WE ALL have that list: that recipe we dream up in our heads of what makes the perfect build. It probably includes timeless combinations, our own styling cues, and more often than not, a hefty dose of ‘unobtanium’. For Northern Californian rodder Brian George, it would appear his recipe hits all those nails on the head, and the ingredients are absolutely drool-worthy.
This article was first published in Street Machine's Hot Rod magazine #19, 2018
Brian spent most of his weekends attending local car shows with his father. They’d chat for hours about what they saw and how they’d build them differently. “One week I saw a chopped Model A on deuce rails with a Hemi in it. I’ve been in love with them ever since,” he says.
Read more: Hand-built 383-cube 1932 Ford roadster
Unfortunately, with the passing of his father, their ideas never came to fruition. However, Brian still wanted to fuel that passion he shared with his dad and set off in search of his own Model A. His first attempt saw a less-than-impressive coupe turn up to his door that would prove too much work for what he had in mind, so the search continued. This time, he landed on a bone-stock, late-’31 roadster from out the back of Gas Monkey Garage.
Read more: Slammed Ford flathead-powered 1940 pick-up
“I think the stocker was at Ben’s shop for 24 hours before the body was off and sitting on ’32 rails,” recalls Brian. He decided that local builder Ben York, who has headed Roseville Rod & Custom (RR&C) for 26 years, would be a no-brainer to help him build his dream Model A, particularly as they’d worked together on an earlier ’47 Ford project.
All the wires and hard lines snake neatly across the length of the car. The springs are wrapped in leather-stitched covers, and the copper details are almost enough to distract you from the Winters quick-change and drool-worthy custom headers
With the intent of building a nice grunty driver, Brian was keen on stuffing in a Hemi, but was conflicted about not powering his Ford with a Ford. Keeping with the traditional hot rod feel, his desire for a flathead V8 would lead to a few conversations with guru Mike Herman from H&H Flatheads, through which he’d learn a simple side-whacker wouldn’t cut it.
“One time he mentioned the Ardun conversion and after some research I was hooked,” Brian explains. “We decided on the direction and added a SCoT blower to the mix; it’s the perfect old-school combo.”
The team at H&H then began to screw together a holy grail combination for Brian’s ultimate roadster. It’s a 284-cube flathead stuffed with Scat crankshaft and rods, Ross pistons, and a custom cam designed by H&H. Sitting atop that is a beautifully polished Ardun overhead conversion kit and a rarer-than-hens'-teeth SCoT supercharger huffing through two brand-new BIG97 Strombergs.
If that’s not lust-inciting enough, the detail work will send you reeling. Every inch of metal is polished or chromed; every accent is copper and brass; every lead and wire is cloth-braided; there’s even copper safety wire on the blower. Custom headers were fabricated by Roseville Rod & Custom and Brian’s own shop, Sinister Diesel, and they give the engine its heavenly signature rumble.
Under the decklid is a simple and elegant boot displaying a leather-strapped fuel tank, two luggage boxes for storage and the battery, and a really neat use of bent hard lines and cloth-wrapped wiring for all the necessities
“Once we got the Ardun back from H&H, we knew we had to step up the rest of the car,” Brian says. This is where RR&C body man Josh Carson came in, because while Brian loves the proportions of a Model A, he wanted a few changes. “I never liked the original lip on the firewall for the hood, so in went a custom firewall that flows nicely into the cowl and Duvall windshield. The side profile had some subtle tweaks to flow with the ’32 chassis and wheel shape but stays mostly true to Model A. Every piece of sheet metal has been reworked and massaged.”
To go along with the restyled Henry tin, Brian added additional rare accents like the E&J Type 20 headlights and a Pines Winterfront grille. With an original being exceedingly hard to come by (and therefore exceedingly expensive), Ben York took it upon himself to hand-fabricate a specced replica grille out of brass. The fins even actuate like an original Pines.
Picking the colour would prove to be the hardest part. As a fan of the timeless Washington Blue, Brian wanted to tweak the colour and make it darker. Joe Vaca and the in-house paint team at RR&C went to work to formulate and lay down a custom PPG mix they dubbed Midnight Blue. The end result is a mirror finish in a mind-bending hue, with that beautiful classic Washington tone in certain light and a near-black appearance at other times. Ben laughingly describes multiple instances of punters at shows being adamant that it’s painted pure black.
The unmistakable bulge of the Ardun OHV conversion makes this Ford flathead V8 the showpiece of the build. It’s stuffed with a bunch of Scat and Ross goodies, while up top sits a SCoT blower sucking through two BIG97 Strombergs
There’s no ‘shiny side up’ on this car, given the undercarriage is as immaculately detailed as the rest. A So-Cal axle and custom leaf packs give the roadster its stance, while a set of refurbed Houdaille shocks soak up the road. There are Wilwood discs hidden inside those Buick finned drums, and the whole thing rolls on a timeless combination of 16-inch Wheel Vintiques steelies and Firestone Deluxe Champion bigs ’n’ littles. Just like the topside, there are details galore under there, from coiled copper fuel lines to leather-wrapped spring packs, and every inch of road-facing blue is cut ’n’ buffed paint.
Backing the Ardun is a Turbo 350 ’box with a tall bent shifter in keeping with the car's traditional stylings. That’s also topped by a Bakelite knob with a 1931 penny from a local Northern Californian mint. It spins a Ford rear end with a polished Winters quick-change jammed in the middle, packing 3.78 gears.
Expert stitching complements the car perfectly. Supple brown leather adorns every inch of the cabin including the steering wheel, and there’s a repurposed binoculars case for a glovebox
Ben at RR&C also fabricated a steering wheel with a great early-Indy look and a custom seat frame. The interior was then stitched up by Dave Putnum of Orangevale, CA, in a classic brown leather that perfectly complements the blue lacquer. Leather-stitched accents adorn the seat rails, tiller and spring packs for a unified style that carries on into the boot. The glovebox is a rewrapped binoculars case, and for added storage, two luggage boxes sit neatly behind the tail-lights.
The unique-looking instrument panel comes out of a ’29 Chandler. It features hand-engraved and painted filigree that has stayed in great condition for nearly 90 years
Then there’s the instrument panel – a beautiful number out of a ’29 Chandler that came to them in near-perfect condition, including the engraved black filigree. Classic Instruments gave the gauges a once-over to ensure accurate readouts at a quick glance.
The entire build took a mere 13 months, but with such a talented crew the end result is breathtaking. “Some of my favourite details were created in the last week of the build,” says Brian. “I’d go by the shop every day and Ben would have some other cool idea. Some go unnoticed, but they all make the car what it is today.”
1931 FORD ROADSTER
Paint: PPG Midnight Blue
Type: 284ci Ford flathead V8
Heads: Ardun OHV
Induction: SCoT supercharger
Carbs: Stromberg BIG97s
Cam: Custom H&H
Exhaust: Custom stainless
Cooling: Walker radiator, replica Pines Winterfront grille
'Box: Turbo 350
Diff: Winters quick-change, 3.78 gears
Axle: So-Cal drilled
Springs: Custom leaf
Shocks: 1940 Houdaille (f & r)
Brakes: Buick finned drums, Wilwood discs (f), So-Cal discs (r)
Rims: Wheel Vintiques 16in steel (f & r)
Rubber: Firestone Deluxe Champion; 4.50-16 (f), 7.50-16 (r)
Caps: 1941 Ford
Dash: 1932 Ford
Instruments: 1929 Chandler
Wheel: Custom Roseville Rod & Custom
Seat: Custom Roseville Rod & Custom
Ben York; Joe; Josh; Ben Sr; Mike; Chris; Randy; Brian and the rest of the crew at Roseville Rod & Custom; Dave Putnum; Sherm’s Custom Plating; Mike at H&H Flatheads; most importantly my dad – he was the one that introduced me to hot rod culture