It's always a good thing when you can realize a lifelong dream. Such is the case for Stewart Milby of Glenmills, Pennsylvania, as boyhood dreams took shape in this Zipper Lakes Modified. With a lifetime of ideas, the training as a machinist, the help of his son, Dan, and the unflinching support of his wife, Rosemary, Stew has himself a bona fide hot rod. It didn't take long to realize the best way to tell the story of this '27 Zipper Lakes Modified was to, well, let Stewart tell it. So, in his words, here is how this roadster came about and what goes into making it come to life.
"As a young boy growing up in a small town in Delaware in the '50s, I spent a lot of time building model cars and reading the 'little books.' Now and then I would see a hot rod pass by, and I would watch until it was out of sight. Boy, was I hooked.
Starting with a Zipper Lakes...
Starting with a Zipper Lakes Modified body and frame, Stew Milby took it from there and fabricated many of the parts and pieces you see on the car. Coker tires and wheels all lend to the early hot rod look.
"In today's world of high-tech, high-dollar hot rods, it's hard for the everyday guy to have a car that's different. Most of us have a budget to go by, and I have always been fascinated with the lakes modifieds. These are pretty much a Southern California hot rod. Because they are rare on the East Coast, I decided this would be a perfect hot rod to build. They just have a look all their own. I own a small machine shop, so I knew I would be able to fabricate most of the parts needed. This would also help keep the cost down but would involve a lot of time.
"I started by ordering a '27 Ford Lakes Modified body and frame from Zipper Motors. A good friend of mine was building a '41 Ford coupe and he decided to change running gear midway into his project. We worked out a deal, and I bought the motor, trans, and rearend. The tires, wheels, and '46 Ford caps came by way of Coker Tire.
"The front axle is a Super Bell 4-inch dropped I-beam and '37 Ford spindles. I fabricated a set of C-shaped framehorns to get the headlights down as low as I could. I also fabricated taillight stanchions from aluminum to mount the '37 lights. Keeping with the old-style look, I mounted quarter-elliptical springs and friction shocks on all four corners. Using 5/8-inch o.d. 304 stainless steel rod, I fabricated 40-inch-long Curtis-style hairpins.
A GM 10-bolt rearend with...
A GM 10-bolt rearend with drum brakes and a Street & Performance quickie cover finish off the backside of this budget beater.
"The rear got a lot of grinding and sanding to give it a smooth, clean look. The rear and front axles were painted with Rust-Oleum Safety Red out of spray cans. Hairpin, spring, and shackle brackets were made from 1/2-inch flat steel and TIG-welded in place. A 10-bolt quick-change rearend cover from Street & Performance was then installed. I fabricated a stainless steel pushbar using 1/2-inch rod. The motor has stock bore and stroke; I ported and polished the heads, and added a Crane Cam-got to have that lumpy idle. Lakes-style headers fit the look while the stainless steel exhaust was fabricated from some 90-degree bends and a pair of used turbo mufflers from a friend.
"I fabricated valve cover breathers with the PCV mounted inside the driver-side breather. I then fabricated a distributor cover with fins to match the air cleaner. I machine-turned a sheet of stainless steel and cut it to fit over the entire dash. Stewart Warner white-face gauges were then installed.
"I made the steering column using 1 1/4-inch stainless steel tubing and press in bronze bushings for the 3/4-inch shaft. A Bell-style steering wheel was connected to a Corvair steering box. The steering arm was extended 3 inches to clear the header.
A small-block 350 Chevy V-8...
A small-block 350 Chevy V-8 and TH350 automatic provide plenty of power and drivability.
"All the dash knobs are machined to look like mini-style beehives. The center knob is a push-pull shift cable. The beehive knob can also be found on the oil dipstick, trans dipstick, rearend breather, tire valve stems, and inside door releases. Two $10 Indian blankets were used for seats and door coverings. The windshield was chopped 1 inch to meet the 7-inch minimum required by Pennsylvania. A '28 Ford radiator shell and stainless steel mesh stone guard goes around an AFCO aluminum radiator with a 16-inch electric fan. A pair of 6-gallon aluminum tanks, made by Zipper Motors, is mounted under the car and holds the fuel.
"An amazing thing happened about halfway into this project. The Department of Transportation in Pennsylvania passed Act 228, which states a street rod 1948 and older no longer requires fenders, bumpers, or a hood. Wow-did that make my day, or what? This hot rod is 100 percent legal.
A four-spoke Sprint Car-styled...
A four-spoke Sprint Car-styled wheel tops off the homemade steering column. Stewart Warner gauges reside in the engine turned stainless insert.
"I presently drive a '37 Ford slantback, which I have driven year-round for the past 14 years, accumulating 62,000 miles. This Lakes Modified won't be any different. Driving them is the best part. It's just fun, fun, fun.
"The only creature comfort in the car is a heater from Southern Air. I fabricated a pair of Lexan side windows to keep cold air out. I have driven the car in 20-degree weather and it's nice and toasty inside.
"I have about $16,000 of real money in the car. It's not a true value because I didn't count time, but I think they call it a labor of love."
It's pretty hard not to appreciate what Stew has accomplished with his cars and his philosophy about driving them, which is fun, fun, fun. We have to give a tip of the hat to Stew for being a lifelong hot rodder and never losing sight of his dream.
Facts & Figures
1927 Zipper Lakes Modified
|Frame / Manufacturer ||steel / Zipper Motors (Grand Junction, CO) |
|Wheelbase ||103" |
|Modifications ||2x3 in mild steel |
|Chassis plumbing ||stainless steel |
|Rearend / Ratio ||GM 10-bolt / 3.73:1 QC cover from Street & Performance (Mena, AR) |
|Rear suspension ||quarter-elliptical |
|Rear brakes ||stock GM drum |
|Front suspension ||Super Bell (Peculiar, MO) 4" drop I-beam |
|Front brakes ||'40 Ford (12" diameter) |
|Master cylinder ||dual Wilwood (Camarillo, CA) |
|Steering box ||Corvair |
|Spindles ||'37 Ford |
|Front shocks ||custom made friction by Stew |
|Front wheel make, size ||Coker Tire Co. (Chattanooga, TN) steel, 15x5 (backspace 2 3/4") |
|Rear wheel make, size ||Coker Tire Co. steel, 15x7 (backspace 4") |
|Hubcaps ||Coker Tire Co. '46 Ford & ribbed trim rings |
|Front tire make, size ||Coker / Firestone, 560x15 (2 3/4" whitewall) |
|Rear tire make, size ||Coker / Firestone, 820x15 (4 1/4" whitewall) |
|Gas tank ||twin 6-gal. by Zipper Motors |
|Make ||Chevy |
|Displacement ||350ci |
|Camshaft ||Crane Cams (Daytona Beach, FL) |
|Cooling fan ||electric 16" |
|Radiator ||AFCO (Boonville, IN) |
|Valve covers ||Edelbrock (Torrance, CA) |
|Manifold / Induction ||Edelbrock / Edelbrock Performer 600 CFM |
|Heads ||ported & polished by Stew |
|Headers ||Sanderson Headers (S. San Francisco, CA) 1 1/2" |
|Exhaust / Mufflers ||stainless steel |
|Make ||GM TH350 |
|Shifter ||cable (push/pull) fabricated by Stew |
|Driveshaft ||18 1/2" Transaxle (Newcastle, DE) axle |
|Body style / Material ||lakes modified / fiberglass |
|Body manufacturer ||Zipper Motors |
|Body mods ||1" top chop by Stew |
|Grille / Insert ||'28 Ford / stainless steel by Stew |
|Bodywork ||Stew |
|Paint type / Color ||Standox / black (40 percent clear mix) |
|Painter ||Svetylo Kostov of Mr. Airbrush (Philadelphia, PA) |
|Headlights / Taillights ||'33-34 Ford commercial / '37 Ford |
|Outside mirror ||'32 Ford roadster |
|Other body items ||windshield by Crystal Glass (Markus Hook, PA) |
|Dashboard ||'32 Ford |
|Insert / Gauges ||turned stainless steel / Stewart Warner |
|Wiring ||American Autowire (Bellmawr, NJ), installed by Stew |
|Heater ||Southern Air (Greer, SC) |
|Steering wheel ||Bell-style |
|Steering column ||fabbed by Stew |
|Seats ||Foam over plywood |
|Upholsterer ||Stew |
|Material ||Indian blanket style |
|Carpet ||indoor-outdoor black |
|Seatbelts ||Juliano's Interior Products (Vernon, CT) |