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’50s Time Warp

'50s style treatment inspired by Roy Desbrow's pick-up


Regular readers of Custom Car will no doubt remember the name of Paul Barrow from the Kev Elliot era of editorship.  Paul’s caricature artwork of hot rods featured fairly prominently in the publication and his undoubted talents were no doubt a source of inspiration to many.

Here's how Paul envisaged the project might turn out - pretty similar we reckon 


What may not be quite so well known, however, is that Paul is still active as an illustrator, and over the years has picked up some additional significant skills – high-class metal working being one of them!  These days, Paul is a full-time employee of Ellis Coachworks in Odiham, Hampshire, and is one of a key team of employees responsible for turning out some very tasty hot rods, customs and muscle cars. 

You can clearly see the car has been channelled, but that subtle roof chop is not so obvious


It’s a mark of Paul’s determination and willingness to learn that he has been able to pick up many of the necessary skills without any formal training.  “Finton, who runs Ellis Coachworks, and I have both been very interested in further developing our metal-working skills, and I guess we’ve fed off each other,” says Paul.  You can get a measure of how much Paul has taken on board when you look at his radically modified Model A sedan, completed earlier this year.  With the exception of the fuel tank, every panel on the car has been modified in some way or another.  Some parts of the body have received subtle tweaks, while others, like the rear three-quarter panels, have been scratch-built.  In addition, grafting in a Model B grille and custom three-piece hood was another major operation that had to be handled with great skill. 

Note how the Model B grille is hidden by the front apron 


The project began in 1999, apparently quite by chance.  Paul was in Atlanta, Georgia, with the intention of collecting a Model T from a vendor who, as it transpired, also happened to have lots of Model A parts lying around.  The T turned out to be less inspirational than anticipated, and eventually a deal was done to purchase a stock Model A body.  “As soon as I bought it, I had a vision of exactly how I wanted it to turn out,” says Paul.   “I wanted a demure, ’50s-style rod, along the lines of Roy Desbrow’s chopped, channelled and fully fendered ’32 pick-up. This car was identified as one of the 75 most influencial Deuces at the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona this year.

Custom three-piece hood was hand-made

“I purchased an original Model A chassis, and kicked it up eleven inches at the rear and four at the front.  I sat the body on the chassis, braced the original roof insert with steel (where there was normally wood) and then took some side-on photos so that I could cut them up to achieve exactly the right sort of look.”  In the end, the “look” involved channelling the body four inches over the frame, moving the steel fenders six inches up to the belt line and taking a 1 1/4-inch slice out of the roof.  “Initially, I thought I would go deeper, but it would have ended up with the car looking very flat, which was not the result I was after,” says Paul.  “It may seem a lot of work to make such a minimal chop, but personally I think it was worth it.”

Raised stock width fenders evident in this shot


There’s a Vintage Chassis Works beam axle up front on split wishbones, and suspended by a single buggy spring.  Ford drum brakes, of ’40s vintage, are also utilised.   At the rear, Paul grafted in a ’57 Chevy “live” axle assembly, adapted to take a matching single buggy spring, but retaining the Chevy’s drum brakes.

When it came to motivation, Paul’s choice was a 21-stud Ford flathead – in this instance, matched to a ’39 Ford manual gearbox equipped with taller-than-standard Lincoln/Zephyr gears to give more relaxed cruising.  The gearbox casing is an ex-Barney Navarro item, acquired from the US salt flats racer while he was at a recent Goodwood Festival of Speed meeting.  To complete the drivetrain installation, Paul took out the original Model A rear cross-member, reversed it and then offered it back into position.  It fitted a treat, by all accounts. 

21 stud Ford flathead equipped with twin carbs 


Helping to achieve the desired look are 15-inch steel wheels at either end – 1950 Chevy items at the back and 1948 Ford items at the front – equipped with period-style whitewall crossplies and “Baby Moon” hubcaps.

With the exception of the rear screen, which Paul retained (complete with two bullet holes), the glass has been replaced with new, custom-laminated 6mm material to fit the revised, lower roofline. 

After extensive body restoration, which, on and off, occupied a two-year span, Paul applied the period-style shade of 1952 Chevy metallic green paint.  He also fabricated the steel framework for the bench seats and had friend, Graham Smith, cover them in green and white vinyl to match the exterior.  Graham will also get the job of completing the interior of the car at some stage.

The seats have been trimmed, the door panels will come later 


Towards the end of the build, Paul and his partner, Beth, decided to get married, but not  locally, or even in the UK.  Instead, they elected to get hitched in Italy, and decided to take the Model A with them on virtually its maiden outing – a very brave move, one would have to say.   You can find out how the trip turned out in the first of a two-part travelogue, written by Paul and Beth, which starts this week in DRC Review.

It's a restrained and classy hot rod from any angle


In the meantime, feast your eyes on what is arguably one of the most challenging British hot rod creations of all time, and time-warp back to the ’50s with Paul and Beth’s beautiful and elegant green machine.


Finally, Paul would like to express his special thanks to all down at North American Motor Company in Farnborough for their invaluable help with this project.

Story: Andy Kirk & Graham Jones
Photos: Andy Kirk


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