Though it's hard to find anyone who was around at the time, when Henry Ford decided to finally update his Model T and debut the Model A in its place it was a pretty big deal. Ford, stubborn until the day he died in 1947, had always been "resistant" to modifying his vehicles just for the sake of the buying public's whims (never mind that other manufacturers were taking customers away from Ford by constantly updating their car lines).
The first Model A debuted on December 2, 1927 and, in each of the next four years, it was refined and improved until the next major model was introduced by the factory on April 2, 1932-the iconic Deuce.
In those years leading up to the Deuce you could find variances in the Model A's design that foreshadowed what was to come, including the windshields on the '31 being laid back a few degrees and a smoothed roofline.
Hot rodders have always wanted to update their rides, too, exemplified by adding '32 radiator shells to their '29s or rounding the hood and door corners on their '50 Chevys. But to take a squarish Model A and massage it to look like a twin brother of the '32 takes a ton of work.
That is what Donnie Hamilton wanted when he dropped off a 1931 Ford coupe to be stylized at Jamie Johnson's shop: Hot Rod Haven in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Johnson, whose hot rod building expertise was revealed on the cover of STREET RODDER (Bruce Burton's maroon '32 three-window in the July '09 issue), is well adept at taking a concept and running with it. The idea behind this build would be to incorporate as many '32 design elements in the Model A as Johnson could.
Because it doesn't have any...
Because it doesn't have any identifying marks, Don is always asked "What is it?" The engine is a '51 331 Cadillac, topped with Cadillac 390 heads and a quartet of Stromberg 97 carbs attached to a Edelbrock CD-694 manifold. The Hidlebrandt valve covers are a nice touch, as in the old Delco-Remy badge on the new PowerGen alternator. To center the mechanical fan in the radiator, Johnson came up with a riser (made from a Flathead mount) and incorporated the thermostat housing into the design.
He started with a SO-CAL Speed Shop '32 frame with a 106-inch wheelbase and then modified it to accept a '32 gas tank between the 'rails out back. A Rodsville quick-change (polished by Joe Vizcarra and outfitted with a vintage Culver City cover) went in, too, as did a Model A spring with reversed eyes. Up front a dropped heavy axle, split '32 'bones, and a reverse-eye spring was installed, and Lincoln drum brakes were added to each corner. For rollers, Firestone-wrapped 16-inch wheels were topped with caps 'n' rings.
The body would receive the majority of the work to get it to look like a '32, though some A-only items, like the windshield visor, was retained, but narrowed and welded to the top. A '32 cowl vent was also sectioned in place and, along with a 3-inch chop, the doors were flush fit. Rounding out the '32 look was the addition of a full-length grille shell (with the insert painted gloss black) and the '32 mirror (which is actually a roadster mirror Johnson likes to use on all the '32 coupes he builds). Johnson, along with his dad, Jim, did all of the bodywork before he sprayed the car with PPG Concept single-stage Lombard Blue paint. With the Pontiac taillights, Guide 682-C headlights, and roll-down rear window glass (courtesy of John Wilson at Trick Glass) in place, the rod was ready for its upholstery.
Inside the five-window the owner slides behind a '40 Ford steering wheel mated to a '46 Ford column. Up on the dash (a '32 roadster item with three-window-style raised sections and glovebox door) a set of five Stewart-Warner gauges, wired up by Al Edwards, tell the driver what's going on. The top section of the dash, which in stock form grows in size toward each side of the car, is now equal width along the entire dash.
Ron Mangus stitched up the cinnamon leather for Don's coupe, covering the Glide Engineering bench seat and door panels in a pleated pattern. Light tan leather, bound with contrasting cinnamon binding, was used on the floor and in the trunk, and Dynamat insulation was used liberally throughout. In another trick for the eye, the third pedal on the far left (usually reserved for a clutch) actually operates the dimmer switch, as the coupe is set up with a TH350 automatic trans.