My First Hot Rod
By Dave Brackett
In November of 1959, I was a junior in high school in Southern California. I had my drivers license for a year or so, and had been riding a Cushman and then a Lambretta motor scooter. The urge to get a car, especially a hot rod, was foremost on my mind. I found a 1931 Model A coupe with a 48' Ford flathead motor. It was fairly complete and ran, but no upholstery or floorboards. I paid $150 for it and drove it home sitting on a milk crate with feet on the door sill and tranny.
I really didn't know much about cars, but I was mechanically minded and my father had lots of tools. First, I got a seat frame and mounted that and built plywood floor boards. The rag top portion of the roof was all ripped up, so I decided to cover that over with sheetmetal. At this time, I could not weld, so I got some sheetmetal and hand formed a top and decided to nail it on. The oak frame was good, so I drilled holes through my roof panel and the original body just slightly smaller than the nails, and put 1 inch long nails about every 1/2 inch all around the top. I put body putty over that and primed the roof. I had the car over four years and it never cracked.
I could not afford to have any work done, so I learned to do everything myself. I started with body work, watched friends who did that, and copied their abilities. When that was done, I painted the car purple with lacquer, and was now ready for upholstery. Most people in Southern California went to Mexico to get upholstery done, but I decided to do it myself. My mom was a good seamstress and showed my how to sew. After breaking her sewing machine trying to sew six layers of naugahyde, I finally finished a tuck and roll seat. It was so much fun, I made a tuck and roll dash, running boards and even a tuck and roll cover for the rear end banjo. Since my car had a rumble seat, I finished that too.
Now, the car looked nice, but I needed to attack the mechanical items. I added finned aluminium heads, a manafold with four Stromberg 97's and added chromed accesories under the hood. I had been taking welding in school, and had no bumpers for the car, so I made custom nerf bars, painted them gold and installed them.
My welding skills had increased, so I built a set of headers and when installing them, decided to make eight drag pipes. It looked cool, and I don't remember anyone else with eight drag pipes in the early 60's.
I was ready to cruise, so in August of 1961, I went to our local drive in, called "Hillside", and promptly blew the tranny. This car still had the 39' Ford trans and torquetube rear end. I learned to be more gentle with that old stuff after that.
When I got the car, it had a dropped front axle, but the trend was changing to raise up the front of the car. I asked my dad to bring home some tubing from his work, and I made axle bosses in the school machine shop, and welded up a straight tube axle and wishbones. The car looked great with the front high, so I left on my first cruise. I got about two blocks from home and the axle bent, the tow truck arrived and took me home. My dad had brought me pipe, which was too soft for an axle, so I got seamless tubing and redid the axle. All was fine.
I had started working in a gas station and now had a little money for the car. I built a 324 cubic inch flathead motor and installed that, probably not a good idea. That big a motor with the valve design of a flathead, could really never run that great. I also wanted a different carb setup, so I built a ram log type intake manafold for six Stromberg 97' carbs. It worked well, and I had added exhaust pipes off the heat riser ports to help get rid of exhaust, that helped a lot. I only drag raced it once, it had high rear end gears, but ran 114 MPH, with lowsy et's.
I really enjoyed having a hot rod, It made me popular with girls and I always had someone to join me when I went cruising. My favorite cruise was to Tiny Naylor's in Hollywood, and stop at Harvey's Broiler on the way home. Those were great days, going to the drive in movies, and a little street racing. Most hot rods were daily drivers and we took them everywhere, going to the beach was a common happening. I had a rack to put surf boards on the roof.
With the Model A finished, I wanted to start something new. Building hot rods was great fun and kept me out of trouble. I was always happy that I took up cars as a hobby, because I never took up smoking or drinking so I would have money for my cars. I had started a 1923 "T" bucket and needed money to finish that, so in August of 1963, I sold the coupe for $600.00. I have built many great hot rods, but will always remember the first. What a fun time in my life.