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Back to the Future – Part 5

It's been a long time coming but it's been worth the wait.  The quality of workmanship and finish is now beginning to show through on our Model A

When we left the DRC Review Model A project car at the end of Back to the Future – Part 4, the chassis, complete with GM Performance Parts crate engine, was almost ready to stand on its own four wheels, while the amazingly well-preserved body (for a 77-year old), along with fenders, running boards and splash aprons, was at the paint shop for final preparation and the laying down of our chosen colours.

Jon Golding of Home Grown Hot Rods  then worked steadily through the remaining job list for the chassis, including running the brake lines and handbrake cable, polishing and refitting the stainless steel exhaust system, fabricating some dramatic-looking exhaust hangers, aligning the tailpipes, installing the newly chromed Panhard bar brackets, bumper irons and outer support brackets for the four-bar axle location arrangement, fitting the twin fuel tanks and reassembling the Ford 9-inch back axle, complete with drum brakes.

Lovely details include those drilled exhaust brackets

Attention then turned to the engine, which was topped with a 750 cfm, Edelbrock Performer four-barrel carburettor, and then treated to a number of chrome dress-up items, including Mooneyes finned rocker covers, air cleaner, engine breathers and coil cover, as well as flexible dipsticks for the engine and transmission.  Throttle and kick-down cables were fitted, as were an alternator, and top and bottom hoses for the Walker radiator.

One of the thorniest issues in this part of the build concerned the fan.  The plan had always been to use a thermostatically controlled electric unit for its superior cooling capabilities compared with a traditional mechanical fan, but the clearance between the outermost engine pulley and the radiator turned out to be limited at best – only 2 inches.  In the end, however, one of Jon’s regular suppliers came through with a fan that was both powerful enough to cool the small-block Chevy effectively and fitted the space available with a few millimetres to spare.

Complete rolling chassis with twin tanks installed - it's beginning to come together! 

The rolling chassis was then moved to the Home Grown Hot Rods showroom area, where final assembly would take place.  Jon completed several more essential tasks, including routing the handbrake cables up and over the exhaust system and rear suspension, adding the necessary lubricants to the engine, transmission and back axle, and bleeding the brakes.

New K member was added for additional torsional strength

With the stage prepared, the star made her entrance – on cue, the Model A body arrived, its new green paint sparkling in the sunlight.  It wasn’t long before Jon and his three-strong crew of able-bodied assistants had unloaded the body from the trailer and were lifting it very carefully into position on the chassis.

It's a shame all of this lovely workmanship will be hidden from view with the body on - but at least you know it's been done right

The degree of difficulty involved in this particular operation can’t be overstated, as it requires the body to be raised evenly to waist height, in order to clear the handbrake and gear selector, moved into position, lined up with the mounting points on the chassis, and then lowered, millimetre-perfect, into place while avoiding the slightest contact with the rear wheels or the back of the engine, either of which could damage the fresh paint.

With a lot of sweat and a certain amount of cussing, the job was successfully completed, though, and the body secured to the TCI chassis.  With a new radiator surround adding a little extra glitz, this was the state in which we photographed the car for the latest Back to the Future update. 

Note how the rear of the car has dropped.  Suspension settings will need to be changed to restore the ride height and rake 

Since then, the fenders, running boards and splash aprons, all painted in a particularly deep shade of black, have arrived at the showroom, while the interior garnish mouldings and windscreen surround have been delivered to the London Chroming Company, one of the few plating firms Jon will entrust with parts of this age and delicacy.  Laminated glass of 6mm thickness has been ordered for all five windows, plus the windscreen, and should be delivered in the near future.

Once the body was in place, Jon was able to secure the fuel pipe that connects the saddle tanks.  The linked Tanks Inc units, which will provide the car with a range of approximately 200 miles between refuelling stops, have been set up with the driver’s side providing the primary supply, but the passenger’s side available at the flip of a switch.

The dashboard was expected back from the paint shop earlier this week, and Jon will shortly refit the gauges and switches, install a fusebox, mount the dashboard and steering column, and hook up the electrics using a Ron Francis wiring kit.  Speaking of the electrical system, we’ve settled on stainless steel, reproduction Model A headlamps, incorporating turn indicators, as being the best choice of lighting bearing in mind the uncluttered and purposeful look we are aiming for with this car.

If it sounds like we might be getting close to the next milestone on the journey to completing our hot rod – firing up the engine – you’re right!  There’s a propshaft and yoke to be measured up, fabricated and fitted, but it shouldn’t be long before we’re turning the key in the dashboard-mounted ignition switch for the first time and the ZZ4 Fast Burn 385 V8 fires into life.

At that point, barring unforeseen circumstances, we should have a 1929 Model A Ford that drives, steers and brakes, and Jon will then focus on gapping and bolting up all the remaining body panels.  There are numerous smaller jobs that will also need to be dealt with, including fitting the door handles and locks, bonnet latches, windscreen wiper and door mirrors, plus the spinners and cover plates that will provide the finishing touch to the Halibrand Sprint wheels.  By this stage, however, we should be into straightforward reassembly mode.

Two well satisfied individuals assess what comes next

There is one major hurdle that will need to be cleared before completion, however, and that is the interior.  Granted, we have our front and rear seats, as well as various internal garnish mouldings, but that is about all.  The rest will need to be made from scratch, and that will require the expertise of a professional automotive trimmer.  Adding to the potential complication, whereas we had a clear idea from the very start of this project how we wanted the outside of the car to look, we don’t have quite such a well-defined picture of the interior.

We’re going to need to do some head-scratching on this one, as well as take some expert advice, and we’ll be devoting the next episode of Back to the Future to this very important aspect of the build – an aspect that could make or break the way our Model A Ford turns out.

To be continued . . . .

Story: Graham Jones
Photos: Jon Golding, Andy Kirk        

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