Mark Stirnemann is a 22-year-old engineering student at the University of Missouri Rolla, and is so into high tech that he took on the challenge of being a Formula SAE race car team leader last year. For those of you unfamiliar with Formula SAE cars, an abbreviated description of them would define them as a Formula 1-style car on a much smaller scale. Rules dictate some of the size and drivetrain standards, but the rest is up to the students-they build frames, suspensions, composite body parts, and machine a bunch of one-off items. Then they assemble and compete on the track with other schools.
Despite his high-tech interests, Mark selected a traditional '34 Ford hot rod for his first buildup when it came time to choose a home project. Yeah, sure, he has more than a passing knowledge of high-tech electronics and the proper use of exotic materials by virtue of his engineering background; still, it was the '34 that got his attention. That's not to say he didn't examine other possibilities prior to selecting it, because he did. But, he felt most comfortable with his '34 after sorting through what he likes to call the flavor-of-the-month possibilities. Of course, looking back, it only seems natural that Mark would settle on it-after all, his father, Harry, and uncle, Jack, have been building high-end hot rods for decades, leading one to believe that there really is something to this genealogy thing. Anyway, the die was cast, and a simple father/son project was about to get underway.
It is a traditional '60s hot rod, and we will insert the Webster's definition of the words that Mark provided on his tech sheet, just in case there's any confusion about the terminology. Tradition: The handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or example, from one generation to another without written instruction. Hot rod: An automobile rebuilt or modified for high speed and fast acceleration. Well, it looks like that's all covered. Mark is a second-generation rodder being tutored in this noble pursuit by an earlier generation of the rodding community, and the 34 is most certainly built for speed and acceleration.
Of course, nothing worth doing is ever quite as easy as it appears on the surface, and, in this case, it seems everyone involved in the build had other obligations. There were two over-200-mph Bonneville cars with which Harry and Jack were deeply involved, along with several other customer buildups that were underway. For his part, Mark was tied up with a serious load of academic obligations-both in and out of the classroom-so his spare time was limited. In the end, it took six years for them to put the car together using what little scraps of time any of them could muster until at last the build was complete.
So let's take a look at how a traditional hot rod goes together today. Starting with the original '34 frame, provisions were made for a lightly tweaked late-'60s-era 327 Chevy engine backed by a modified 350 turbo from the Gear Box and a Transmission Specialties 2,200-rpm stall converter. Then, a Pete & Jake's four-link and 9-inch Ford rearend with big drum brakes were added at the rear, and P&J's wishbones were added to the dropped I-beam axle with '40 Ford spindles in front. The axle ends were capped with a full set of original Halibrand magnesium wheels (15x4 front, 16x8 rear) that were sealed with a gold color coat and flat urethane clear that duplicates the original wash put on mag wheels to prevent oxidation. This all sounds pretty traditional, but there is no stepping back in time when it comes to safety items, and that's why the Stirnemann family selected quality items, like a pair of Wilwood front disc brakes, a dual master cylinder, and a quick-ratio Flaming River steering box to finish out the rolling chassis.