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.
Of course, to be a real hot rod (remember, they're built for high speed) the engine mentioned earlier had to be more than a simple painted and polished 327-cid engine pirated from some derelict GM product. No, no, that would never do; this one went to Paul Sartin, where it was punched to 337 cid and the rotating mass was balanced. Then, it was back to the Stirnemann shop, where a well-mated selection of performance parts was fitted to the short-block and the assembly was screwed together. To make sure the short-block's potential was used to the max, the 461 cast-iron GM heads were sent out to Ron's Porting Service, where they received some porting, polishing, and a three-angle valve job to enhance their breathing abilities. With the heads in place and their finned aluminum Corvette rocker covers attached, it was time to add the GM HEI ignition, an Edelbrock RPM intake, a 600-cfm Holley, and a pair of Sanderson Headers. Now that's a hot rod engine-goes fast, runs reliably, produces 370 hp, and gets 17 mpg at highway speeds.
The body had been separated from the frame the second it rolled in the door and it's of the highly coveted real steel variety. Of course, that means there was some body damage, dings, and other minor imperfections to be ironed out before much else could happen with it, and those were all handled by Harry and Jack with an assist from Mark. The upside is that a ribbed insert had been welded into the middle of the top, and the top had already been chopped 4 inches when it came to them, so the heavy lifting had been finished by an earlier rodder. There wasn't a huge amount of sheetmetal with which to deal because the car was to be a fenderless version, but what was there was treated the same as it would have been had the plan been to paint it gloss black rather than flat primer.
When the bodywork was finished, it was time to get serious about the interior. For that, an array of Stewart Warner gauges was installed in the instrument panel, and Jack, along with Ernie Vishion, fabricated a slim, graceful one-off column with directional indicators built in. When the fit and finish were as they should be, the metal in the interior was sprayed flat black to blend with the rest of the car. Uncle Jack then fabricated the wiring harness necessary to make it all functional.
While the Stirnemann family was finalizing all the other interior work, Don Albers was busy turning out the black, rolled vinyl upholstery that would be fitted to the interior as soon as the prep work in the cabin was complete. Don's trimming expertise brought the exact look to the interior. It's all plain, simple, traditional, and most of all, functional. There are no A/C vents or fancy sound systems chewing into vast areas of the interior-just the basic elements necessary to make it go and read its vital signs; everything else is left for another time and place.
The first event for the car was the 2006 Goodguys Indy show, and as you might suspect, Mark was out racing the car in the Street Rod Shootout rather than sitting under an awning somewhere debating the proper technique for polishing a louver. Sure, Mark lost to the eventual winner in the second round, but the point is, he went 13.30 at 106 mph and had a really good time. This project was a chance for Harry, Jack, and their rodding friends to share the hobby they've been involved in for decades with Mark, and gave Mark a chance to really get involved with the long-standing family tradition of building real-steel hot rods.
Facts & FiguresMark StirnemannSt. Louis, Missouri1934 Ford five-window coupe
|Frame / Manufacturer ||1934 Ford |
|Wheelbase ||stock (112") |
|Modifications ||provisions made for engine / trans conversion & updated suspension components by Jack Stirnemann |
|Chassis plumbing ||Stirnemann-formed steel lines |
|Rearend / Ratio ||9" Ford / 3.50:1 |
|Rear suspension ||Pete & Jake's (Peculiar, MO) w/ transverse spring |
|Rear brakes ||Ford drum |
|Front suspension ||dropped Ford straight-axle w/ P&J's wishbones & transverse spring |
|Front brakes ||Wilwood (Camarillo, CA) disc |
|Master cylinder ||dual |
|Steering box ||Flaming River (Berea, OH) quick ratio |
|Front wheel make, size ||Halibrand / 15x4 |
|Rear wheel make, size ||Halibrand / 16x8 |
|Front tire make, size ||Cooper, 165R15 |
|Rear tire make, size ||Cooper, 225/70R16 |
|Gas tank ||1934 Ford |
|Make ||1967 Chevrolet |
|Displacement ||337ci |
|Machining / Assembly ||Paul Sartin / Stirnemann |
|Pistons ||TRW |
|Camshaft ||COMP Cams (Memphis, TN) |
|Radiator ||Walker Radiator (Memphis, TN) |
|Heads ||461 Chevrolet |
|Modifications ||ported, polished & a three-angle valve job by Jimmy Marshall at Ron's Porting Service (St. Charles, MO) |
|Valves / Springs ||2.02" intake, 1.60" exhaust / COMP Cams |
|Rockers ||GM |
|Valve covers ||finned aluminum Corvette |
|Manifold / Induction ||Edelbrock RPM Performer (Torrance, CA) |
|Ignition ||GM HEI |
|Headers ||Sanderson Headers (S. San Francisco, CA) |
|Exhaust / Mufflers ||2.5" steel tubing / Edelbrock |
|Other engine facts ||370 hp @ 6,000 rpm; 379 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm |
|Make ||Turbo 350 |
|Converter ||2,200-rpm stall Transmission Specialists |
|Shifter ||B&M Performance (Chatsworth, CA) |
|Trans mods ||Gear Box (St. Louis, MO) |
|Driveshaft ||Drive Shafts Unlimited (St. Louis, MO) |
|Body style / Material ||1934 Ford / steel |
|Body manufacturer ||Ford Motor Co |
|Body mods ||top chopped 4" |
|Hood ||1934 Ford |
|Grille ||1934 Ford |
|Bodywork ||Harry & Jack Stirnemann w/ Mark |
|Paint type / Color ||Flat primer / black |
|Painter ||The Stirnemanns |
|Headlights / Taillights ||directional signals, built-in headlights by Jack Stirnemann & Ernie Vishion / '37 Ford taillights |
|Bumpers ||nerf bars front & rear |
| INTERIOR |
|Dashboard ||1934 Ford |
|Insert / Gauges ||Stewart Warner |
|Stereo / Speakers ||trunk mounted out of sight |
|Wiring ||one-off wired by Jack Stirnemann |
|Steering column ||one-off small-diameter column w/ directional signals built in, engineered & crafted by Jack Stirnemann & Ernie Vishion |
|Interior mirror ||1934 Ford |
|Upholsterer ||Don Albers (St. Louis, MO) |
|Material / Color ||vinyl / black |
|Carpet ||black |
|Seatbelts ||three-point |