Not many hot rodders got that way by themselves. Most of you reading this could probably make a long list of mentors who inspired or encouraged your enthusiasm and mechanical ability by sharing their own knowledge and skill.
John Martinez’s earliest and strongest automotive influence was a local mechanic and hot rodder named Bob Grossi. “As a 7-year-old kid, I used to sit on my bicycle on the sidewalk outside Grossi’s garage and watch him work on his Model T hot rod. That’s when I first got the idea that I would own a hot rod someday.” By the time he was a teenager, John was deep into cars. He was 18 or 19 when he ran into Grossi at a cruise at Bob’s Big Boy restaurant and was able to introduce himself to his boyhood hero.
In the lifetime since then, John has built many cars, trucks, and bikes. He was building a ’36 Chevy pickup when he spotted a newspaper ad for this 1929 Ford Model A closed cab pickup. It was located only 10 miles from his home in Woodland Hills, California, and as soon as he saw the truck he wanted to build it into the hot rod he’d always wanted.
The owner had planned on restoring it, but had also been trying to sell it for five years and was not succeeding in either case. Even so, he insisted that he’d never sell it to see the original steel cab chopped and customized. With fingers crossed behind his back, John agreed with the man that, indeed, the only good Model A was a completely restored one. He paid the agreed upon $2,200 and took the truck home to show his wife, Linda. “She shook her head and went back in the house.”
Now, of course, Linda’s a fan of the ’29, but the build took a very long time. Raising kids, remodeling the house, the Northridge earthquake, and serious illnesses in the family stretched the project across 17 years. “Bob Grossi’s Model T and the memory of those days was the drive that kept me in the game,” John says. Now that the truck is finished, John can say it was worth the wait. Even the previous owner might approve of the well-envisioned and executed work, and agree that John’s pickup is a “good Model A.”
Bob Borum at houseofskulls.com...
Bob Borum at houseofskulls.com carves these Norm Grabowski–inspired skulls. John owns three, including this dark burl wood beauty—Borum’s first blue-eyed specimen—which serves as the shifter knob in the ’29.
The chop is a just-right 3 inches, thanks to Precision Street Rods. The roof was finished with fabricated steel skin. The hood is a Rootlieb steel replacement and the grille is stock. John bought the the steel fenders and running boards in person from Brookville’s Kenny Gollahon at the Grand National Roadster Show several years ago. The stainless steel repro front bumper and numerous other pieces are from California Roadster Company. Stock-style headlights and taillights are updated with Halogen and LED bulbs better suited for post-’29 nighttime driving. The rear roll pan was custom-built at B&E Custom in Chatsworth, California, where Bob Dale, Eugene Smith, and Steve Wiedrich performed bodywork and paint. Smith sprayed the suede finish, a combination of Medallion Hot Rod Black Satin and high-gloss gray.
In contrast to that satin finish, the Chevy 350ci crate engine was painted gloss black and highlighted with a lot of polish and chrome on the Edelbrock Vortec manifold and 600-cfm carb, and Mooneyes Kalifornia Mushroom air cleaner (topped with a custom mini skull) and finned valve covers. A Mallory Unilite ignition fires up the small-block. Blockhugger headers scavenge the exhaust, with 22-inch glasspacks providing the right note. A Walker Z Series radiator keeps things cool. The 200-4R transmission was assembled by ACT Automotive in Van Nuys, California, and is connected to a Wenco driveshaft to spin the 3.50:1 gears in the Currie Enterprises Ford 9-inch. BFGoodrich 255/70R15 rear meats roll on 15x8 steelies from Pico Wheels with Ford logo center caps. Ford drum brakes were kept in the rear, with GM front discs grabbing 15x6 rims with 165/80R15 Nexen radial tires.
The homebuilt chassis started with the original ’29 ’rails, beefed up with Total Cost Involved components. Modified crossmembers carry the newer drivetrain; a dropped tube axle lowers the front 4 inches. Handling and ride is improved with Panhard bars and four-link suspension from TCI Engineering in the front and rear. Stock springs are retained in front with TCI Engineering shocks; the rear rides on Aldan chrome coilovers. The rolling chassis was delivered to B&E Custom for final fitting and welding.
There is exposed wood in the...
There is exposed wood in the top as well. The pleated headliner matches the seat and interior panels.
The cab interior is covered in pleated dark charcoal vinyl, from the Glide bench seat to the door panels, rear panels, and headliner. The black weave carpet was laid and stitched by 101 Auto Upholstery in Oxnard, California. A Bell-style steering wheel from Mooneyes tops a Flaming River tilt column. The identity of the dash is unknown, but it bears a resemblance to a ’30 Plymouth. It was lying in the bed under a pile of parts when John bought the truck, and decorated his garage wall for several years before being modified to fit in the truck. Now it’s dressed up by Rick Grindle’s tasty pinstriping and houses a set of whiteface Mooneyes gauges. Ric Kanes used a Kwik Wire kit to do the wiring.
John told us that one of the most memorable moments of the whole project was the day he fired up the engine for the first time. Bob Grossi was there to listen. The two continued to cross paths over the years and eventually became friends. When the ’29 was in the works, Grossi provided valuable mechanical advice and counsel—and he still owns his Model T.
In the short time since these photos were taken, John has accomplished a couple of goals. He displayed the Model A at the 2011 Grand National Roadster Show and he retired, meaning that he has plenty of time to drive the hot rod he’d been working on for so long and, who knows, maybe inspire somebody else to own a hot rod someday.
John bought the truck with...
John bought the truck with two beds; neither were salvageable. Sacramento Vintage Ford provided a brand-new reproduction. The bed floor is a “Home Depot Special.” The boards were cut and grooved at a friend’s shop and stained in his own garage.
John wanted a lot of the Henry...
John wanted a lot of the Henry Ford wood to show, so he kept it exposed in the doorframes. After the top was chopped, the doorposts were disassembled and all cuts were recreated to dovetail together. Chuck Lovold did the amazing shaping and fitting.
The body wood kit included...
The body wood kit included a runner for the frame where the bed mounts. Fitting it around the rear suspension required cutting and grinding and notching, accomplished by Jim Wardell. Wardell stained this wood to match the bed floor.
“I really wanted to complete...
“I really wanted to complete the truck as a tribute to my mom who always went along with whatever I said to her about the truck and had faith in me—and my dad, who thought I was crazy to spend the money, but humored me nonetheless. Neither of them lived long enough to see it finished, but they know I did it.”