Just the Facts
Owner: Bruce Leven
It's pretty hard to keep reinventing yourself when people believe you've already reached perfection, but that's what perfectionists do: they just keep refining what they do. And it's especially hard to achieve perfection in the world of hot rodding because, as subjective as hot rods are, it would be hard to define what perfection actually is.
He also fab'd the shifter, which he topped with a knob that features the reverse of a Brit
But the Model A coupe pictured here is the seventh vehicle Jeff Eischen has created since his first (a 1929 roadster pickup) was featured in a STREET RODDER Garage Scene article in January of 2007. He's built a Model A highboy tub (featured in the Feb. '08 issue), a 1923 T modified (featured in June '09), a '32 roadster pickup (in the Aug. '09 issue), a '32 highboy roadster (a Top 100 winner in July '09), and reworked an old Model A coupe that once belonged to Boyd Coddington (from the Aug. '11 issue).
What those cars (and this one, too) typically have in common is the color (they're all painted black), most have a coffee-colored interior, unique engines (Eischen has used both older Ford and Chevy powerplants but also a Model B motor topped with a Miller head), sections of exposed transmissions in the cockpit, and many, many handmade parts, from steering wheels to Pitman arms.
Under the trunklid is the 14-gallon gas tank Eischen made, along with more of the German s
You might think this would be pretty typical fare for some of the more aggressive hot rod shops, but Eischen does this work by himself, out in his home garage at the end of his driveway in Plain City, Ohio. But he didn't stumble into car building—he's been doing that all his life. Out of high school he was building an SCCA production car and soon an IMSA GTU racer. That led to a GTP car and team trips to Sebring and 24 hours of Daytona. Then there was the stint with the CART Indy team that came with an Indy 500 win, which was followed up with some Indy Light championships. So you could say he knows his way around the fabrication table.
But even though Eischen is officially retired, he's been in the hot rod hobby for the past 10 years, and the succession of cars that have rolled out of his shop are just design exercises from a guy who just can't stop thinking about how to build a better mousetrap! Sometimes the cars are his until he sells them (sometimes that's while he's building them), while others are commission works, with the buyers already well aware of the type of car they'll be getting.
For his latest project, a 1929 Ford Model A coupe, Eischen had already designed the car and found a body, and he'd begun building another masterpiece. During the early stages of the project, Eischen got a call from Bruce Leven, whom he'd originally met back when he was racing. (He raced SCCA Trans Am, IMSA GT and GTP and, as a driver/owner of a Porsche 935, Bruce won 12 Hours of Sebring back in 1981.)
The flip-top gas cap is pretty unique, with two inlets side-by-side.
Bruce had seen the article in STREET RODDER on the Model A coupe Eischen had reworked and tracked Eischen down. After getting reacquainted, he told Eischen about a unique four-banger engine he had that was being built at Shaver Specialties Racing Engines. Over the next month the two talked often, and eventually Bruce convinced Eischen to put his banger in the 1929, and then eventually took over the project with the agreement that Eischen would finish it for him. With his racing background, Bruce definitely had input on how the car should be built, but he knew letting Eischen do his thing would yield an exceptional vehicle.
Eischen had found the Model A in North Dakota, and it was in poor shape. He started the project the way he does most of his cars: on the computer. Using CAD illustrations, Eischen maps out everything he'll need to make ahead of time. For this coupe, that meant designing a template from which he'd build the chassis. He sent the template to Pinkee's Rod Shop in Colorado, where Eric Peratt made a set of '32 'rails to his specs that were only 4-1/2 inches tall (rather than the stock 6 inches) and allowed for the body to sit flat on top, with the proper kick in the rear, and modified for the 1928-29 cowl.
Vintage Precision makes these 12-inch, cast 356 aluminum brake drums for Model As. They're
Borrowed from a '60s-era Volkswagen, the pop-out side glass allows for some great ventilat
Eischen made the entire exhaust system, including the headers, and mufflers. A Joe Hunt ma
Peratt also provided the crossmembers and X-member, and shipped everything to Eischen, who assembled it in his garage. With a wheelbase of 108 inches, Eischen built up the roller with his own rear torsion bar design (using part designs he had Steve Moal mill for him), a Winters quick-change rear (4.11:1), and a set of his own Panhard bar and 42-inch ladder bars. Eischen also installed a one-off torsion bar front suspension using parts from Steve Moal and some of his own design. Vintage Koni shocks are used, and the finned aluminum 12-inch brake drums come from Vintage Precision. The magnesium wheels are 16x6 and 18x6 true knock-offs from Vintage Engineering, wrapped in Excelsior 550 and 700 hides.
The 12-valve powerplant for this coupe is just as unique as the rest of the car. It's a 2012 aluminum Donovan motor, built by Dan Brewer at Shavers Specialties in Torrance, California. It has a displacement of 200 inches, and is equipped with a Crower crank, Carrillo rods, JE pistons, and a Bill Stipe camshaft.
The large-face "Police Special" gauges were designed by the owner but manufactured by Clas
The engine also sports a Crawford four-port head outfitted with Crawford and Donovan parts, and topped with an intake manifold made by George Shavers for the FAST fuel-injection system. The head features two intake valves in the chamber per cylinder, and uses the stock exhaust valve in the block, creating a three valve per cylinder engine. Eischen finished off the top of the engine with an air cleaner he fabricated, along with his own headers, exhaust, and mufflers. It's a lot of work to produce only 119 hp, but Bruce appreciates the uniqueness of the powerplant more than its dyno numbers and, besides, he owns other cars if he wants to go stupid-fast. A TREMEC T5 trans, coupled to a Ford 8N tractor clutch and an aluminum flywheel, connects to a Coleman Performance aluminum driveshaft.
The Model A body received a fair amount of custom work, too, starting with a chop job that took out 3 inches, but only an inch through the window and 2 inches below it. That's because Eischen didn't want to end up with a mail-slot rear window. The body also incorporates double bubbles—the twin humps riveted to the filled roof—that were used extensively in racing by companies such as Abarth and Zagato in the '50s, but perhaps most notably by American Dan Gurney in the '60s so his helmet would fit inside his low-profile GT40 race car. The bubbles were Bruce's idea, and Eischen had to be convinced to install them, but he kinda likes them now. The rear side windows, usually fixed in Model As, now operate as a pop out, similar to early '60s Volkswagen sedans.
Eischen also made his own door handles, rear nerf (which follows the shape of the body), and installed an exterior, race-type gas filler cap that leads to a 14-gallon tank he made for the vehicle. Petar Brown, who lives in the same town as Eischen, was called in to do the body- and paintwork, and he covered the car in Eischen's favorite PPG hue: black. A vintage taillight cluster, Greening headlights, and leather tie-down straps for the trunk and hood were also made for the project.
A 200-inch aluminum Donovan provides the base for the motor, which was built by Dan Brewer
Inside the cab, more of Eischen's expertise in fabrication is evident with the aluminum steering column that tilts via a fixture he made. The wood steering wheel is a three-spoke Jaguar XKE unit, and the wood's color works well with the tone of the leather used by Robert McCarter to cover the interior. A simple sliding knob raises and lowers the door glass, and drilled-out brake, clutch, and gas pedals lend a race car look to the inside.
Eischen also made a pair of aluminum seats that are reminiscent of bomber seats, but these are painted black and lined with more leather. German square-weave carpet with leather piping was used, and wraps around a portion of the exposed TREMEC transmission. The dash is unique, too, and incorporates a milled aluminum insert for the Police Special gauges that were designed by Bruce and built at Classic Instruments. A row of aircraft-type breakers run under the gauges and take the place of a traditional fuse panel and the system was designed on AutoCAD by Eischen.
Everywhere you look in the coupe's interior there is something neat to look at! Jeff Eisch
After the coupe debuted at the Grand National Roadster Show, it could now come home to a garage full of other unique vehicles (Bruce was the recipient of STREET RODDER's Street Rod of the Year for his track-nose, Flathead-powered 1929 Ford roadster in 2003). He owns four 1929 Fords, a '55 Studebaker with a Clipper V-8 engine topped with Packard Caribbean dual quads, as well a Porsche 935, and a pair of 962s (you might say Bruce's collection is a bit eclectic). He likes odd cars and odd powerplants, but really appreciates quality craftsmanship, which is why he likes the coupe Eischen built so much.
It's been said before: any fool can cut up a car and go overboard with a concept, but it takes an artist to go the simple and understated route. With each of the cars Eischen has created he's progressed with his mechanically themed designs, but never outside the old "form follows function" premise. Eischen says there are more vehicles to come, and we're all excited to see what comes next.
Through the years the Pitman arm designs Eischen has made for his cars have gotten better
Below the Schroeder steering box are the gas, brake, and clutch pedals that have been swis
Vintage Koni shocks are used with the torsion bar suspension system Eischen came up with,