1929 FORD HOT ROD
On loan from Brian and Sharon Ross, Ballston Spa, NY
Long one of the NASCAR Modified division’s most successful drivers as well as a winner on NASCAR’s Busch North Late Model Tour, Ballston Spa’s Brian Ross spent decades working a day job, toiling nights on his race cars and racing on the weekend at speedways from Canada to Virginia. Eventually he retired from both racing and his career at Niagara Mohawk. And after a few more years driving his own tractor trailer, he retired a second time and suddenly had time to build the hot rod he’d always wanted.
A master designer and fabricator as well as a winning driver, Ross found a 1929 Ford Model “A” sedan in Massachusetts and began the painstaking process of producing a winner in a new arena.
“A guy I hauled liquid propane with said he had the perfect car for me. It was in pretty good shape and was borderline restorable,” recalled Ross. “After a lot of thought, I decided I’d rather have a nice hot rod than a restored old car, so I built a modernized Model ‘A’ with good brakes, a V-8 motor, air conditioning, tinted windows and all the other modern touches while maintaining that traditional look.
“I was originally going to chop the top but changed my mind before I got that far. Instead, I welded in a steel panel in place of the fabric insert Ford used. It came from Walden Speed Shop in California, had the exact contour I needed and fit perfectly. Then I made the hood and side panels, which are two inches longer than original to fit in the V-8, air conditioning condenser, electric fan and all that. I also moved the firewall back five inches.”
All this went onto a race-car style chassis built from 2”x 3” square tubing with extensive bridging formed from 1 ½” round tubing. Structurally it’s as solid as the modified he won so many races with decades ago that sits alongside in his shop while undergoing a complete restoration.
“You hear horror stories of guys buying a manufactured hot rod chassis and having suspension brackets break off the first time they gas it,” added Ross. “These won’t!”
The sedan’s new suspension obviously uses race car technology, with Afco coilovers all around and a BMW power rack and pinion steering box. The rearend is a 9” Ford unit, with power from the new Chevrolet crate engine channeled through a GM 700 R4 overdrive automatic transmission. Braking is handled by NASCAR Sprint Cup-style aluminum brakes by Wilwood with Wilwood pedals and dual master cylinders controlling the action.
“The engine is great and with its 8 ½:1 compression ratio it runs on regular gas,” explained Ross. “I replaced the original Edelbrock carburetor with a Holley that’s easier to adjust but otherwise, it’s been a seamless operation. It drives and rides beautifully and my wife, Sharon, loves to cruise in it with me. Unfortunately, we can’t take other passengers, as there is no room for a back seat. The original gas tank was in the cowl, which doesn’t work on a car like this, so I put the new tank and a storage area where the rear seat used to be.”
The new fuel tank installation is topped off with a nearly hidden, capless fill-port in the middle of the rear panel, just above a rebuilt bumper that protects the car’s immaculate bodywork.
“I made a lot of the new body panels and the running boards, then sent the car off to racer Elmo Reckner and his son Chris, who have body shops in Ballston Lake and Scotia. They did the finish body work and their painter, an extraordinarily gifted Polish immigrant named Miroslaw Weiprzowski, who first worked in a now-closed Saturn dealership, put the color on. Then The Glass Man tinted the windows and it was ready for final assembly.”
Ross is rightfully proud of the finished product, which attracts attention everywhere and then generates a look of disbelief when observers find out it is the first and only hot rod Brian has built.