On the small farm in Minnesota where Paul Stinson grew up, do-it-yourself wasn’t a hobby, it was a necessity. We farmed with Ford 8N tractors, horses, and mules. Farming is 20 percent agriculture and 80 percent fixing what just broke. We were always fixing something lots of making do with what you had.
Making do with what you had was the basic instruction manual for building a hot rod in the old days. Paul wasn’t trying to relive the old days, he just happened to build his hot rod that way.
Dress-up items in the engine compartment include a perforated fuel filter housing, a coil
The project started in an indirect way, with a truck project his father had started. When my dad retired and moved to Arizona, where I live, he brought along a ’41 Ford cabover he bought for $250 at a farm auction in Iowa. It was going to be his project truck. We got the Flathead rebuilt, but when we had the cab media blasted, it fell apart. He kept looking for a usable cab, but he passed away before he found one.
Paul had no plans for the truck, but couldn’t bring himself to part with it. When he eventually tried selling it, and then giving it away, nobody wanted it. It was too big and too rough. After chopping a ’53 F-100 and rebuilding a ’47 teardrop trailer to pull with the pickup, I started looking at the cabover and thought, If I’m going to scrap it anyway, it’d be fun to cut it up and try to make something out of it.’
Paul started the chassis with a ’31 Ford perimeter frame, which was boxed, plus a front suspension, including an I-beam and hairpins from Pete & Jakes, SO-CAL shocks, and a panhard bar. He found a Currie narrowed 9-inch already set up for the Alden coilovers, now located by a four-link setup.
The 59AB Flathead from Paul’s dad’s truck was machined and assembled at Morrison Auto Machine in Glendale, Arizona. The heads and intake are Offenhauser and the dual carbs are 97s with helmet air cleaners. Paul built his own lakes-style cutout headers and exhaust pipes, with Smithy’s mufflers to suit the look of the car.
The Borg-Warner T-5 was transplanted from a junkyard S-10 pickup. Dick’s Driveshaft in Phoenix provided a custom driveshaft running to the 3.50:1-geared Currie 9-inch.
After almost a year of working on the frame and drivetrain, Paul began the most ambitious part of the build. This is where the cut it up and try to make something out of it’ part of the project began. Growing up in cold country, I always dreamed of having a roadster, he told usso he started thinking about how to turn his dad’s cabover into a topless hot rod.
The COE body was too wide, so after removing the roof, I cut 10 inches out of the middle. Since there wouldn’t be any structural integrity using just the cab, I built a tube frame for attaching body panels. The body frame and forward doorjambs attached to rectangular tube and bolted to the chassis ’rails. I welded the front body panels to a SO-CAL ’32 cowl.
Removing the doorskins, Paul built doorframes from square tube for mounting the handles and latches, and built new upper hinges by copying the lower ones. After rolling the upper edge of the doors, he used scrap tubing left over from the exhaust pipe duck bills to step up the upper rear portion of the doors, then bent more tubing to follow that line around the rear of the cockpit. To create the right compound curves in the doors, he first bent the upright structures, then the lengthwise pieces. Brake tubing was welded to the sides to create the triple beltlines. Door handles are from the ’41 COE.
Paul built brackets to mount the swap meet windshield (late-’30s fat-fender Ford, he believes) to the frame. The ’41 cabover headlights were mounted to the top of the shock mounts on each side of a shortened and narrowed Deuce grille with a homebuilt stainless insert.
Inspired by the look of the ’34 Ford deck, Paul bent rectangular tubing into a frame, then took the fenders from the truck and sectioned them to create the rear quarters, creating the rest of the deck from 1/8-inch flat stock with 3/16-inch round stock for the lower radius. Swap meet hinges and latch finish the decklid. Old glass truck marker lights were frenched in as taillights. When the body was complete, Paul sprayed it with PPG low-gloss acrylic enamel.
The old cabover extends into the upper dash; and Paul filled the custom-built instrument panel with Stewart-Warner gauges, adding a Kenworth truck speedometer in the center and a Stewart-Warner tach atop the dash. The cabover’s steering column was modified to fit and topped with a swap meet wheel that might have once steered a Merc. Glenn Kramer of Glendale upholstered the custom bench seat in oxblood vinyl. Upholstery was originally planned for the door panels, but after seeing polished panels at a retro diner, Paul decided to replicate the look with some leftover aluminum panels from his teardrop trailer project.
This was by far the most fun project I have ever done, he told us. If something didn’t work, I just cut it out and tried again. Of course, it helps to have a shop full of metalworking machinery, like bead rollers, English wheels, and air-powered planishing hammersbut Paul doesn’t. I bent stuff around steel drums, sections of pipe, old wheels, even trees. I’ve got a good jigsaw and die grinders, a 3-foot brake, a small MIG welder, a torch set up, and lots of hand tools. I’d like to try some better pieces of equipment someday. For now, I’ll make do with what I have and love every minute of it.