ANNA Key’s 1931 Ford Model A ain’t no show car, but who says it has to be? Besides, that was never the aim. For Anna — a cabinetmaker and shop fitter from Croydon in Victoria — the goal was to get a hot rod and get on the road, simple as that. The thing about this this Model A, too, is it’s real and driven — just like the owner.
This article was first published in Street Machine's Hot Rod #13 magazine, 2014
Did you notice the name? Anna Key. Yeah, it’s made up. The Anna part isn’t, though — that’s her actual first name: “Anna Key is just a nickname because I have a really long Polish last name, and it’s ridiculous,” she laughs. “I came up with Anna Key years ago and now everybody knows me as that.”
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When she first laid eyes on the car in the US it was much how you see it here. The body has been restored and painted burgundy while the guards are a maroon colour — it's a nice touch that some people don't notice
It suits her well because although she says anarchy doesn’t sum her up, there’s wild lawlessness to her in the sense that she’s fiercely independent and headstrong: “I’m a driven person,” she says. “I’m pretty outspoken, I wouldn’t say I’m rude, but people don’t like hearing what comes out of my mouth because it’s the truth.”
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That strong will would become her biggest weapon in her hunt for her perfect car. See, Anna had been part of the rockabilly scene for a while, going to the dances and shows religiously. But it wasn’t enough. “It got boring and bitchy, so I moved away from that and went to more car shows,” she says. The more shows she went to the more she knew this was her thing and turning up in her Subaru just wasn’t cutting it for her: “I just wanted to have my own hot rod so I could go to these shows and be a part of it all.”
She remembers when she first fell in love with Model As. It was years beforehand at the 2007 Victorian Hot Rod show and she didn’t even know what one was, but her then boyfriend pointed out that every car she liked that day was a Model A. It was decided — Anna was a Model A gal.
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She thought about building one and even began looking into buying a cowl. “I knew that would be a lengthy process and because I’m very impatient I thought that I’d get annoyed with it — I just wanted a car that I could drive,” Anna says.
She also thought about importing a rod from the States, but decided against it after hearing of stories of rusted out nightmares, then last year after saving up some dough she made the popular pilgrimage to the US to take in the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender and the Lone Star Round Up in Texas. There was no real plan to buy a car over there but if the opportunity presented itself, she’d snap it up.
It did and she did.
While taking photos of a ’39 Ford at Viva, the owner told her it was for sale. She told him Model As were her thing and of course he knew where she could find one. It was in Boulder City — which isn’t far away from Vegas — so Anna went to take a look.
Kicking it old school with a 1948 Mercury 59A flathead V8 equipped with Stromberg 97 carbies and Offenhauser heads. Anna says she prefers to drive with the bonnet off but
Arriving in Boulder City the Model A was in a showroom and being sold by an agent for the owner. The body was restored and in good shape, and belonged to the chassis it sat on. The only major non-stock things about it was the driveline — it had a 1948 Mercury 59A flathead with triple Stromberg 97 carbies, mated to a three speed manual and a 1940s Mercury diff.
“I was like: ‘FAARRK! This thing is cool!’”
She told them she needed to think about it and went off to Lone Star trying not to think about it. There were no cars that fit the bill for her in Texas, so, calling the agent she told him she wanted the car and then withdrew 13 grand from the bank and made a beeline back to Boulder City with the cash. The deal was done and the car shipped home to Victoria. Anna and her Model A lived happily ever after. Almost.
Piloting the Model A can be pretty intense with the heavy steering, crossply tyres and touchy throttle. Anna is keeping it left-hook because it reminds her of the States every time she drives it
Two days after she had the Model A back home things started to go wrong. Electrical issues were plaguing the car, then brake problems and then the carbies were playing up. But over the following months these bugs were ironed out and then Anna could think about some more exciting changes to make to the Model A.
Anna is a fan of the traditional 50s style rather than the street rodder look and didn’t want to go too radical. All she felt it needed was lowering and new wheels and tyres. Chopping the roof was out of the question — she liked the tall lid. So, in July last year a drop axle was put in the front and the back was brought down by re-setting the rear spring. Steelies replaced the wire wheels and a set of wide white walls completed the look.
Now with all the issues fixed she started driving it again and getting to shows — which was the whole point. She ticked Chopped off last year and then the Kustom Nationals this year. It’s a bit different to her Subaru: “It’s awesome. But I have to prop the seat up so I can reach the pedals and if you hit a bump the car can just wander on its own, so when you’re driving you’re fully tense and your hands are clenched on the steering wheel. You can’t back off the accelerator so over long distances I need to lean on my knee to hold my leg down. I’m pretty sore when I get out,” she laughs.
This is the price rodders happily pay and they wouldn’t have it any other way. “I feel really content — like I’ve accomplished something in my life, to own a rod. When someone says to me: 'Your car is really cool,' it’s a whole level of being accepted by so many people, it’s feeling like you belong somewhere.”
1931 FORD MODEL A TUDOR
Paint: Burgundy with Maroon guards
Type: 239 Mercury 59A
Carb: Triple Stromberg 97s
Box: 3-Speed Mercury
Diff: ’40-’48 Mercury
Front end: Transverse spring
Rear: Re-set original spring
Shocks: So-Cal short shocks (f)
Brakes: 1940 Ford
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Gennie Bare (Smoothies) 16x4.5 (f), 16x6 (r)
Rubber: Firestone 5.50x16 (f), 6.50x16 (r)