You can call Jon Hall a lot of things, and "perfectionist" is one of them. Jon, who has been around the Detroit hot rodding scene for nearly 60 years, has made a good living at being a critically exacting individual, and the proceeds from his life's work has allowed him to immerse himself in several hot rod-related ventures.
Though his accountant may disagree, for Jon, getting it right is more important than turning a profit. And that explains why it took him a fair amount of time to design and produce a steel-bodied '27 roadster the way he thought it should be: a little bigger than stock and a whole lot safer.
Hey! There's a Ford in there!...
Hey! There's a Ford in there! The engine in Jon's ride is a 302 that was prepped by Booth-Arons Racing Engines and features an Edelbrock carb and manifold. Other goodies include an MSD ignition, Taylor wires, a Powermaster alternator, and a special radiator made by Walker radiators just for the Shadow Rods cars. The V-8 bolts to a TKO five-speed trans.
One of the companies Jon owns is Shadow Rods, which manufactures two new steel-bodied rods for the street rod market: the XL27 LRHC roadster and the XL27 LRHC roadster pickup. The LRHC (low ride, high caliber) roadster pickup is the base for the '10 AMSOIL/STREET RODDER Road Tour vehicle, which has been featured in a series of buildup stories in STREET RODDER, starting with the Feb. '10 issue.
Based in Saginaw, Michigan, Jon couldn't release his cars to the public unless he was first satisfied with every aspect of it, which meant he had to build one for himself to see how well all of his ideas worked together, and the rod featured in this story is his personal XL27 LRHC roadster pickup.
Jon's love affair with the '27 Ford roadster design goes back almost as far as he does. He bought one in 1961, and still owns and drives the car regularly. Before they were married, Jon dated his wife and had that car, and all five of his kids, who are now full-grown, got to drive the car to high school.
So when he thought about redoing what Henry Ford had done, he did so because he was intimately familiar with its design.
"Comfortable" isn't a word you'd typically associate with a '27 roadster, but the XL27's body is 3 inches taller and its doors are 4 inches longer than a factory Ford '27.
Custom gauges from Classic...
Custom gauges from Classic Instruments line the dash of Jon's roadster pickup. A '40 Ford steering wheel has been color-matched to the rod's exterior, and a Lokar shifter is topped with a small skull. The split bench seat is specially designed and built for the Shadow Rod cars by Wise Guys, and was covered in Ultra Leather by DTS Enterprises in Ellsworth, MI. DTS also laid down the Latis Blue carpet.
There are two types of chassis that fit under an XL27 body: a stock '32 Ford (or aftermarket equivalent), and one that Shadow Rods makes that features a unique kickup (that follows the body line) and a tubular crossmember. Jon's ride uses the Shadow Rods setup, which includes an 11-gauge die-stamped 'rail with the crossmembers dialed in for a 107-inch wheelbase.
The rear suspension uses a John's Industries 9-inch housing (4.11:1), 31-spline axles, a Pete & Jakes Panhard bar, Bilstein 200-pound rated coilover shocks, Wilwood 11-inch disc brakes, and a pair of Shadow Rods wishbones.
The front suspension starts with a Super Bell dropped (4 inches) I-beam axle, a Posies spring (mounted behind the axle and fixed to the radius rods with special Shadow Rods mounts), P&J spindles and Panhard bar, and another set of Wilwood disc brakes and Bilstein shocks. A Corvair-style steering box from Flaming River and an ididit "shorty" column make up most of the steering components, and the pickup rolls on Sprint-type Real Rodders Wheels (15x5.5 and 16x8) with a retro finish, wrapped with Diamond Back radials (235/75-16) in the rear and 145-15 rubber up front.
For power, Jon turned to Denny Hummel at Booth-Arons Racing Engines out of Berkley, Michigan, for a mild 302 Ford. Booth-Arons made their name years ago on the dragstrip, and the company not only performs most any machine shop job (from magneticly inspecting bare blocks to milling) but also sells crate engines too.
Internally the engine is stock, but to cool the 302 a Walker radiator (made special for the Shadow Rods configuration) and a Cooling Components fan keep the engine in check. An Edelbrock manifold topped with a single 550 Edelbrock carb and a Billet Specialties air cleaner feed the motor. Spark is handled by an MSD ignition and Taylor wires, while the exhaust runs out a set of Sanderson Headers and two Edelbrock mufflers.
Jon likes his rides low, and...
Jon likes his rides low, and designed the XL27's chassis so it could be nearly laid on the ground. Lenny Longuski (Lenny's Auto, Ubly, MI) sprayed the Lombard Blue paint, which was a stock color for Model As in 1931.
A Tremec TKO transmission (equipped with a Centerforce clutch and Lokar shifter) sends the power to the rear via a John's Industries driveshaft. Denny Hummel rates the V-8 with 300-plus horsepower-more than enough to push the little pickup down Woodward Avenue on a warm summer night.
With the chassis and powertrain dialed in, its attention was shifted to the bodywork and paint. For Jon's ride the Model A grille shell was shortened, a '32-style cowl vent was added, and the Rootlieb four-piece louvered hood lengthened. Lenny Longuski (of Lenny's Auto in Ubly, Michigan) massaged all the body parts before spraying the Lombard Blue paint (a Model A color from 1931). The rest of the exterior was dressed up with door handles from Clayton Machine Works, headlights from Greening Auto Company, a pair of '48 Chevy taillights, and chrome plating provided by Sherm's Plating.
Shadow Rods also offers a collapsible top for their roadsters, and Jon's was covered by DTS Enterprises in Ellsworth, Michigan. DTS also trimmed the rest of the cockpit and used Ultra Leather on the Wise Guys split bench seat (a special item for Shadow Rods due to the location of the driveshaft) and Dynamat insulation where he could. Because it's a roadster, a Vintage Air Gen II heater system was installed, as was a set of Classic Instrument gauges (with custom faces) and a Painless Wiring kit.
Now that the car is done (Jon has been showing at various shows around the country) he's happy with the outcome and believes with one of his roadsters you can build a nice "new" hot rod for under $75,000. That's a lot of money to some folks but, in the real world of well-done hot rods, that's a bargain.
Shadow Rods also offers a...
Shadow Rods also offers a collapsible top for their roadsters, and the pickup looks good with it up or down.
Jon chose Real Rodders Wheels...
Jon chose Real Rodders Wheels (15x5.5 and 16x8) for his roadster pickup and had them wrapped in Diamond Back 235/75 rubber out back and 145-15 tires up front.