1931 Ford Tudor Sedan - Let's Be Frank
Not All Dreams Come True The Way We Expect Them. Sometimes They're Even Better.
From the September, 2009 issue of Street Rodder
By Chris Shelton
It's been said, "The best laid plans of mice and men go often awry." It's an idiom that illustrates the futility of making detailed plans when the outcome is uncertain, and it should be painted across the threshold of every workshop across America. After all, very few cars that enter a garage emerge the way their aspiring builders first imagined them. In fact, some just leave as parts.
But every so often rank amateurs exceed their wildest dreams. To call Mike Frank an amateur doesn't exactly do him justice; he did build a Cobra replica that's so faithful to an original that you have to feel under the fenders to know it's an imposter. But a kit implies a certain level of certainty: If you build it by the book, it'll come out all right. Building a car from scratch is another story; rather than an instruction manual or a box top for reference, you get a succession of potential pitfalls to avoid.
What's more, his '31 Ford Tudor isn't entirely his; he and his two sons, Brian and Jason, collaborated on it. Machining and upholstery withstanding, the three did every bit of work themselves or with the help of other amateur hobbyists. Factor the uncertainty that lurks under the paint of an old car, the personalities of three grown men, and the opportunity to spend into a second mortgage, and it's a wonder the project didn't culminate with a mushroom cloud
They found the car at Portland's Memory Lane Motors. Rust-free, original paint, wearing most of its mohair gut, and driving around on a set of '35 wires, it was a prime candidate for a drivetrain and stance update. In fact, the original plans called for something along those lines. "We started thinking we would make a few modifications to the body, bolt it to an aftermarket frame, and be done," Mike revealed. Then they rented a welder, listened to some friends, and took their first whack at car building by replacing the stock firewall with a recessed Bitchin' Products panel.
The rented welder did more than help install the new firewall; it lit a fire of sorts. "With strong hints from my two boys, my supporting wife bought me a small Lincoln welder for my birthday. Now we were in for some serious modifications." So much for those best-laid plans
Bolstered by their success, "We decided to weld up the rear body seams, sun visor and the cowl. As our welding skills improved we tubbed the rear inner fenders and welded the fenders to the body." Their confidence grew with each completed task. In fact, it wasn't long before they took on a chore that not many professional builders willingly tackle: They married the smooth running boards to the splash aprons and front fenders.
"Once all the fabrication was done we took it to a friend's garage to help us modify the rear bumper and fabricate a rear hitch receiver. He taught us a few more things about fabrication. Thanks, Larry, for all of your help.
"Next step was off to another friend's (Mark Comella's) for some lessons on body and paint," Mike reflected. "Mark and I spent countless hours doing the body work. One of my boys headed off to college in Spokane so I was sending him weekly pictures of the progress that Mark and I were making. Thanks to Mark and his countless hours and skill we have a paint job that is unsurpassed by even some of the industry's best." And, for the record, Mike earned the right to brag; the finish is House of Kolor's Tangelo Pearl, a multi-coat job that causes even seasoned veterans to fret, and it's near perfect. "No one believes it was done in a garage," he said, as he leafed through photos of freshly painted parts in a foggy impromptu spray booth made from an ordinary home garage and lots of plastic sheeting.
Adhering to an all-Ford edict,...
Adhering to an all-Ford edict, the Franks chose a 302/C4/9-inch drivetrain. The engine wears a Billet Specialties Tru Trac, a Weiand manifold with an AFB-style Edelbrock, and Sanderson headers. The hood hinge system came from Dan Fink Metalworks.
The only things the Franks...
The only things the Franks outsourced were the engine machine work and the interior. For the latter they commissioned Jim's Upholstery in Longview to trim the Subaru WRX buckets and Glide rear bench. It's all leather, and due to the rather conservative design it was incredibly affordable.
"The summer of 2007 we took the car to a few cruise-ins and did well in the under construction category," Mike recalled. "The following winter we took the car to Jim's Upholstery in Longview Washington for the interior. We stayed fairly conservative but made a few trick highlights with ostrich leather inserts and some embroidery on the back seats.
"Our final goal was to enter the car in the Portland Roadster Show once it was completed," Mike noted. "We made it to the 52nd annual show and took first place in our category."
Which brings up another idiom: Be careful what you wish for. "I have to admit I'm a little bit scared of it," Mike noted as he pushed his fingertip over a smudge of dried-up wax on the visor. "I'm afraid I'm going to screw it up!"
Of all the things Mike, Brian, and Jason Frank planned for, I don't think they ever thought of that.
Though highly detailed, the...
Though highly detailed, the Franks intended their sedan to be a driver. Case in point: the spreader bar doubles as a tow hitch.
The Franks replaced the cowl...
The Franks replaced the cowl tank with a Brookville Roadster Deuce-style dash. In it is a Billet Specialties panel with Auto Meter Street Rod Arctic White gauges. The handcrafted sub-dash bears the Vintage Air control panel and Billet Specialties vents.
Billet Specialties whittles...
Billet Specialties whittles these SLX95 wheels. The ones on this car measure 17x8, and by virtue of mini-tubs, 20x10. They wear Toyo Proxes ZR-rated hides.
Without a doubt the most ambitious...
Without a doubt the most ambitious thing about the Franks' sedan are the fenders. They welded the fronts to the splash aprons and smoothed running boards and the rear to the body.
The crew that made the sedan...
The crew that made the sedan possible are, clockwise from upper right, Jason Frank, Mike Frank, Mark Comella, Steve Klepinger, and Brian Frank. The car's initial lack of interior apparently didn't prevent it from winning cruise-ins from day one.
|F A C T S & F I G U R E S |
|Mike, Brian, and Jason Frank |
|Sherwood, Oregon |
|1931 Ford Tudor sedan |
|Frame / Manufacturer ||Model A style / Total Cost Involved Inc. (Ontario, CA) |
|Wheelbase ||103” |
|Chassis plumbing ||Stainless steel |
|Rearend / Ratio ||Ford 9” / 3:1 with Ford Trac-Loc limited-slip differential |
|Rear suspension ||Total Cost Involved four-link with coilovers |
|Rear brakes ||Ford 11” drum |
|Front suspension ||Total Cost Involved A-arm |
|Front brakes ||Ford 11” rotors, GM mid-size calipers |
|Master cylinder ||Ford-style dual-reservoir |
|Steering box ||Dodge Omni-style rack-and-pinion |
|Front wheel make, size ||SLX95 by Billet Specialties (La Grange, IL), 17x8 |
|Rear wheel make, size ||Billet Specialties SLX95, 20x10 |
|Front tire make, size ||Toyo Proxes 205/40ZR-17 |
|Rear tire make, size ||Toyo Proxes 255/45ZR-20 |
|Gas tank ||Poly saddle tanks by Tanks Inc. (Clearwater, MN) |
|Make ||Ford 302 |
|Machining / Assembly ||Grays Machine Shop (Tigard, OR) |
|Pistons ||hypereutectic-cast by Federal Mogul/Speed-Pro (Southfield, MI) |
|Camshaft ||Performer-Plus 2122 flat-tappet hydraulic by Edelbrock (Torrance, CA) |
|Water pump ||Edelbrock Aluminum |
|Cooling fan ||SPAL 16” electric |
|Radiator ||Aluminum by Mac’s Radiator Repair Inc. (Portland, OR) |
|Alternator ||100-amp GM-style |
|Heads ||Ford cast iron |
|Rockers ||Roller-style by Crane Cams (Daytona Beach, FL) |
|Valve covers ||Moon Equipment (Santa Fe Springs, CA) |
|Manifold / Induction ||Action Plus by Weiand (Bowling Green, KY) / by Edelbrock 1406 600cfm |
|Ignition / Wires ||Pro Billet distributor and 6AL ignition box by MSD Ignition (El Paso, TX) / Taylor Wire Products (Grandview, MO) |
|Headers ||FF4 1 1/2” block-huggers by Sanderson Headers (S. San Francisco, CA) |
|Exhaust / Mufflers ||2” steel / 40-series by Flowmaster (Santa Rosa, CA); ceramic coated |
|Other engine facts ||Moon air filter housing w/element by K&N (Riverside, CA); Billet Specialties Tru Trac serpentine accessory drive system |
|Transmission ||Ford C4 automatic |
|Body style / Material ||Tudor sedan / steel |
|Body manufacturer ||Ford Motor Company |
|Body mods ||Seams welded; rear fenders welded to body; smooth running boards welded to front fenders and splash aprons; mini-tubbed rear wells; recessed firewall by Bitchin’ Products (Prescott, AZ) |
|Hood ||Rootlieb (Turlock, CA) w/hinge from Dan Fink Metalworks (Huntington Beach, CA) |
|Grille ||’32 Ford by Brookville Roadster (Brookville, OH); stainless insert by Obsolete and Classic Auto Parts (Oklahoma City, OK) |
|Bodywork ||Owners and Mark Comella (Sherwood, OR) |
|Paint type / Color ||Tangelo Pearl by House of Kolor (Picayune, MI) |
|Painter ||Owners and Mark Comella |
|Other body items ||Plating by Oregon Plating (Portland, OR) |
|Dashboard ||'32 closed-car style |
|Insert / Gauges ||Billet Specialties Trim Style 6-gauge / Arctic White Street Rod by Auto Meter (Sycamore, IL) |
|Air conditioning ||Compac by Vintage Air (Ft. Worth, TX) w/Billet Specialties vents |
|Wiring ||Painless Performance (Ft. Worth, TX); installed by owner, help Jim at SO-CAL Speed Shop Northwest (Tualatin, OR) |
|Steering wheel ||Billet Specialties Street Star |
|Steering column ||ididit Inc. (Tecumseh, MI) |
|Shifter ||Chrome tilt by Lokar Performance Products (Knoxville, TN) |
|Seats ||Subaru WRX front seats; rear Glide Engineering (Cucamonga, CA) |
|Upholsterer ||Jim's Upholstery (Longview, WA) |
|Material / Color ||Leather / tan |
|Carpet ||Nylon cut-pile |