Sometimes the best place to find a street rod project is right in your garage. In 2002, Bill Holgerson decided to rebuild his ’34 Ford, transforming the restored cabriolet into an amazing period street rod.
Thirty years earlier, Bill was collecting parts for a ’34 five-window project. He’d heard that the cabrio belonged to a man he was buying parts from, and that he’d never sell it. After paying for his parts, Bill let the conversation drift to the subject of the ’34. No dice. Not for sale. But Bill left the man with a standing offer to buy the car sight unseen.
The phone rang the very next night. “Would you like to see the car?” Thirty minutes later Bill was taking his first look at the ’34 you see here. It was nicer than expected. He brought it home that night.
Bill spent three years restoring the car. It was finished in 1976, in time to lead the parade celebrating the centennial of Centennial, Kansas. After that, he drove the car once in a while, showing it off around town or chauffeuring the occasional bride and groom in the rumble seat.
When he decided to rebuild it, he started by collecting parts and making a plan. That plan was to build the car with rare vintage speed parts and components. On the outside he kept the car’s resto-rod style. The sheetmetal is stock steel, massaged into better-than-new shape by Bright Built Hot Rods in Salina, Kansas. Keith Bright added a little black to the previous Vineyard Green paint color on the ’34 before shooting the cabrio body and frame. Chad Ward followed up with beltline and hood louver pinstripes. Paul Matz in Wichita built the tan top.
The gentlemanly exterior appearance is defied a bit by Bill’s choice of kidney bean knock-off wheels (16x7 and 16x5), manufactured by PS Engineering Vintage Wheels in Torrance, California. The Halibrand-style rims are wrapped with 770-16 and 500-16 Coker Tire bias-ply blackwalls.
The theme of modern technology hidden by resto styling is exemplified in the walnut wood grained interior. Paul Matz upholstered the stock bench and panels in original-reminiscent brown leather. The uncut dash is loaded with stock-looking instruments in the original bezels. The gauges are actually modern parts from Classic Instruments behind authentic factory faces. Bill had to get permission from Ford to replicate the fonts of original ’34 gauges. He designed the steering wheel to look like something from the factory, adding a ’34 centerpiece to the reduced-diameter banjo. Juliano’s built the wheel from Bill’s design. With help from Keith Bright at Bright Built Hot Rods in Salina he built the timed turn indicator switch on the column. He also created his own handle for the Hurst shifter.
The Ford 9-inch limited-slip rearend with 3.50:1 gears was built “so you can jump all over it and not break it,” Bill says. The stock frame was boxed in the front and at the crossmembers. The rear suspension includes Pete & Jakes ladder bars and panhard bar with QA1 coilovers. In front, Bill added a Super Bell dropped I-beam with hairpins, P&J spindles, shocks and panhard bar, and Posies’ Super Slide springs.
The 59AB Flathead was treated...
The 59AB Flathead was treated to high-performance internals and a long list of custom-made and extremely rare vintage speed components, and it was polished like a diamond.
Most of his passion was saved for the engine. Bill has a knack—or the know-how—for uncovering genuine, rare old-time speed parts and he used the best of his collection on the cabrio. “I chased down everything,” he says. “It was a long journey.”
Finding a 59AB Flathead block helped ignite his excitement for the project. He took the block to Diamond Springs, California, where it was bored and stroked, balanced and blueprinted by Flathead specialists NCP Motors. Internals include Ross aluminum pistons, a Scat crank, and a custom ground cam.
Bill had been hunting rare heads for years in anticipation of this project. He has collected Eddie Meyer, Tatterfield, and several others, but says these rare Smith heads (found at a Texas swap meet) are “my greatest find.” And when he found the Judson vane-style supercharger in California, “I got really excited.”
Once he had the Judson blower, finishing the induction system became Bill’s favorite part of the project. The Sharp aluminum intake is topped with a pair of Type II Stromberg 97s (aftermarket replacements after Ford switched to Holley 94s). Bill figured out how to mount the carbs behind the blower to reduce height. Since the Thickstun air cleaner sat too high, Bill built a custom piece using the Thickstun top and the bottom portion of a Tatterfield, mated by a 2-inch centersection. It sits lower over the carbs and fits a K&N filter. He hand-built the rest of the induction system, super gluing the assembled pieces until Jake Mitchell could weld the aluminum. Bill then ground the welds and polished the parts. After all that, the exhaust system—Fenton headers and glasspack mufflers—was easy. Keith Bright assembled the completed engine. Bill says people called him crazy when he decided to polish the Borg-Warner T5 transmission too.
The project spanned eight years of on-and-off work. Now that it’s done Bill can relax and enjoy the ride, which includes showing off his ’34 at car shows whenever he can. The car’s biggest fan is the previous owner, who definitely does not regret selling it to Bill, and is just as impressed with it as everyone else.
The rare original glovebox...
The rare original glovebox radio has been upgraded with modern electronics. The sound system, including front and rear Alpine speakers, was installed at Bright Built Hot Rods.
This original ’34 clock mirror...
This original ’34 clock mirror is another rare find added to the car.
The rumble seat was finished...
The rumble seat was finished every bit as nice as the interior.