Don’s 60s Era Highboy Ford Roadster

Street Roadster With Vintage Chevy Small Block Power

By Brian Brennan   –   Photography By Wes Allison

There is a story behind every hot rod, and many times there’s more than one. Don Granata of Ventura, California, has spent a lifetime with the ocean as his life’s backdrop. Living next to the ocean has led to him enjoying surfing and being a collector of vintage surfboards. At age 5 Don took an interest in beach movies and surfing. Mike Granata, his cousin, took 7-year-old Don to the 1965 Grand National Roadster Show. Next up were model cars and a budding interest in hot rods. Given these life topics, it should come as no surprise that his 1929 Ford Roadster plays an important role.

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05 Henry 1940 Ford painted steelies with Mercury Canadian caps

The copper-colored Model A is an excellent example of an early ’60s-era hot rod. Based on the original Model A sheet metal and frame that includes a truly vintage 1956 Corvette V8, the build covers all the bases.

The body is a vintage 1929 Ford Model A roadster and features a 2-inch chopped windshield, the removal of the door handles, a notched firewall for magneto clearance, and removal of the cowl gas filler neck and cap. An aluminum flip-top gas cap (14-gallon stainless steel tank is now hidden in the trunk) was added and is located on the rear sail panel directly behind the driver’s head. In the back, a roll pan and OE 1942 Buick tail lights were added while in front Guide 903-J headlights (complete with brass ID tag) rest on custom stands that also serve as the upper shock mounts. The roadster does run minus a hood. From here the bodywork and paint were performed by Felix Sumano of Sumano’s Custom Painting in a Axalta Centari Cromax Pro waterborne basecoat in a Copper Penny color.

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08 Rear view of Ford Roadster featuring a roll pan and 1942 Buick tail lights

Read More: How To Restore Trim Pieces On Your Classic Car

The frame, modified at Clayton’s Hot Rods, is more Model A workings that is now boxed and employs a SO-CAL Speed Shop center K-member while retaining the factory 103-1/2-inch wheelbase. The front suspension is based on a SO-CAL Speed Shop 4-inch drop, drilled, and painted I-beam axle. From here a Posies reversed-eye spring is used, along with more SO-CAL pieces, such as early Ford spindles, chrome tube shocks, hairpin radius rods, and a Vega steering box (with a LimeWorks steering column). More suspension items, including the 12-inch Lincoln drum brakes, are utilized along with a Winters quick-change rearend that is then outfitted with another Posies reversed-eye spring. This time it is buggy-style and from here more Lincoln 12-inch drum brakes and SO-CAL chrome tube shocks are in service. Having the brakes respond falls to the Wilwood master cylinder and pedal assembly from Clatyon’s Hot Rods. The frame does feature a great deal of detail in a fully molded and painted frame. Rolling stock is the obligatory Henry 1940 Ford painted steelies with Mercury Canadian (Lion logo) caps. The wheels measure 16-inch diameters with Excelsior Stahl Sport Radial tires from Coker in 5.00R16 and 7.50R16 front to rear.

09 The copper colored Model A is an excellent example of an early ’60s era hot rod

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The “office” includes a Brookville Roadster dashboard with a stock Model A “eyebrow,” rooted within is a six-pack of Stewart-Warner “Wings” gauges. These vintage-looking gauges come in a speedo, engine rpm, oil pressure, water temp, gas level, and volt configurations. The LimeWorks steering column and its drop rest appropriately below the dash. The steering wheel is a vintage-looking drilled four-spoke CON2R with an engraved (Model A Roadster Salty ’29) horn button. The black vinyl with Pearl White piping by Mac’s Auto Upholstery covers the Wise Guys bench seat plus a pair of 3-inch-wide RetroBelt seat belts.

The V8 moving this roadster down the road has a great story behind it. Don was looking for an appropriate powerplant and figured something along the lines of a vintage small-block Chevy would be ideal—like a 265, 283, or even a 327.

11 Close up of 1956 Corvette V8 engine in the 1929 Ford Roadster

Read More: Not Your Everyday Ford Pickup

In speaking with Don, he tells us the following story:

“This motor is an all-original, numbers-matching, ’56 265ci, power-pack, dual quad, Corvette motor that originally came in a 1956 Chevrolet Nomad.” (He ran the numbers to verify.) “The original owner of the Nomad was restoring it but [died] before he could finish. His wife sold the rolling chassis, but the buyer didn’t want the original motor. I stumbled upon the motor through Instagram and bought it sight unseen. To my surprise, when the motor arrived at the shop, it had been completely rebuilt.”

After looking at the motor in person it’s the real deal and what a find for an early hot rod. Sometimes it just “pays” to be lucky.

18 Wilwood brake cylinder powers the brakes

It is a dual-quad option using a pair of WCFB 380-cfm Carter carburetor (with factory air cleaners) resting on an aluminum intake that was offered in 1956 as both a Corvette and passenger car option. It was 225 hp with hydraulic lifters but jumped to 245 hp with a solid lifter cam. Don retained the looks and the mechanical AC Delco fuel pump along with the factory ram’s horn exhaust, starter, and generator. The remainder of the exhaust system was handled by Don’s cousin Dominic Granata at DG Headers in 2-inch stainless steel streaming back to a pair of 17-inch Flowmaster mufflers. The oil pan is a finned Cal Custom aluminum unit while the valve covers are the ultra-rare nine-fin Corvette units. Other engine appointments include a Vertex mag with ACCEL spark plug wires. It should be mentioned that the motor is numbers matching, making it a rare and valuable V8. Backed up to the small block Chevy is a five-speed T5 transmission with a Hurst short-shift shifter, factory flywheel, and clutch package.

20 Brookville Roadster dashboard with a stock Model A “eyebrow”

Read More: Chevy Nomad Balances Vintage Looks With Modern Performance

It was in 1965 that Don saw the Uncertain T at the GNRS and lo and behold the T made it back to the 2024 show as did Don’s 1929 Ford roadster. His roadster also took home Early Street Roadster Pre-1935 class honors. One of life’s interesting twists and turns. MR

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of Don’s 60s Era Highboy Ford april 2024

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