I’ve lost count of the years since I started my little Hot Rod project, and it’s still not completed. Just to bring you up to speed on this stalled project, I started out with a 1995 Ford Ranger that was used by D&E Auto Parts for a delivery vehicle that had been sitting for well over a year. It has 200,000-plus on it. When I bought it, all it took was a new battery to get it going, and then I drove the truck home. I took it to my local mechanic, Willie, and the tear down started.
A fair amount of progress was made on the Hot Rod before I called a halt to the project. I acquired a fiberglass 1927 Ford Model T Roadster body, a racing fuel tank, a windshield with stanchions, a Moon Equipment steering wheel, two aluminum bomber seats, a pair of 1950 Pontiac taillights, some 1932 Ford truck commercial headlights, and a fiberglass 1932 radiator shell. Willie and his crew shortened the wheelbase to accommodate the fiberglass body, installed the gas tank, and flipped the brake and clutch pedals so that they could mount to the floor. That was when I started to look carefully at the stance and proportions of the car. Hot Rod guys will tell you, stance is everything, and the way that the original Ford Ranger front suspension made this car look was just off.
I hauled the thing home, stuck it in a shelter, and started a rumination process that has now gone on for several years. I thought I had it all figured out last year, and decided
For 2013, the latest direction for this still born Hot Rod is to cut the front end off it with a plasma cutter, toss the engine and front suspension, and put on a reproduction 1932 Ford front suspension and a straight six cylinder Ford van engine in it. I’ve already got the engine and a new aluminum radiator to go with it. My research says that the Ford Ranger five speed transmission will bolt up to the Ford straight six engine, and the match should work OK. Time will tell. I’ve still got a few days before I pull the trigger on assembling the parts, but right now, I’m convinced this is the way to go.
Even if everything goes as smoothly as possible, this little project is still going to take a long time to complete. I’m OK with that. I rather enjoy the cerebral part of the exercise, and I continue to learn more about Hot rods. I’m guessing that to the outside observer, a Hot Rod is a frivolous toy that gets slapped together under a shade tree in some redneck’s back yard. I have learned that there is a great deal more to building a Hot Rod than that. Just the wheel choices can be mind boggling, then there’s the suspension, the spindles, the wheel bolt pattern, on and on. The peer pressure in the world of Hot Rodding can be daunting depending on the venue where your creation makes it debut. There are some serious purists out there, and the Hot Rod rules of fabrication to some of these guys are buried in decades of tradition. There is, after all, a right way and a wrong way to make a Hot Rod. In fact, I’m almost certain that no matter what I do with mine it will end up offending some purist. I mean, it’s heresy to incorporate a truck frame, a reproduction front end and body with a modern six cylinder engine, not to mention the mixture of a 1927 body with a 1932 front end and radiator shell.
A 1927 Ford body is not a 1932 high boy roadster, even though I’m sort of trying to imply it. The difference between even reproduction ‘27 and ‘32 bodies is substantial, and to the untrained eye, not all that much different. In the end, I don’t give two hoots about what detractors are going to say, I just want it to look right to me even though the components are all wrong. It’s about the experience and the fun of cruising around in something that came from your imagination. Yes, it is true that 27 does not equal 32, in more ways than one, but until I change my mind for the 50th time it is going to have to do for now.
Arlo Mudgett’s Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT FM Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.