01 1931 Model A Ford built using Speedway Motors parts
If you are wondering who is in charge of this project take a closer look at the left front tire … Boss Cat!

East Coast Graffiti The Hot Rod Model A

By John Gilbert – Photography by the Author

This story started out as a simple tech about installing Dynamat into a hot rod and then a more thorough examination of the car changed everything. This 1931 Model A Ford is the best example of the worst job building a hot rod that I’ve ever seen. The first time I saw the East Coast–style coupe it was too late to advise my son-in-law how to buy a used hot rod. Ramon had already bought the car and spent big bucks for questionable repairs before pulling it out of a dodgy shop.

02 Classic Car Restoration on this 1931 Model A Ford
It was going to be a simple task of installing Dynamat for sound insulation and to keep the elements out plus DynaPad to reduce engine noise and block heat from the firewall. Something about “… best-laid plans …”

My first opportunity to see the Ford Model A in person was while our family gathered for Thanksgiving and it was a flashback to the ’80s. It was typical ’80s looking. Inside the coupe’s interior, it was obvious the car had been built by an inept DIY guy using junkyard parts who owned a cutting torch but not a body grinder.

Read More: Hot Rod Model T: 1926 Ford Tudor Sedan

I asked Ramon how he intended to use the Model A and he said he wanted to cruise it to the local weekend car shows like the doughnut shop, but no long road trips. The next question was which shop would finish it up? Ramon said he was happy with the customizing work 714 Motorsports in Westminster, California, did on his new Ford Super Duty, so he’d probably take it there.

03 1965 Olds 425 Starfire engine powers this Model A Ford
I got the 1965 Olds 425 Starfire engine to start and the oil pressure was good right until the aged feed line for the mechanical oil pressure gauge burst.

I was familiar with 714 Motorsports, knowing Chip Foose had upholstery work done there on his cars. I was intrigued by the Model A, so I told Ramon if he’d like I’d trailer the A to my house and determine how much work it would take for 714 Motorsports to make the car right. The deeper I dug into the Model A the more problems I found. Big problems like after discovering the body had been welded onto an unsafe frame that it might be better to replace it with a new chassis than to invest the parts and labor needed to correct it.

04 Taking parts for 1932 Ford Roadster to build the 1931 Model A Ford
Having another hot rod to borrow parts from might be a blessing or a curse. I didn’t like the look of the wide black walls, so I robbed the white walls from my 1932 Ford Roadster.

There’s a difference between how a shop should undertake working on a customer’s car and what the DIY guy can get away with if he does it himself. For a shop, there are liability issues because they have to make absolutely sure the vehicle is safe to return to its owner or be responsible if it isn’t. And then as is the case for this Model A, the number of hours invested in shop labor making repairs it would make more sense to install new parts and cut way down on labor charges.

05 High back Porsche bucket seats in this hot rod Model A
High-back Porsche bucket seats in a hot rod are too reminiscent of the ’80s for me. That and the seats were bolted into place without adjustable seat tracks meant they had to go.

I advised Ramon the best route for his Model A was to cut the body off the frame and set it onto a new rolling chassis with suspension and brakes upgrade. And I didn’t have to tell him it would cost a lot of money to have a shop do the work. A few days later Ramon texted me saying he was going to sell the Model A because it was too big of a project. That’s all it took. I forgot everything I knew about buying a used hot rod and wanted to buy Ramon’s Model A.

Read More: Bobby Alloway Rounded Up Leftover Hot Rod Parts and Built This 1932 Ford Highboy Roadster

06 Checking the condition wheel bearings of this classic hot rod
Jack up the front end and check the suspension and steering lock-to-lock to detect worn-out parts causing slope. Shake and spin the wheels to check the condition of the wheel bearings.

Ramon and I struck a deal and the 1931 Model A Ford remained in my garage. I explained to my wife I could have the Model A on the road much sooner than my 1932 Ford Roadster. She liked sitting in the Model A’s high back Porsche bucket seats and listening to the massive Kenwood & Kicker sound system the dodgy guys installed. But the next time my wife came into the garage I had pitched the Porsche bucket seats to the driveway and the interior was gutted down to the bare frame rails. She kind of freaked out; it was almost an unpleasant moment.

07 Improper placement of the steering wheel, shfter, brake, and gas pedal
Improper placement of the steering column, shifter, brake, and gas pedals not only makes the car uncomfortable to drive for any length of time, but it also makes it a dangerous car to drive.

Falling in love with the 1931 Ford Model A blinded me and I failed to recognize everything about the car was done wrong except for a few minor details. I knew the steering column, brake, and gas pedals were placed wrong, but it was a surprise to discover it had unevenly cut rotted plywood held in with plumber’s tape for floorboards. Ramon paid for new carpeting, which he got, but the upholstery guy didn’t think twice about covering gaping holes in the floorboards.

08 This hot rod model A uses parts from the 1932 Ford Roadster to test fit parts
The Model A needs as much work to make road-ready as the 1932 Ford roadster. I’ve been borrowing new parts intended for 1932 to test-fit and determine what the Model A needs.

Because it is very expensive to correct rust damage one of the most important tips to buying any used hot rod is to peel back the carpeting and see what the floors look like. The difference between a car that has been constructed properly and one that hasn’t is the amount of labor it will require when the time comes to make repairs and install new parts.

Read More: How To Recess A Firewall On A 1934 Ford Five Window Coupe

09 Dynamat used to pad sound for new speakers
It’s hard to imagine a high-end sound system installer laying a new carpet without installing Dynamat first. At this point, I peeled back the fresh carpet and padding and discovered no Dynamat.

That’s what I have been up against, not being able to bolt new parts directly back into place without first having to determine which are the right new parts and where to drill the new mounting holes. The plus side to buying the worst Model A hot rod ever built is job security. I’m a freelance tech editor, so Modern Rodding readers can look forward to more installments covering this grassroots approach. And the moniker “East Coast Graffiti” came to me because of the Model A’s East Coast-style channeled with a stock-height top and the same yellow color as John Milner’s coupe in American Graffiti. MR

01 1931 Model A Ford built using Speedway Motors parts
If you are wondering who is in charge of this project take a closer look at the left front tire … Boss Cat!
02 Classic Car Restoration on this 1931 Model A Ford
It was going to be a simple task of installing Dynamat for sound insulation and to keep the elements out plus DynaPad to reduce engine noise and block heat from the firewall. Something about “… best-laid plans …”
03 1965 Olds 425 Starfire engine powers this Model A Ford
I got the 1965 Olds 425 Starfire engine to start and the oil pressure was good right until the aged feed line for the mechanical oil pressure gauge burst.
04 Taking parts for 1932 Ford Roadster to build the 1931 Model A Ford
Having another hot rod to borrow parts from might be a blessing or a curse. I didn’t like the look of the wide black walls, so I robbed the white walls from my 1932 Ford Roadster.
05 High back Porsche bucket seats in this hot rod Model A
High-back Porsche bucket seats in a hot rod are too reminiscent of the ’80s for me. That and the seats were bolted into place without adjustable seat tracks meant they had to go.
06 Checking the condition wheel bearings of this classic hot rod
Jack up the front end and check the suspension and steering lock-to-lock to detect worn-out parts causing slope. Shake and spin the wheels to check the condition of the wheel bearings.
07 Improper placement of the steering wheel, shfter, brake, and gas pedal
Improper placement of the steering column, shifter, brake, and gas pedals not only makes the car uncomfortable to drive for any length of time, but it also makes it a dangerous car to drive.
08 This hot rod model A uses parts from the 1932 Ford Roadster to test fit parts
The Model A needs as much work to make road-ready as the 1932 Ford roadster. I’ve been borrowing new parts intended for 1932 to test-fit and determine what the Model A needs.
09 Dynamat used to pad sound for new speakers
It’s hard to imagine a high-end sound system installer laying a new carpet without installing Dynamat first. At this point, I peeled back the fresh carpet and padding and discovered no Dynamat.
10- Dynamat used to cover gaps for 1931 Model A Ford
This floor is not worth reusing but if I was forced to reuse it applying Dynamat on top would seal up all the gaps where the elements and carbon monoxide fumes could leak inside.
11 Using the old carpet as a template for the new carpet of this classic car restoration
Here my assistant helps to flatten out the carpet to be used as a template to cut out new carpeting. Then later I determined this carpet would be a bad pattern to follow and tossed it.
12 Air Lift Shock holding up this Ford Model A
Check for unsafe conditions; here a 250-amp line runs adjacent to the fuel cell and the undersized-for-this-application air compressor for Air Lift shock instead of installing proper springs.
13 Model A fuel cell needs to be relocated
Look to see where the gas tank has been located. Typical for this poorly designed build the Model A’s gas tank (fuel cell) has been placed in the worst spot possible … think Ford Pinto.
14 The streering column, pedals, and seat location correction
The concentration, for now, is placed on correcting the position of the steering column, pedals, and seat location. Then a new removable rear floor section will be made.
15 Flaming River roadster tilt steering column on this Model A Ford
Even the worst tilt steering column like this bulky GM product can help to make the car more comfortable to drive. A Flaming River roadster tilt steering column is on its way.
16 Rewiring the entire 1931 Model A Ford
Installing the steering column at the wrong angle like this destroys valuable legroom. Look under the dash. If the wiring looks like this, plan on rewiring the entire car.
17 Model A does not need rust repair on the doors
Replacing broken glass or repairing rust damage gets expensive. I got really lucky on this Model A that the doors and the door glass are good—and an added bonus, it rolls up.
18 Stereo installerr needs fierboard to be replaced on this Hot Rod
The stereo installer was a good pattern maker but choosing to use MDF (medium density fiberboard) was a dumb mistake for a hot rod because MDF dissolves when exposed to water.
19 The wiring harness runs outside the frame rail on this 1931 Ford Model A
The difference in height between the doorsill and the floor reveals how many inches the body has been channeled (body dropped in modern terms). The wiring harness runs outside the frame rail.
20 The cowl reveals was hacked preventing water from entering
This view of the passenger inside of the cowl reveals the guy who channeled this car was a hack. This area will be blocked off to prevent water from entering.
21 Adjustable seat tracks for Porsche bucket seats
Place the seat inside the car with the adjustable seat tracks centered and mount the seat where it fits you best for a driving position. Slide the seat backward and you have room to nap.
22 Dying these blue Porsche bucket seats to black.
Not my first choice for seats, but after I dye these Porsche bucket seats black they’ll look better. When I fabricate this section of the new floor it will have Nutserts easing the removal and installation of the seats. (A Nutsert is a branded name for a rivet nut, which is a metal fastener with internal threads.)
23 Installing a speedway motors universal brake pedal kit
A modified GM brake pedal was mounted to the clutch master cylinder hole in the firewall. I replaced it with a Speedway Motors universal brake pedal kit and used the hole intended for the brake master.
24 1931 floor replaced with new Speedway Motors fiberglass 1932 floor
I figured a 1932 floor was close to a 1931 floor so I tried my Wescott Deuce floor and it was a close fit. The next step was to order Speedway Motors’ fiberglass 1932 floor.
25 Fiberglass 1932 Ford Floor from Speedway Motors
Only a few modifications were necessary to fit Speedway Motors’ fiberglass 1932 Ford floor to the firewall of my 1931 Model A. A Harbor Freight electric body saw made short work cutting the 1/4-20 studs.
26 New dashboard for a Model A from Speedway Motors
The two metal pieces seen on the floor had to be cut before Speedway Motors’ 1932-style steel dashboard for a Model A could be mounted to the existing holes for a stock Model A dashboard.
27 Speedway Motors floor is removable
Because I know this car will always need work, I’m installing the Speedway Motors floor so it can be easily be removed. It will bolt and unbolt from the firewall face and wood sill runners.
28 The seat floor made is now made of Marine grade plywood
The seat floor made of marine-grade plywood will be cut to fit under the lip at the rear of the Speedway Motors fiberglass floor holding the front of the seat floor in place.
29 Lokar dash cluster from Speedway motors for 1931 Ford Model A
I mocked the dashboard up trying to see if there was a better spot to locate the Lokar polished billet aluminum six-gauge dash cluster. It was worth a try but center-mounted works best.
30 Speedway Motors steering wheel paired to Flaming River Steering column
Speedway Motors was the source for the 12-inch Covico-style steering wheel headed for a Flaming River steering column. John Milner’s coupe in American Graffiti had a 14-1/2-inch Covico wheel.
31 Lokar brake and gas pedal for this Model A Ford
I used existing holes in the firewall to mock up the Lokar brake and gas pedals. After the exact location is known for the steering column, new mounting holes will be drilled in a more exact location.
32 East Coast Graffiti needs steering column, maybe next time!
In the next installment of East Coast Graffiti, we’ll learn how to connect the steering column at the correct angle to the steering box using U-joints and support bearings plus punching holes for new gauges.
33 Sketchy suspension without panhard bar and used air shocks for spings
The suspension found on a homebuilt hot rod can be a real surprise. An unknown artist created this screwed-up railing arm setup complete without a Panhard bar and used air shocks for springs.
34 Bad welds and major flaws from DIY GUY
Beyond mounting with bad welds, the major flaws to this homemade trailing arm setup are the flimsy light gauge steel arms without bushings and the bolt threads able to cut as the suspension travels.
35 Rust holes and surface rust issues
Channeling and welding the body to the frame using short lengths of box tubing for body mounts is not a recommended method. Notice rust holes and surface rust to be addressed in upcoming tech.

Sources
Dynamat
(513) 860-5059
dynamat.com

Speedway Motors
(888) 503-4220
speedwaymotors.com

Subscribe to our Magazines