Some of us remember cars from the “little pages” tucked way back in our minds; others recall V-8s that rattled windows, while others remember the experience of retina-detaching performance. Then there are many of us who remember what was, and wonder what could be.
Custom touches are the drilled...
Custom touches are the drilled holes in the windshield posts.
Jim Eckford of Arroyo Grande, California, grew up in the Detroit area and experienced his first job at Ford Motor Company working in the chassis engineering department. “The ‘60s were a great time to work at Ford. It was the era of the Mustang, Cobra, Torino, GT40, and much more,” Jim, who truly felt like “a kid in a candy store,” says. He also remembers hot rodding around in his ’34 Ford Tudor that soon became the platform for its first engine swap, taking out the Flathead and replacing it with a Buick Nailhead. Thus began a lifelong allegiance to the Nailhead that was reinforced by the likes of “TV Tommy” Ivo and Tony Nancy with their Nailheads.
The firewall, again old-school...
The firewall, again old-school treatment, houses the obligatory “big three” Stewart-Warner gauges—amp, water temp, and oil pressure.
Fast forward to Jim’s introduction of the American Speed Company’s Speed33, as it represents the classic lines of the ’33-34 Ford roadsters but fitted with modern appointments, such as roll-up side glass and a retractable soft top, a great starting point to fulfill his requirements of answering the call for nostalgia while implementing today’s technology.
From here Jim enlisted the efforts of The Roadster Shop (TRS) from Mundelein, Illinois. Their experience with previous builds of the ASC Speed33 (remember the ’08 STREET RODDER Road Tour car?) and the Buick Nailhead sitting in their showroom made the decision an easy one. This wasn’t to be another street rod but a car with loads of race car influence, hence this build would be minus fenders (yes, a hot rod!) and would have a custom chassis to achieve all the required goals but with plenty of one-off ideas.
The 432-inch Buick V-8 runs...
The 432-inch Buick V-8 runs a Hilborn stack injection that is modern with its Big Stuff 3 electronic controls. The Joe Hunt–looking mag is really a modern electronic ignition hidden in the period-correct housing. The custom exhaust is more TRS effort.
There was no doubt the vintage Buick V-8 would be used but what would the chassis be anchored on? Jim had always favored the one-year-only ’37 Ford tube axle intended for the diminutive Flathead the V-8/60 (60 standing for the horsepower output) that was used on the passenger car of the day. The body came from ASC and remained substantively intact from the windshield post back. TRS fabricated a new firewall (fitted with Stewart-Warner gauges, old school!) and all the forward sheetmetal, which includes the custom hood and race car–influenced nose as well as the custom decklid with large see-through vents and center-mounted gas cap. More TRS metalwork came in the form of rocker panels and belly pan fabricated in aluminum by the shop’s very own Sam Waltermire.
The interior is loaded with...
The interior is loaded with unique touches and race car influence not the least of which is the metal floorboards and door panels. Tom Sewell did the TRS bomber seats and door panel stitchwork. Seatbelts come by way of NOS ’50s T-bird.
Upon close examination of the droptop (remember it’s a convertible) the race car theme becomes apparent, especially within the engine compartment. Look for a radiator; nope, look for a water pump; nope, what about a fan, belts, or alternator (hidden underneath the engine and run via a jackshaft)? These items are nowhere to be seen. Many of the cooling and electrical accessories normally associated with a street-driven hot rod are absent, the absence one might expect from a true race car. But there’s a cooling system and required electrics for any roadworthy hot rod—you just have to look. It was the cooling system that created the greatest obstacle to overcome but the “mountain” was successfully scaled. A substantial radiator with a Meziere electric water pump was placed in what would be the trunk with two fans pulling air through the radiator during slow speeds and for higher speeds and warmer days a fan was placed underneath the car, forcing air up and through the radiator.