For some street rod builders the journey is the build. They toil endlessly in their garages to transform ideas into rolling art, every day moving closer to the destination. Yet when the destination nears, and the car is ready to roll into the light of day, their eyes mysteriously turn toward the horizon and you can almost hear the gears meshing inside their heads as they lay plans for a new journey with a new project. The paint on the finished car has yet to dry before boxes filled with parts begin arriving for another build. Clearly, it’s the journey not the destination that fuels this breed of street rod builder.
Nothing lets you expand your travel experience like having your very own Mullins trailer a
But Ron Beard, who operates a small yet efficient shop in Eugene, Oregon, known as Beard’s Auto Works, feels that the journey is more than just about reshaping metal and turning wrenches. It’s also about turning the wheels on the finished car. “The destination,” Ron says, “is the journey.” Translation: Enjoy the car that you just built because it represents hours, days, months, sometimes even years, of your toil and talent, so revel in it all, not just the time spent in the garage burning midnight oil.
Ron, with the support and encouragement of his wife, Lois, likes to practice what he preaches. It took Ron a year and a half to complete his personal 1933 Ford convertible that he began during the summer of 2007. The car, based on an American Speed Company all-steel body, was only two days new when he and Lois drove it to the 2009 Goodguys event in Puyallup, Washington, where it was presented with a Goodguys Pick award.
Power comes from the ’04 modular Ford 5.4L sporting Sanderson headers and Sullivan injecti
Part two of the journey had just begun, and during the next two years the car snatched a bevy of awards, among them the STREET RODDER magazine Top 100 at 2009 Pleasanton, Pleasanton’s Class Act the following year, the Art Morrison Pick at Puyallup 2010, and Pinky’s Top 10 at this year’s Goodguys meet in Pueblo, Colorado.
Awards like this are fine and dandy, but if you ask Ron and Lois, all those glittery, shiny plaques and trophies represent only a small portion of the journey. The real fun begins when they hit the open road in their open-top car where they enjoy a panoramic view of this great country. This past spring they packed their Mullins trailer, hitched it to the ’33, and set out from their home in Eugene to Colorado, with a layover in Texas to visit Ron’s mother and kids before heading for the Grand Canyon. Next stop was Pomona, California, for the L.A. Convertibles Show, and sometime before they made it back up the coast to Eugene the convertible’s odometer clicked past the 10,000-mile mark.
The Nissan bucket seats are stitched by Andy “Stitch” Smith of Larry’s Upholstery in caram
But if we could retrace Ron’s route all the way back to his 1,800-square-foot shop, and turn the clock back to 2008, we’d probably enjoy an opportunity to see how he gave what is arguably one of Ford’s most appealing body styles an even more elegant look. The shop journey began when Ron ordered a frame from the Convertible Shop, specifying an additional 3 inches to the rails. “They told me that it wouldn’t work, but I just told them to build it.” See, Ron had plans to lengthen the hood portion of the body 3 inches, doing so by essentially pivoting the classic shovelnose grille out 3 inches at the bottom, using the top of the radiator as the pivot point. He meticulously massaged the accompanying sheetmetal along the hood skirts and fenders to maintain proportions, and although all this metalwork sounds easy, it took two weeks just to gain the proper lines. The result is a front end that’s even more elegant than when Edsel Ford gave the nod to the original classic design back in 1932.
The owner-built dashboard and insert uses Classic Instruments Wings gauges.
“I like cuttin’ and weldin’,” Ron says, and he continued his metal-forming exploits along the rear pan area, trick-looking taillight stanchions, and the custom dashboard and insert that he created. He also took time to do a little metal sculpting to the all-steel, all-original Mullins trailer that now sports fenders and taillights similar to what’s on the convertible. That little tagalong also has a nostalgic Coleman cooler and the trunk holds all the Beards’ gear. Indeed, during our photo session Lois kept Ron and I well fed from their food stash. Yes, the journey requires that we have our nourishment, too.
Ron also gave the interior some special treatments, chief among them the seat’s mounting system. By dropping the floor 3 inches he allowed room for the Nissan bucket seats to swing upward when they move forward to accommodate his wife’s more compact sitting position. “That makes it easier to look out the windshield when she drives,” Ron says. Sliding either seat back lowers it so that he can enjoy his own view during the journey. Crafty.
Dave Owen, of Dave’s Hot Rod Shop, fashioned the custom doorsills and interior panels before Andy “Stitch” Smith at Larry’s Upholstery (both shops in nearby Albany, Oregon) applied all the fabric. That and the frame were about the only outsourced jobs, so Ron is real familiar with the car’s chassis and drivetrain. The suspension includes a Heidts IFS assembly with rack-and-pinion steering, and the Ford 9-inch delivers the power from the late-model 5.4L Ford engine to the 15-inch rear wheels.
There’s an interesting story behind selecting that ’04 Ford engine. Ron claims that he knew nothing about the computer-laden engine and its electronic fuel injection, so he set out to learn all he could about it. “I wanted to learn about something different,” he explains, having spent years dropping small-block Chevy engines into customer cars. By the time he got the all-Ford drivetrain running, Ron was impressed with what he had. “These are really nice motors,” he contends.
And isn’t that just part of the journey, learning about something new on the way to the destination? “That’s just one more thing I can check off on my bucket list,” he shrugs about his newfound knowledge of the all-Ford package.
What’s next on his journey? He’s already been to the Indianapolis 500 and he’s attended Bonneville a few times. “Lois and I have our eyes on the Pebble Beach (concours) event,” he confesses. And then there are the customer cars to build, not to mention all the miles of highway that he, Lois, and their clean Ford convertible have yet to explore. For Ron and Lois the journey is never over because they feel that they never reach their destination.
A pair of ’39 Lincoln Zephyr taillights are mounted onto custom mounts, giving this street
The Southern Rods and Parts banjo-style wheel rides on top of the ididit steering column.