Bill Rafter's 1929 Ford Tudor
(from Volume 24, Issue 282)

story by owner Bill Rafter, photos by Michael B. Kelly


My passion for hot rods started at an early age. My dad bought me my first old car at sixteen when I got my drivers license. It was a 39 Ford standard coupe. I drove it for a while with the V-8 60 engine and it didn’t take long before my dad and I yanked it out and put in a hopped up 59AB Flathead.

I was hooked on old cars, and have had many over the years. I always wanted to build an old school hot rod that was period correct, so I put the word out that I was looking for a Model A body, preferably a Coupe. After looking everywhere I just couldn’t find a decent body that wasn’t half rusted out or costing a fortune. I finally got a call from Paul Rebmann, a car buddy from Michigan about a 1929 Ford Tudor body that belonged to a guy who had passed away. The body sat in a barn for 30 years and was as good as it gets. No rust, no patch panels, and the body had all the original oak wood in the top and body, which was still perfect. Paul knew the guy handling the estate, so he sent me pictures, and I bought it. My buddy George Hanner and I borrowed an enclosed trailer, and off to Michigan we went. It came with all the garnish moldings, four fenders, two windshields, running boards, and the stock seats. Thanks to Paul we got this body before anyone else found out about it. It was pulled out of the barn one day, and we had it the next day. What a find!

While in Michigan, Paul took George and I up to Saginaw to meet the guys at Shadow Rods hot rod shop. The owner, John Hall, and shop manager, Paul Behling, welcomed us with a tour of the shop. Shadow Rods builds awesome hot rods, and are the guys developing the all aluminum flathead. While walking around I saw one of their Model A Tudors mocked up on their ‘32 Ford chassis. I loved the chassis so much I decided to have them build one for me. John Hall is a stickler for getting things right, and this chassis is old school with custom made front and rear radius rods. They also stepped the frame down 1 inch from the firewall back, giving the car a channeled look without cutting out the sub-rails. I had the chassis set up for a flathead and Borg-Warner T-5 tranny. The rear is a 9-inch Ford with 4.11:1 gears and coil overs. The gear ratio is perfect with the overdrive. The motor is a ‘46 Ford factory relieved. We bored it 3-5/16 with a 4-inch Mercury crank, bringing it to 276 cubic inches. It has an Isky Max 1 cam, Johnson adjustable lifters and Chevy valves. Topping it off are polished Offenhauser heads and intake, with two 94 Holley carbs. The motor was built by Joe, who used to run the Shop Out Back in New Smyrna, Florida. The shop has since closed when the owner of the property passed. Joe is a fantastic engine builder, who balanced and dynoed the motor.

The project could not have been done without the help of my buddy George Hanner, who was with me every step of the way during the 2-1/2 year build. After countless hours of mock up, making a new floor, drive shaft tunnel and tranny tunnel, we sent the chassis and suspension components to be powder coated. It hurt to cut out a perfectly good floor but it had to be done to fit the ‘32 chassis with the rear kick-up. The powder coating color is called CW Blue, which I picked from several blue samples. The body and paint work were handled by Jason, who owns 386 Kustoms. After prep work he laid down the one-step urethane paint. Before the interior was installed the inside of the body was lined with Dynamat, then the interior and top were done by Jason’s father, Graham, who owns Auto Trim.

The original Model A seats were used after installing adjustable tracks. The stock Model A dash insert was sent to my son-in-law Mike in New York, who is a CNC programmer. He machined the dash insert to fit the AutoMeter gauges. I then had it re-chromed. The gas tank is a 15-gallon stainless tank I installed behind the rear seat, with the seating itself coming out of an early Ford Bronco. The cooling is handled by a Walker radiator and Cooling Components fan. The wiring is a 12-circuit Easy Wiring kit. Many thanks to my good friend, Chuck Losey, who owns Lecarra Steering Wheels, since Chuck hooked me up with an Ididit column and a sprint car style steering wheel, along with the Borgeson U-Joints. The chassis rides on ‘35 Ford wire wheels that were powder coated. The rubber is Coker bias ply Firestone tires. Pinstriper Bill did his magic on the stripping. Many thanks to all who helped on this project, especially my buddy George Hanner.

Paul Behling from Shadow Rods liked the car so much that he invited us to Louisville, Kentucky for the big NSRA Street Rod Nationals event where he put the car in the Shadow Rods display in the exhibition building. The second day into the event the car was selected by Street Rodder magazine for one of the Top 10 cars indoors, and to be part of their Top 100 build picks for 2017! We couldn’t believe it, as all the hard work and attention to detail had paid off. It’s Miller time! CN