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Mark Guggenmo's 1929 Model A Survivor

Mark Guggenmo's 1929 Model A Survivor


Seeking out survivor hot rods and customs to photoraph has become a bit of an obsession over the years, an obsession that has introduced me to many amazing car clubs, collector, and builders. One such car club is the Cheaters out of Milwaukee, WI who turned me onto Mark Guggenmos. Mark, I was told, had an old show coupe tucked away that was only known to come out every once in a blue moon. I was intrigued, and I knew if the Cheaters thought the coupe was would be. I had to know more.

I made contact with Mark, then, made the 4 hour drive to his South Milwaukee home. When Mark rolled the heavily chopped and channeled coupe out of his garage, I was blown away. Unfortunately a stack up of untimely circumstances prevented me from getting the wild coupe in front of my lense that day. It was not until late that summer at the Symco Shakedown that I would get my chance. In the end it was worth the wait as the coupe blended in perfectly with the show's beautiful backdrop making for a very fun photo shoot.

Mark first laid eyes on his coupe 30 years ago while attending a car show in Illinois with a friend. A perfectly synchronized "WOW" was expressed from Mark and his buddy when they spied the over the top Model A as it entered the show grounds. After approaching the owner of the wild coupe and chatting with him about it, the coupe owner made an offer to trade it for the car Mark's buddy had brought to the show, but he couldn't do it. Now that Mark knew the coupe owner was willing to part with the old show piece, he stepped up and made a cash deal on the coupe, and took delivery of it the following weekend.

Not much was known about the history of the coupe at the time...only what could be physically seen.  The coupe was a 29, but it had a 32 roof, including the non-sun visor windshield the coupe a very unique profile. Another standout feature about the roof is the fiberglass ribs that run over the top of it...not only for their physical appearance, but due to the fact that very few people were working with fiberglass, or even had access to it at the time. The body was chopped 5" and channeled 6" over a radically Z'd model A frame. The coupe's ride height is static, and crazy nearly looks un-drivable. Motivation comes in the form of an Olds 371 engine linked to a 53 Olds trans and rear end. The painted red block stands out brilliantly against the still presentable pearl white paint of the body. Spent exhaust exits through hand built zoomies, or directed out back if plugs are installed in the zoomie pipes.

Mark stated the plugs were in the zoomie pipes when he purchased the coupe, and it had absolutely no power, so he pulled them out, and they have never been back in. In front of the Olds is an incredible chopped model A grille shell that has been molded to replicate a 32 grille shell...again the use of fiberglass is very unique. I also love how the headlights are tucked back behind the grille shell instead of their std position. True original Radar rims are wrapped in Fisk tires up front, and Englewood racing slicks out back. Moving inside the wild coupe, we find an extremely unique interior consisting of ultra cool molded seats that you have sitting right on the floor. Getting in and out of the 29 is a bit of a struggle, but once inside the seats are very comfortable...actually driving the coupe is another story. The dash is believed to be from a 55 Belvidere running its stock gauges.

Mark states that he and his wife drove the coupe everywhere for the first 10 years they owned it...which looking back he agrees is pretty crazy due to the coupe's ultra low stance, and rough ride. While showing the coupe at the Custom Nationals in Wheaton, IL in 1986, people mentioned to Mark that "that guy over there built your coupe". Mark spoke with the gentleman who gave him a bit of the 29's history. The original builder had the coupe for approximately 10 years, then sold it to a guy who owned a body shop where the coupe was repainted in the solid pearl white, it formerly had purple highlights. The next owner was a hair dresser who couldn't get the coupe to run, so he sold it to the 5th owner who put on a set of spark plug wires, then started the coupe without issue. Fortunately for Mark, the 4th owner's wife HATED the car...and he was able to purchase it. Ironically after all those years, the original builder still carried 2 photos of the coupe in his wallet that he showed Mark when they met in 1986. Mark ran across the builder again in 2000 at the Street Rod Nationals in Milwaukee, and he sent Mark historical photos of the coupe.

When I asked Mark about his future plans for the coupe, he stated he is preservation mode only driving the coupe occasionally as the ancient tires are getting rough, and he'd hate to lose one driving it too much. Mark stated that he has no plans to sell the coupe, but he would have sold it back to the original owner if he was interested...but when he mentioned it to him, the original builder smiled and said he never drove it much way back when he owned it. As far as a fond memory in the coupe, Mark said being invited to show the coupe at the Milwaukee Masterpiece in 2011 was pretty special. The MM is a Pebble Beach styled concourse event and had never allowed hot rods until the year Mark was asked to display his survivor show coupe.

I love survivor cars, and it takes a special type of car taker to resist not updating them with the latest trends, or for the sake of comfort or reliability. It appears Mark and his coupe are lucky they found each other, and we can be assured of its un-altered surival for many years to come.