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Home-built 1929 Model A Ford roadster

By Geoff Seddon | Photos: Chris Thorogood, 25 Mar 2020 Features

Home-built 1929 Model A Ford roadster

Kelly Kendall has spent half her young life building herself a show and go, real-steel roadster

NOT only does Kelly Kendall’s all-steel Model A roadster look like a traditional hot rod, it was built like one too — by its owner over a long period from mostly scrounged parts. It’s as far from a modern chequebook build as it’s possible to get.

This article was first published in Street Machine's Hot Rod magazine #13, 2014

Ford Model A Roadster onroad

She and her dad, well-known Bay Rodder Kevin Kendall, started accumulating parts for the rod when Kelly was 12 years old. At 23, she’s spent almost half her life building and now enjoying her beautiful Model A roadster.

Read next: Ford Model A chassis with Roof OHV four-banger

Ford Model A roadster side

“I grew up with hot rods,” Kelly says. “Dad built his first one when he was 21 and joined Bay Rodders in the early 80s. He’s had a car in every Victorian Hot Rod Show for the last 30 years. So I’ve always been into it.

“I went for a ride in Sarah Dousett’s purple A roadster when I was eight and told Dad I would like one! Then I met Colleen Hardy, who had a lemon A roadster. She took me for a cruise when I was about 12. Dad already had a cowl and a chassis so we started collecting parts from there, always going to swap meets at the crack of dawn.”

Read next: 1960s-style Ford Model A Tudor

Ford Model A roadster front

And it’s Kelly’s car, let’s be sure about that, not one built for by a doting father for a pampered daughter. Every call on the roadster, styling and mechanical, was Kelly’s, as are most of the welds on the body. She’s been doing that for a while too.

Read next: 1930 Ford Model A roadster

ford model a

“Dad is a fitter and turner by trade. I was watching him welding one day and asked, can I have a go? So he started teaching me to weld and use the lathe when I was 12.

“Everything about the roadster was my decision, from the rims to the gauge cluster. I knew I wanted purple paint with white trim and Billet Specialities wheels. In my mind, I wanted the style as original as I could.”

Ford Model A rumble seat

The rumble seat has even been fitted with seatbelts. Could there be little hot rodders in the  not too distant future?

By 2006, when Kelly was 16 and working full-time as an apprentice horticulturalist, they had accumulated enough stuff to start the build proper in the old man’s shed. It would take them more than six years, the team being bolstered since 2009 by Kelly’s boyfriend Dain Souter.

ford model a grille

The solid-beam front end is as traditional as they come, with a Rod Tech reverse-eye transverse spring (with urethane separators) on a stainless-steel four-bar damped by chrome-plated Pete and Jake’s shock absorbers. Rigidity is provided by a ‘dead perch’ as opposed to the more common Panhard bar.

Equally old school is sourcing much of the rest of it cheaply from the wreckers, modifying stuff to fit and then detailing the heck out of it. You’d never know you were looking at an early Mazda steering box and column, XF Falcon discs, VS Commodore calipers and an XB master cylinder. Home-made stainless steel brake lines and ADR-compliant wire braided hoses from Brakes n More hook it all up.

ford model a wheel

The rear is a drum-braked Ford nine-inch located by a stainless-steel four-bar set-up with panhard bar and Aldan coil-overs. Like the engine crankcase, gearbox and so much else, the diff housing was filed, ground and smoothed before painting. In total, it was a massive never-ending dirty job and a big lesson in the virtue of patience.

“Dad was great,” Kelly says. “He said I had to learn to walk away, then come back.”

ford model a tail light

The body was an equally laborious task. Relying mostly on original 80-year-old tin, there were plenty of surprises in store. The list of body mods is extensive and subtle, all of them executed in the shed by Team Kendall. They include new door skins incorporating swage lines to match the body; windscreen chopped by two inches, with home-made brass frame; recessed firewall; smooth flat steel floor; rear guard swage narrowed to match the running boards; and a pair of tear-drops embossed into the rear guards to accept the taillights. The original front-mounted fuel tank now houses the heater, windscreen washers and washer tank, with drop-down panels hiding the audio head unit, a glove box, and ignition and heater controls.

ford model a engine

Dandy Engines screwed together the fairly mild 350. It's built for cruisin' not for bruisin'

The iPod-compatible Clarion system by Trav’s Hotrod Radios gets plenty of use cruising Victorian rod runs — “I always listen to Pink, much to Dain’s disgust” — while the real fuel tank is down the back, fed by a custom filler in the rear upper panel.

Mark Windsor lent a hand laying on the Passion Purple Pearl from House of Kolor. “We started painting the rod in the shed at home, just the dash, engine and trans, but realised time was running out for the unveiling at Summernats. So we borrowed a paint booth over Christmas from Cameron Gollings in Braeside.”

ford model a engine

Kelly was no great fan of the ’29’s dash bezel. Wanting to retain as much of the 1929 Ford styling as she could, she decided to fill in the original cluster and insert six white-faced Classic Instrument gauges. Steering wheel is by Billet Specialties on an owner-built boss; the Mazda collapsible steering column is sheathed in her own stainless-steel collapsible cover, with the blinker and wiper stalks also reproduced in stainless. Dain pitched in to help Kelly with the aluminium door and kick panels, and the timber seat backs and bases with lockable drawers underneath.

ford model a interior

The Billet Specialties wheel sits atop  a collapsible Mazda column sporting a stainless cover

One very modern touch is that the seats are heated, as on many modern European cars and just the ticket for driving an open hot rod in winter! Trim is by Mickz Motor Trimming in Pakenham, in white leather and plush grey carpet. “He was great,” Kelly says; with Summernats looming, Mick was very flexible in delivering a fantastic job within a tight timeframe.

ford model a gauges

The rod is a cruiser, not a bruiser, despite the twin four barrels sitting high on an Edelbrock manifold. “I just like the look of twin carbies,” Kelly says, no doubt influenced by Dad’s ’36 roadster. “Even now, we’re still fiddling around with them.” Engine is a 350 small-block sourced from a fellow Bay Rodders member and built by Lou Iudica of Dandy Engines in Carrum Downs, and is good for 330hp at the flywheel. Kelly built her own radiator top and bottom tanks to suit a Supa-Trik Radiators core. Jet-Hot coated extractors are by local hot rodder Dave Hall, while the exhausts were home-built in stainless steel with Xforce mufflers.

ford model a dash

Storage space is at a premium in a roadster, so this hideaway stereo and glovebox is a great ide

The gearbox is a GM Turbo 700R reconditioned by Ian Sinclair and mated to a 2200rpm stallie from Pro Converters in Dandenong. The ’box was filed and ground, smoothed and painted when disaster struck at the last minute.

ford model a shifter

“Dad and Dain were bolting the auto to the motor, and Dain was tightening one of the bolts when there was a big crack and a 3in piece of the bell housing broke off. We think the torque converter wasn’t lined up properly. So while Dain was sleeping in the doghouse, Ian took all the internals out and gave it to another club member to weld up. It was all repaired, repainted and installed within a week.”

ford model a dash

It's the little things. The ignition switch is hidden away until required to tidy up the dash

Kelly’s ’29 was unveiled in the Top 60 at Summernats in 2013 and has won numerous trophies at rod runs and shows since. It was a Meguiar’s Showcar Superstar finalist in 2013 and will be so again this year. Kelly’s plan is to show the car for a few more years, towed behind a big-block 1965 F100 she and Dain are close to finishing. She enjoys the travelling, usually arriving at shows early and leaving late to take in the sights.

ford model a build

The two main men in Kelly's life, her dad and Dain, chip in

The future of hot rodding is in good hands. Dain is the son of Bay Rodders founding member Lennie Souter and gets around in an orange T-model roadster. He and Kelly have known each other all their lives and seem destined to follow in their fathers’ footsteps.

“Dain is awesome!” Kelly laughs. “He just told me to say that while I make him polish my wheels! Seriously he’s my ideas man and is very positive and supportive.”

IN DETAIL:

ford model a chassis

A. Hot rods should have plenty of carbies. Kelly's doesn't disappoint with two 500cfm Edelbrock four-barrels on the 350.

B. The combination of paint, chrome and polish makes for a stunning chassis.

C. Styled off the classic Halibrand Sprint of the 60s, Billet Specialties Legacy rims are a modern take in billet aluminium.

 

Ford Model A chassis

A. The Dave Hall extractors were Jet-Hot coated while the stainless pipes and Xforce mufflers were polished to a mirror shine.

B. Aldan coil-overs help smooth out the bumps in the lightweight roadster and look the goods too.

C. The 9-inch features 3.25 gears and an LSD centre and is also bathed in HOK Passion Purple.

D. With parallel four-bars in the rear, a Panhard bar is required to locate the diff laterally and take out any side-to-side movement.

E. Not surprisingly, the paint and detailing on the chassis is just as nice as the top side of the car.

F. There are over 300 machined rings in the engine bay and on the transmission alone,” says Kelly.

Kelly Kendall

1929 MODEL A FORD
KELLY KENDALL

Colour: HOK Passion Purple

ENGINE
Type: Small-block Chev V8
Capacity: 350ci
Builder: Dandy Engines
Heads: Double hump fuellies
Inlet manifold: Edelbrock
Carburettors: Twin 500cfm four-barrel
Camshaft: Hydraulic
Pistons: Stock, 30-thou over
Cooling: Owner-built tanks, Supa-Trik core, 16in thermo fan
Ignition: HEI with ICE 10mm leads in ball-milled billet holders
Exhaust: Extractors by Dave Hall, Jet-Hot coated; stainless pipes with Xforce mufflers

TRANSMISSION
Gearbox: GM Turbo 700R
Builder: Ian Sinclair
Stall: 2200rpm, Pro Converters
Tailshaft: Awesome Tailshafts
Diff: Ford nine-inch, 3.25:1 gears, 28-spline axles, LSD

SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Solid axle with Rod-Tech transverse spring with dead perch; stainless four bar; Pete and Jakes shocks
Rear: Four-bar with Aldan coil-overs and panhard bar
Brakes: VS calipers on XF rotors (f); Ford drums (r); XB master cylinder
Steering: Mazda box and column

WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Billet Specialties Legacy; 15x6in (f) and 15x8in (r)
Tyres: Nankang; 185/65 (f) and 235/75 (r)

SPECIAL THANKS
Dad and Dain; Ed Narkiewicz (blasting and powder coating); Vinnies (chrome); Mickz Motor Trimming; Mark Donald Auto Electrics; Cameron Gollings; Steve and Kathleen Alldrick; Mark Windsor; Ian Sinclair; Sasha Shannon; step-mum Julie for drinks and meal

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