1929 Roadster Part 1: A Long Time Coming

Salt Flats Tribute Car:

Salt Flats, Hillborn Injection, Hillborn, gasser, Mechanical Fuel Injection, Fuel Injected Hemi, 1929 roadster

Boy do we have a treat for you guys?  I’ve wanted to do a “work in progress” story on Larry Volk’s street roadster since I found out about it earlier this year.  It’s finally progressed to a point where there’s good progress  showing.  The Volk garage is part hot rod time warp, part skill and craftsmanship, and part inspiration.

Larry Volk, Hemi, Model A roadsters, hot rod, 1929 roadster, traditional hot rodWe’ll get to the 1929 Ford Model A Roadster project car in a second.  First, let’s talk time warp.  Larry and his family have been into racing and hot rods since the early 1950’s.  He started out drag racing  and dirt sprint car racing.  His race buddy Terry Nish invited him out to the Salt Flats in the late 1950’s/early 60’s and that was it for Larry.  He’s gone every year since (unless it was rained out) and his life has become engulfed in the Salt.  Currently Larry is in his second stint as President of the 200 MPH Club, Chairman of the Save the Salt Committee and current holder of the SCTA Bob Higbee Award given out at the Opening Ceremonies of Speed Week 2009.

With all this and more, Larry’s garage is a museum of sorts for the last 40 some-odd years of Bonneville Salt Flats racing history.  There are stickers, pins, plaques, posters, broken parts and trophies that adorn the garage and his living room.  Then there’s the hot rod parts collection Larry’s been wheeling-and-dealing for during the last few decades.  They’re all just for this car.  The ’29 roadster Larry’s been dreaming up will be a traditional hot rod build, of course.

Part skill and craftsmanship?  Ok, so the car is not done yet.  But, there’s plenty of work already done showing Larry’s attention to detail and well thought out passion.  Even though I’m calling this story Part 1, it’s really more like Part 5,924.   You see, Larry is and has been carefully and skillfully putting together this game plan.  Larry’s roadster is to be his version of the perfect traditional hot rod.  A hot rod that would have been right at home 50-60 years ago, using the hot rod parts of the day, the newest Hemi engine, with newer Ford 3 speed transmission, higher performing carbs, etc.  Larry dreams of cruising the streets of Davis County Utah, taking the grandkiddies for spins in the rumble seat or maybe letting his “2 Club” kids drive it? And of course, he’ll take it to Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats.  As Chairman of the Save the Salt Committee, Larry takes a bunch of trips out to Bonneville to check the salt conditions and report back to other hot rodders. Around Speed Week and the World Finals, there’s alot of folks waiting to know, “Is the Salt OK? Is it wet? Does it look fast?”  It’s a pretty boring 2 hour drive out to the Salt, found  west of Salt Lake City, so this dream rod will make the trip all worthwhile.  Can I ride shotgun?! Ha Ha

Larry Volk, 200mph club, bonneville, salt flats, Hot Rod Garage, 1929 roadster, Hemi, Model A

The goal is clear, build a traditional 1940’s to 1950’s-era Model A street roadster.  The key ingredient to this soon to be road worthy hot rod is the 1955 Chrysler Hemi, which was actually used on the Volk Bros’ 1929 roadster land speed racing car (no records, but Dallas was running 220+ in the 2 1/4 when he felt it hiccup, so he hit the engine shut off switch, saving the block, but too late for the pistions). According to its ID # and “W” cast into the side of the block (see the “W” in the pic?).  Hemi block ID "W" casting 301 Polyspherical HemiLarry tells me that its a 1955 “Spitfire” 301 cu in Polyspherical Hemi engine used on the 1955 Chrysler Windsor.  It was Chrysler/Plymouth’s way to more economically take advantage of the Hemi engine design to compete with Ford and Chevy’s small V8’s, where before Chrysler had used its big displacement 6 cylinder.  The Poly engine used a single valve rocker and a valve angle that was more straight up and down.  Not quite the performance of the double rocker, full hemispherical engine, but great bottom to mid range torque, less weight, faster manufacturing and cheaper cost.  According to my research on allpar.com, the ’55 301 cu in Poly Hemi was a one year engine.  In 1956, Chrysler went to a 331 cu in Poly Hemi.  But, of course, in traditional hot rodding fashion, the “Poly” heads got replaced with higher performing, newer design full Hemisperhical heads for Larry’s hot rod.  This Hemi screams traditional hot rodding more than any other engine!

At this stage of the build, Larry mocked up this sa-weet Hillborn Mechanical Fuel Injection setup.  When asked, Larry’d prefer to run 3 Stromberg 97′s atop this beauty since mechanical injectors are a bit finicky and it’s no fun to carry a primer bottle when running a street roadster like what Larry’s got in mind.

The body is of course steel made by Brookville Roadster.  Color will likely be some hue of black, either a satin or gloss finish, he’s not sure yet. He just knows it needs to be black, like a true hot rod should be.  Larry worked years ago doing body work and has a friend with a paint booth, so he’d like to do the body work himself.

Brookville Roadster, steel model A body, 1929 roadsterFord Model A, Brookville Roadster, 1929 roadster

The frame rails are vintage 1932 Ford steel.  The ’32 crossmember is also from Ford and is a sought after gem cherished by traditional hot rodders.  The frame’s boxed for strength in the front section only to be able to harness the Hemi’s weight and tendency to wanna twist the rails.

1932 model A, framerails,1932 crossmember, 1929 roadster, quickchange, Halibrand

Out back, you see the Halibrand ID # 178 quick change rear end (will likely run a 3.05 final drive ratio).  Larry said this rear end is another classic component that is probably worth upwards of $5,000 to other traditionalists in today’s market.  As you’d expect, Big Lar’ didn’t pay quite that much back in the day when he picked it up.

Wheels are Kelsey Hayes 16″ wires and tires will likely be early style dirt tracks, either Coker or Firestone.

1950 Pontiac taillights, traditional hot rod, 1929 roadster, Model A roadster1932 Ford Model A, 32 grille, 1929 roadster

Continuing with the project details; taillights are blue-dot 1950 Pontiac, the transmission is a 1939 Ford 3 speed manual, and brakes are also 1939 Ford, which would have been period correct for the 50’s.  It just wouldn’t be right to throw a 5 speed and disc brakes at this roadster.

Halibrand Engineering, Culver City, Calif quickchange rear-endVintage, Vertex magneto, traditional hot rod, 1929 roadster

This brings me to the final part, Inspiration:
I simply can’t imagine what it must be like to save and plan and collect parts for 30+ years.  Sure, some of that wait is by choice as Larry’s happily spent time and money raising his family and racing at Bonneville but, some of that wait is just part of this hobby we call hot rodding.  The bench-racing, planning, parts collection and eventually cruising the finished rod are all part of the fun.

Can’t wait to see this car progress to its final stages and cruise to the Salt and local car shows.  Future posts about this hot rod’s progress are coming. Count on it.  Thanks Larry and Dallas for sharing your passion.  See you on the Salt!

Brushed aluminum guage cluster and Brookville Roadster dashHillborn Injector 1950 Pontiac taillights for this '29 roadster hot rodLarry Volk's retired racing helmet and old Bonneville Salt Flats tech inspection stickers1939 Ford 3 speed transmission backs the 1955 Hemi