3 Freaky Fords
Text + Photos: Mike Blanchard
Archive | It is a classic Hot Rodding story; three friends each build their own car. Each car represents the vision and interests of the builder. In the case of these cars each of these fine fellows had access to the parts to fulfill said vision. All three of the cars startedout as one of Henry Ford’s workaday offerings. These cars are now creatures,perversions if you will, of Fords children built by later day metal men. Nice intro huh? A pretty hoity toity set up wouldn’t you say? The truth is that Dean Anderson, John Lucas and I built these cars. Being friends we all helped one another in their construction. Now that they are more or less done I thought all of you in RUST land would get a kick out of them. At the moment Deans car is the most serviceable of three. Both Johns car and my own have developed rod knocks but I’m sure that will be resolved soon.
Dean is a long time German car enthusiast and car collector. As one of the owners of Bus Farmers he has traveled the world in search of Volkswagen bits and bobs to sell to the VW geeks here in the States. But he has always had a yen for hot rods so he decided to build one of his own. Dean wanted a roadster so he started with the classic 29 model A body and frame. He and Scott Mugford built most of the car. Scott is one of the owners of Blue Collar Customs in Sacramento. They lengthened the frame and built a dropped front end to lower the car. Dean’s goal was to be able to sit in the car and reach out and touch the ground. This car is low and the added length only adds to the effect. When it came to the engine he wanted to do something different than the sbc/flattie/banger crowd so he installed a Mercedes 2.8 liter straight six. The engine is kinda cool; it’s got dual carbs and exhaust. The stock setup did need a little tweaking. The original Solex carbs sucked so I scored Dean a set of Weber DGVs and John split the exhaust manifold and welded it up. Just friends helping friends, that’s all.
The engine came from a big sedan that Dean was trying to sell. He couldn’t get the price he wanted so he decided to scrap it and make use of the engine. I could bore you with a dissertation on the history of Mercedes racing cars in America and their influence on American engine design and why a Merc. Engine in a hot rod is not such a far-fetched thing. But the truth is that the engine works great and it looks the part. One of the cool parts of the car is the schreoder sprint car steering box; it’s one of the few new parts that made it on the car. About the only problem the car has had was the transmission getting stuck in gear. Dean put in another trans and the car has been good to go ever since. The car was debuted at the hot rod reunion this year but its real coming out was the Asphalt invitational where it won an award. John Lucas is a long time old car nut. He got his first model T when he was a teenager. He’s had several antique cars over the years. He is also a master fabricator and an accomplished inventor. He has built every thing from hydrogen power cells to giant bridge foundations and lots of interesting things in between.
Earlier this year he got his old model T truck back from a friend. It had been sitting out in a field down in the Delta. John had been building a Dodge touring car with Olds rocket power but the old T just spoke to him. He decided to build a roadster. John stripped the truck to its frame, which he shortened. He fabbed up a suicide front end with quarter elliptic springs. The rear of the frame was zeed and a four-link set up employed. He found a Ford flathead six with a three speed tranny that had been rebuilt in some past life. To its credit the engine had the good grace to start right up when john hooked it up and cranked it. The engine causes some confusion because a lot of guys are unaware that Ford produced a flattie six.
Old man Ford was famous for not liking six cylinder engines and for some reason these lumps never made a mark on the hot rod scene. It’s too bad because they are not a bad item. They look like a model A motor with two extra pots. When it came to the body John wanted something unique. He saved the cowl from the old T truck but he needed something for the rest of the body. He was over at hot rod Rays and he came across some hood panels from a thirties Willys and a turtle deck from a model A. The hood sides became the sides of the body and the trunk panel became the back. The body has very unique lines. It looks old but it has no correlation to an actual car, its pure John Lucas. The little roadster made its debut at Billetproof this year and was a big hit with the spectators. The icing on the cake was the award that it won.
The inspiration for my car came from the track racers of the teens. I got the idea from my brother Morgan who is building a model T racer of his own. He is building his car with a cost is no object frame of mind and an insistence on perfection and I know the car will be beautiful. My car was built with a RUST ethic on an empty pocket budget. I started with a frame and front suspension. The cowl is from an Essex and I found it out in the desert north of lovelock. I found it a couple of years before I started the project and I gave it to Bruce Gossett. He was going to make a fountain out of it. When I started building my car he was kind enough to let me have it back. The drive train came from a rusted mess that Dean found in a field in Carmichael. Model T guru Milt Webb helped me with the rebuild as well as a lot of vital parts. My brother also gave me a lot of cool stuff that ended up on the car. The engine is basically stock and still has the cast iron pistons in it. I made the intake and exhaust manifolds myself. Air and fuel are mixed in dual solex carbs from an early VW. I added pressurized oiling to the main bearings. I made the oil pump out of an Alfa Romeo oil pump and John designed a ball check relief valve which seems to work quite well. I did the final assembly of the car at John Lucas shop. John and Rich Porras did a lot of the welding on it. John made the radiator shell and Rich did most of the welding on the exhaust including making the cone on the front of the header. My dad got into the act by making the seat bottom and the toolbox for my birthday. As most of you know a model T is not easy to learn to drive. The controls are counter intuitive and to be honest I crashed the car several times while learning. I also experienced a rather spectacular fire in the engine compartment.
The cool thing about all these cars is the reception they get driving down the road. People are drawn to them. They bring a smile and a wave from almost everyone who sees them. After all fun is what this hobby/way of life is all about. Even the spit and polish billet rod crowd seems to get a kick out of these cars. Well some of them at least. But hell, to quote Ricky Nelson “ you can’t please everyone so you got to please yourself.”