Every one of us can see the ultimate hot rod in our mind’s eye. Only Crawford Byxbee can hear his. It’s a verse from a song you probably know. Here, sing along with us: “My four-speed, dual-quad Positraction four-oh-nine.”
But Crawford’s car differs from the one that inspired the Beach Boys half a century ago. It’s not an Impala or a Bel Air—it’s not even a Chevrolet for that matter. Nor is it truly a Ford, despite what its grille, cowl, doors, and bed imply.
Like its verse-sake, the 409—now...
Like its verse-sake, the 409—now 415—wears a Chevrolet manifold and AFB-style carburetors. Crawford Byxbee taught himself to weld on the headers. Note how the downtube chases back up the rear pipe and down the inside of the frame.
In fact his car doesn’t sit well with any categorization. It’s one part parts hauler, another part roadster, a touch of lakes racer, a little bit of dirt tracker, and a whole bunch of muscle car. Yet it’s all hot rod.
As any proper hot rod project should this one began as an engine, the largest displacement W-series Chevrolet offered to the public. “I always thought the 409 was the ultimate in nostalgia muscle motor,” he begins. “In the fall of 2006, I came across a 409 with my name on it.”
Prior to the purchase, Burt’s Auto in Colorado Springs, Colorado, machined its passenger-car 409 block and crank. Colorado’s Jack Gibbs built the engine as a pump-friendly version of the ’63 425-horse model. He had Ross Racing Pistons machine a set of slugs with larger chamber volumes. He pinned them to Precision Engine Parts’ I-beam connecting rods and topped the engine with a pair of ’65 pickup heads. Only before they went on they got machined for oversized stainless valves.
Post Falls’ Bruce Oliver trimmed...
Post Falls’ Bruce Oliver trimmed a modified Glide bench with black leatherette and red piping. Mike Maris made the aluminum door panels, dimpling them for flat-head fasteners. RJS makes the aircraft-style, latch-type belts.
Iskenderian Cams’ version of GM’s 425hp solid-tappet cam and COMP Cams’ roller rockers dictate their opening events. Crawford fulfilled the dual-quad part of the verse with a genuine Chevrolet manifold and Edelbrock’s versions of Carter’s venerable 500-cfm AFB carburetors. A Mallory Unilite distributor and 7mm wires light the fire.
He addressed the four-speed part of the verse with a transmission prepped by Tequesta, Florida’s gear guru, Paul Cangialosi. He used an Auto Gear M22W transmission, the company’s wide-ratio version of Muncie’s legendary M22, aka the Rock Crusher, due to the howl its low-pitch gears make.
Crawford found a home for that powertrain in a pinched Total Cost Involved Engineering chassis. He had it stretched 3 inches to accommodate the bigger engine and a second pedal installed to accommodate the clutch.
The T&F top-mount shifter...
The T&F top-mount shifter approximates the tower position of early Ford gearboxes. Speedway Motors’ cast panel sports Auto Meter Antique Beige dials. An ididit steering column mounts Vintique’s 15-inch version of the ’40 Ford wheel.
Technically it’s impossible for Crawford’s car to fulfill the Positraction part of the verse; Speedway Engineering based the Super Max quick-change axle on Ford’s design yet Positraction is a GM trademark. However, the axle does have a limited-slip gear carrier, which is what the Positraction really is. That axle links to the chassis by way of a Total Cost Involved four-bar suspension, Panhard bar, and All American coilover dampers.
The front suspension consists of the company’s hairpins and Panhard bar, a Super Bell I-beam axle, Pete & Jakes dampers, and a Unisteer steering rack. Wilwood 10-3/4-inch-diameter rotors and four-piston calipers on the front axle and Ford 11-inch-diameter drums on the rear promise to deliver this juggernaut from high speeds.
Rather than labor to notch...
Rather than labor to notch a Deuce tank only to have it hide the quick-change axle, Crawford mounted a universal aluminum one in the bed. Fuel economy he describes as, “… less than spectacular” inspired the 16-gallon capacity.
Crawford fabricated the 1-3/4-inch primary lakes-style headers and the Bassani-baffled 2-1/4-inch-diameter pipes that they feed. At lower speeds a Cooling Components’ 16-inch-diameter fan pulls air through a Walker radiator.
His body choice was a rather inspired one. “It all started back in 1960 when I got my first car,” he says. “My dad advanced me most of the $160 for a ’29 Ford roadster pickup.” He rebuilt it several times, hopping up its engine along the way.
But typical for anyone who drove one when they were plentiful, Crawford can no longer fit so well in a Model A roadster pickup. Progression suggests that a Deuce cab would do but according to the V-8 Club of America the open ’32 cab was hardly more than a modestly revised ’31. Not that it mattered; as Crawford found out Budd made fewer than 600 B-76 open-cab pickup bodies for Ford in 1932, making them both rare and valuable.
He did find solace in Brookville’s version. Unlike Ford, the company builds it using the conventional roadster cowl and doors. The unique cab backside yields as much interior room as a conventional roadster body, basically 9 inches longer than a real ’32 open-cab pickup.
Naturally, the body fits the Deuce chassis. The bed, as Crawford discovered, is a different story. “Brookville says that the bed fits a ’32 frame, but what it didn’t make clear is that it fits Brookville’s ’32 frame.” Naturally chassis modifications followed.
But it was in those challenges that Crawford realized his creative genius. For example, the lack of space for a conventional battery inspired him to mount two thin 6V batteries behind the seat. Making the entire exhaust system proved challenging but it offered him the opportunity to learn to TIG weld and to route the downpipes along rearmost primaries and tuck the entire exhaust system within the framerails. “This makes things pretty busy near the brake and clutch cylinders but it’s manageable,” he notes.
Steve Gerrig and Crawford shot the grille shell, body, and bed in PPG DP90LF primer in Crawford’s garage, “[A] big mistake if you value your garage,” he cautions. They shot the details—the firewall, engine, wheels, and chassis parts—in single-stage PPG Viper Red. Crawford lit the car with Bob Drake’s version of Arrow headlights and ’37 Ford taillights.
Idaho can get chilly at night, even during the summer, so Crawford mounted a Vintage Air heater on the firewall. He and Mike Maris wired the car with an American Autowire harness. So he wouldn’t have to work upside-down and backward Crawford attached the fuse panel on a magnetic mount that sticks to the firewall. “It cost nothing and allows me to take it out in 15 seconds,” he boasts.
“This was quite an experience,” Crawford admits, who’d until this one tinkered with and helped build other cars. “With enough welding wire and grinding wheels even an amateur can do this,” he concludes. “… it just takes a long time and a good attitude.” And we say it also took a good mind’s eye to see this project through even if it was his ear that inspired him. She’s real fine, his four-oh-nine.
Crawford chose a small Denso...
Crawford chose a small Denso alternator from a Kubota tractor and made brackets to fasten it low on the engine. “It only puts out something like 40 amps but it is more than enough for my no-frills car,” he says.
Though hidden by Moon spun-aluminum...
Though hidden by Moon spun-aluminum wheel discs, the 15x5 and 16x8 wheels are actually ’40 Ford-style Gennies by Wheel Vintiques. They wear Firestone 5.00-15 ribbed tires and 8.90-16 blocks.
Even wide-ratio four-speed...
Even wide-ratio four-speed transmissions behind torque-happy engines demand compromise: short gears for acceleration or tall ones for highway speed. Speedway Engineering’s Super Max quick-change axle at least makes those choices quick and easy.