Butch Bromley, a construction superintendent by trade, had a crazy idea; he wanted to build his own hot rod. Somehow stuck on the notion that a hot rod is different than a street rod, Butch set out to create a car that reeked of tradition, incorporated a drag race atmosphere, functioned on the street, flat got with the program, and looked just plain bad.

In 1957, at around the age of 10, Butch was sitting on his grandma’s front porch in Hayward, California, when a fenderless ’29 sedan rolled by and turned uphill with a bit of drama, racing the engine and scorching the tires. That was it—another perfectly good child ruined by what would become a lifelong obsession with hot rods!

Butch’s son, Cody, probably heard the story of the car that captured his father’s imagination many times. Cody did what any decent child should do for his father; he went out and located, in someone’s backyard, a complete, albeit very rusty, ’29 Ford Tudor sedan. Butch, in true persuasive fashion, convinced the sedan owner to swap the ’29 for a ’78 Chevy 4x4 pickup truck. The car was complete but Butch, true to his childhood inspiration, elected to store the bulk of the car and use only the body. For the next three-and-a-half years, building the ’29 would consume the bulk of the Bromley family’s time.

Fabricating a chassis was the major challenge facing the Bromley crew. Butch put the chassis together himself and made sure, ever safety conscious, that the cage met NHRA specs. A diligent effort was made to keep the car “real.” For instance, all of the welds were left unground. In Butch’s world, hot rods are basic, clean, and tough looking. No doubt that the 400hp small-block is more than enough for major thrills in such a light car. It kind of makes you wonder how the visibility would be looking through the passenger’s window as you launch sideways and the windowless cabin fills with tire smoke.

Butch designed and assembled the mild steel, 1-5/8-inch, 0.134-wall tubing chassis, taking care to keep everything plumb, level, and square. The result is that the doors close just as they should. Working from centerline benchmarks, Butch TIG-welded the frame. He says it took a while to do it, but he really became a pretty competent TIG welder in the process. Who says that hot rodding isn’t educational? The front end, steering box, body mounts, and seatbelt mounts are all included in his chassis creation. He also narrowed the Ford 9-inch. All of the fabrication was done using a mandrel tubing bender, tube notcher, and welder. With all of that practice, no wonder he left those beautiful welds unground.

Suspension components include a suicide front end with a drilled 4-inch dropped front axle from Speedway, with a Competition Engineering four-link and Jerry Bickel Race Cars panhard bar in the back. Rear shocks and springs are from QA1. Butch built his own front friction-style shocks. Brakes are 12-inch discs up front, 11-inch discs in the rear.

In the spirit of savoring the build experience, Butch assembled the 350 small-block himself; machine work was done by H&H Machine and John DeJong of Paradise, California. With a COMP cam inside, and those six thirsty-looking 97s up top, the ever-reliable GM power source makes more than enough horsepower for any sane man’s appetite. Butch fabricated the headers using a Schoenfeld kit, running the tubes first into a merge collector and then into the big collectors that do so much to add the drag race feel. Mufflers? Hah! Get over it.

Hooking the power to the tires is accomplished with what has become a traditional solution: a GM 350 transmission. This one was built by Daryl’s Transmission in Paradise dialed in with a B&M Street Bandit shifter and a shift kit. Drive Line Service in Sacramento made the one-off driveshaft. The 9-inch features 4.11:1 gears with limited slip.

The rusty old body has been reclaimed and looks very straight. True to his do-it-yourself personality, Butch chopped the top a whopping 4 inches. The chop is the only body modification; other than that and the fuel tank relocation, it is just the way ol’ Henry made it. Well, almost the way he made it. Inside the cockpit, little is hidden by unnecessary upholstery. Of course, Butch did all the woodwork himself. Check the cool little race car switch panel above the driver. Butch says his only regret is that he does not employ a vintage tach. He is looking for one, however.

The headlights came with the car, but are obviously not Model A units. They are listed as “unknown origin.” The taillights were pirated from a ’48 Chevy. John Rodriguez of Marysville, California, did the chrome. Higgins Custom Upholstery in Chico, California, provided the top. The windshield is the only glass in the car. A/C is au naturel. Nick Kniezic of Paradise painted the sedan, with pinstriping ably accomplished by Cody.

According to Butch, credit for the biggest contribution to the project rightfully goes to Lloyd Knifong of Platinum Powder Coating for his efforts to finalize the finish by powdercoating “virtually every component that could withstand the 400-degree temperatures in Lloyd’s ovens!”

So, Butch Bromley has truly done the “real” hot rod thing: he dreamed it, he built it, and he drives it. Much should be made of the fact that he did all of this with the support of his wife, Susie, whose patience and great cooking were instrumental to his success—and with the help of his sons, Beau and Cody. Hot rodding really can be a family hobby, or should we say obsession?

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