wondered what happened to it.

At our Sunday street car show and tell get together this morning I spotted an "A" (rat rod) arriving and wandered over to check it out.


As I walked up to the car, I noticed the firewall (no one but me would radius a firewall) and what was left of the metal top. The car is (was) badly damaged in a intentionally set fire in the early 1980's and then dragged into the back yard where it sat for almost 30 years.
The current owner acquired the car recently and assembled it as a rat rod.

Speechless ???  You Bet!!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Thirty Four

My trusty town car sits in the shade waiting to take me to lunch.  I drive this car everywhere. It runs nice, makes boost, and I get a lot of thumbs up from the guys standing on the corner looking for work.

I have met new people at the Friday night and Sunday morning get togethers and what an nice bunch they are. All have vintage or unique cars that stand out in their own ways.

Most do their own building or tinkering but feel that I'm a little nuts to tackle the projects that I do.

All feel that the blown Chevy six is a hoot in a lot full of wild small blocks. Hang on guys, I'm coming!!

Drip rail

In the original "A" coupe, the trunk drip rails discharged fluid through a larger cavity in the rear of the body. Actually just dumped in the rear of the body to the ground. This doesn't work well at all with a full floor. Water always runs downhill, right?
At the time we rolled the floor, we bent
this shape in a 48" 16 gauge strip. I thought this represented what the two piece rear section might have looked like.
I did not have the original rear angle but it had to end up like this when bolted together.
A lot of trimming and fitting since it needed to drain from the center to the sides (notch) and bow to the rear to match the rear panel (same notch). The trunk rubber bumpers mount on this and the trunk latch also is attached.

Next were the drip rail extensions and then the tube through the floor.

With end caps on the cross rail, arched to the rear and sloped down from the center to the outside the cute little drip rail extensions dump the water into the trough. My Bud Light test all ended up in the trough (very minimal test, good bud light).
I will use 5/8" od tubing connectors through the trough and floor on each side and 5/8" hose between them. A little seam sealer will finish this part.

Body work?

I don't do body work, at least I didn't think I did. Is this body work?
This is a great project and I am having a great time since I did not bid this.

All the body mounts are in and tight and the trunk would not close. About 1/4" out of square. This was like this when I purchased it but I assumed it would straighten up on a new flat frame.....wrong!

I met a retired collision guy who came by and looked at it. No big deal to him, just place a porta power in the passenger side rear corner up to the drivers side trunk opening and jack it over. WHAT PORTA POWER ??

I was afraid to do that since the "A" cab is bolted together in 3 pieces back there. I built a cab window support and bolted an additional crossmember above the floor crossmember. I pulled the cab left to right with a comealong and the whole think straightened up. Installing the diagonal and two vertical supports, it stayed in place perfectly. The doors fit, the trunk lid fits, is this body work??
I think I'm a happy camper. Is there going to be a pop quiz on this on Friday??

I thought I had put all the dents and crap on craigslist but evidently not.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Vision

I had to do a minor mock-up in order to locate the steering column/shaft so why not confirm the vision?? It involved about 20 minutes to see if this is similar to "the vision".
What do ya' think? If you remove your glasses and squint a little it looks a lot like the "vision".
The firewall setback is only 2 1/2" and is a function of the distributor clearance.

Miles to go but I'm good with this so far.

The rear floor is rosette and seam welded in place and fit better than I had hoped. No problems with the installation.

Four crossmembers and the front and rear originals make this a strong installation.

I purchased replacement fenderwell panels but am unimpressed with them. The panels are 22 ga. and are not as strong as the original A units. I feel that the fenderwells are an integral portion of the rear quarters and these cannot replace them well.
Haven't decided which way to go yet.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Metal work

I was able to final fit the firewall (more trimming), and with a calm day I managed to mig it in place. The rear of the assembly was gas welded with an 00 tip. One blow through with the mig on the rear and I would have had hours of repair.
The mig leaves a lot more metal to grind but even less heat than a tig. NO blow through with 2" stitch welds. After grinding and  a little sander work it is suitable for the media blaster. The front floor and tunnel with a flange is in and ready for the 1/4-20 square nuts to be welded in place. The entire front floor is removable with eleven 1/4" screws.

I am glad I didn't bid this job, would have been working for peanuts!

The rear floor has been frustrating due to the fact that I was unable to get it rolled at a sheet metal shop. They simply did not want to do the job. They took my precut/drilled sheet and then lost the template and a second sheet that needed to be broken up for the rear inner drip rail. Do I know how to pick'em???
My neighbor is a retired sheet metal man and offered to take me to a shop that he knew where we could use a roll.
The shop was very well equipped, clean, and the power roll was very new. It took 20 minutes to double roll my scribed sheet. Very nice..
I had a scribed strip for the rear drip rail and we broke that up at the same time. In and out in 45 minutes and the floor fit the subrails nicely. I also got a quick lesson on " true lines" which I understand completely now.

The floor is mounted with six screws for mock-up and will be welded in place after the body is bolted back on the frame. I have about 16' of randomly applied stitch welds and maybe 60 or so rosette welds ahead. I'm going to be beat after rolling around in this car while alternately stiching the floor in place from side to side.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Front Floor

This is the "as sheared" 16 ga. front floor and a prefab tunnel from Howell sheet metal in Texas. The tunnel has a slight twist in it as stamped (easily removed) and is very nice.

The floor must now be trimmed and fitted to the firewall that is clamped in position.

Now trimmed around the edges and fitted to the firewall it looks pretty good.

The transmission relief required several final adjustments even with a cardboard template. The hole on the driver side is an access to the master cylinder lid.  I turned a 1" edge to the rear on the firewall that accepts the front of the floor.

Using the section of floor that was removed from the center, I scribed the angle on the tunnel and carefully cut it for the firewall. In this installation, the full length of the tunnel ( 17" ) was required.

I am pleased with the mockup, it looks clean and smooth.  The original concept was to weld the floor in place but I think with the addition of a flange on the front of the tunnel, I can make the whole floor removeable. This is going to be nice.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

More fabrication

The middle of the rear subrail is now tacked in place. This area is made up of a 4"x1" 12 gauge angle that is match arched to the frame rail. On top of that is a 3/4" .083 wall match arched square tube that extends forward inside the original subframe and extends to the rear of the body. With the addition of 3 tube cross members, the subframe and floor are then capped with the 16 ga. floor and all is plug and seam welded into place.

The 4x10 sheet was sheared to my drawings and came out perfect. I then found a sheet metal shop that would brake the pieces after I trimmed them and layed out the neccessary actions on the sheet.

The firewall was cut for the setback and
high enough for the distributor. I knew that the template and the new hump would only be close. Rescribe the opening and cut to fit. Hours later, it finally slid in and I was able to scribe the inner firewall face for its cut.

Back in for final trimming/filing and then this limp noodle gets tacked together. Can I get it back in the cowl?

Now that we have a partial box, things are a little different than two flexible noodles. More trimming tomorrow, the joints must be as tight as possible prior to welding.
The passenger side bottom needs to be relieved about 3/32" moving the firewall insert to the passsenger side.

After this final trim (???) the extended lip will be scribed for cutting.

I need to fit the front floor to this firewall prior to cutting and welding the firewall in place.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Tacked Together

The "A" is progressing pretty well. The new rear subrails were shimmed for polyethylene body mounts, strengthened with match arched .083 square tube and all tacked in place. The cowl has been inletted to match the 32' frame arch and fitted with a 12 ga. insert that bolts to the frame. The insert is tacked in place. After all is securely tacked in place, the body goes back on the roller where I can get to the bottom for finish welding.

The stance is not too bad. I would have liked a tad more rake to the body but this frame/body combination will not allow that. If the frame was sized for the "A", or if it was pinched 2 1/2"+ That would have been possible.

Since I will have to purchase a 4' X 10' sheet of 16 ga. cold rolled and have it sheared, I will cut out the firewall and draw up the entire floor/firewall to be sheared at one time.

Lots of hours ahead but it's looking better with every step.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Trial Fit

I have cut and trimmed, and trimmed and measured until I dream about this at night. Prior to changing the blade in the saws all, a trial fit to finalize the cutting is mandatory. Before one proceeds with a project like this, its critical to have a very good plan regarding the handling of the flexible body. 

Since my concept was to roll the chassis under the body and carefully lower the body to the chassis while observing any "issues" the first anxiety driven step was the lift!

I snatched an older than dirt (that's me!!) 500 lb cable pallet jack on Craigslist for the rear and used the engine hoist on the front. The rear on the body is not hard to handle but the front is more than I can lift. I'm the Lone Ranger on this and am not interested in a tragedy.

I did not want to cut up my steel sawhorses but this was too high. Will whack'em of for the next lift. Notice the bow in my carefully engineered laminated support beam???, the front is a little heavy.
Now most of the questions are answered. Yes there are a couple of issues to deal with but they are not going to prevent proceeding with this.

Give me the saws all, a new blade, and the MIG and onward................

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I have been drivin' the 34' and playing title tag with the challenged at the DMV. Bureaucrats can make you tired.

The first step in replacing the A' subrails is to remove the floor and existing subrails to make way for the 32' curved frame rails. One also needs to trim the lower front cowl mounts to allow for the curve in the front section of the frame. Basically, this is measure 10 times and cut twice. I also cut the small amount of rust out of the wheel wells as this will be trimmed to match the frame. It was interesting to note that the rear 1/2 of the lower body is crimped to the subrail over a fabric strip. Now I understand the body rust on most of these cars. This poor unsealed over lap holds moisture and is wet whenever it rains.

I started the lower subrail with a 12ga 4x1 sheared and broken angle and then using my old Hossfeld bender I match arched the angle material to the frame and bolted in place. This will become the base of the new subrails.

This base extends 8" forward under the original subframe and welds to both sides of the shaped subrail. Everthing adjacent to the cuts has been sandblasted for cleanliness to allow good welding.

You need to hold the body correctly while the cutting is going on since it does want to lose its shape with out the integral support.

After building the cart for the body,
and watching as I cut out the rear floor
and subframes, I found that if you leave the major portions of the wheelwells intact and support the body at the front and at the rear, the body is actually in tension and all stays straight.

Somehow in the past 52 years, I have forgotten just how much work is involved in this. Are we having fun yet?? 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Finally !!

After traveling to Utah, Nevada, and California looking at Model A bodies (rusted out field trash), I located this clean one owner near San Diego. Assured that there was no rust, I picked up Tom and Dick in Southern California on the way and we three old farts headed for 'Diego on the first parts run together in almost 50 years.

I think Bob (Model A owner) didn't know whether to run and hide or run us off when we drug all the parts out on his lawn and rolled it out into the sunlight. To give him credit, he stood his ground and gave up very little on the price. He later confided that he knew it was sold when I drove up from Nevada with the trailer.

After swapping cash for trash, we  backed the A' on the trailer and loaded the inside of the A" and the back of the truck with everything we could find. This one had been in storage for 48 years after being partially disassembled in 1964. Did we get it all?? we think so, but who cares, NO RUST!! Actually, I think the car is 90% complete.

As acting Entertainment Director. I am positive that we three added a great deal of sunlight to ol' Bob's day (the stack of 100's probably helped) even though he appeared to be weeping as we jumped in the truck and left.

I have a few days ahead of sorting the boxes of stuff into keepers and sellers but my social calender is open and time is not a problem. Thanks to Tom and Dick for the assistance!

The only stressful portion of the day was when the original headliner began to disintegrate on the way back. Dick's comment on this with a grin was "don't look back". Chunks of cotton and shredded mohair.........