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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Nailhead began life as a ’66 Buick 425-inch V-8 but after a bit of massaging it now supports 432 ci. Engine Tech Machine was responsible for the machine work and short-block assembly but the final touches were handled by TRS. Alan Johnson Racing Engines got the nod to port and flow the heads, which were then outfitted with adjustable roller rockers by Tom Telesco. Weiand finned aluminum valve covers and timing chain cover further accent the brilliant red V-8, which also features a chromed oil galley (valley) pan. Also in service is a Joe Hunt Magnetos modern distributor hidden within the vintage-looking mag case. The Hilborn stack injection is electronic, utilizing a Big Stuff 3 EFI controller tuned by LRS Performance. Running sans mufflers the custom 2-1/2-inch exhaust was fabricated by TRS. The TREMEC TKO-600 (five-speed) with a custom shifter by TRS uses a Bendsent Transmission Adapters plate to link both the trans and engine together then linked to the rearend via a custom driveshaft built by TRS.

At the corners you will see Real Rodders Wheels (Halibrand style) measuring 5.5x15 in front and 10x16 in back. Rubber is a combo of Michelin in front and Hurst cheater slicks in back.

Supporting this race car–inspired hot rod is a custom chassis welded together by TRS plumbed in stainless steel line with a 3.78 gear Winters V-8 quick-change outfitted with 31-spline axles, and Ford brakes with Buick finned drums. Supporting the rearend are 36-inch custom ladder bars, Panhard bar, and QA1 coilover shocks that are cantilevered and hidden behind the framerails.

The front suspension is based on the earlier mentioned ’37 Ford tube axle, ’40 Ford spindles, transverse Ford spring, Pete & Jakes 50/50 shocks hidden from view (cantilevered like the rear), custom TRS Panhard bar and SO-CAL Speed Shop disc brakes based on Wilwood calipers/rotors (master cylinder, proportioning valve) riding within Buick finned-style drums. The Schroeder race car steering is attached to a custom column twisted by a Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop four-spoke wheel.

The interior features a ’40 Federal truck instrument cluster restored by Classic Instruments with custom dash sheetmetal formed by Dean Ellis of TRS. More custom TRS handiwork can be seen in the bomber bench seat (with NOS Ford seatbelts from a ’50s T-bird) as well as the custom interior and flooring. The interior is Spartan when it comes to upholstery but what stitchwork that’s present was neatly handled by Tom Sewell.

The all-steel American Speed Company Speed33 is coated in PPG black with cream scallops trimmed in red by Joe Belfiore of TRS but before this could happen two more of the TRS crew, Louis Dilisioand and Waltermire, applied their bodywork skills. The no-chrome appearance is accented with matte gray running gear and interior metal surfaces. Exterior appointments include the TRS custom mirrors, rear roll pan (which houses the LED taillights), and Ford commercial headlights on custom fabricated brackets.

When Jim was asked what he would do different he answered, “I would further develop the race car look by hiding the headlights within the sides of the nose to achieve a more aerodynamic race car nose.” We think he pretty much nailed the race car look and as for the overall appearance we like it just the way it is.

  • «
  • |
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • View Full Article