1931 Ford Highboy Roadster by Terry Cramer
After 45 years of trial and error, the roadster hot rodder Terry Cramer was dreaming about finally came to life. Terry would like to send special thanks to Richie Willette for help with the quick-change rear, and Billy at Belmont’s Rod and Custom for sourcing some needed parts. Without their help, this project would not have come to fruition. Terry got a yearning to build a roadster a while back, a California-style hot rod typical of Californian roads; a highboy was the dream-car he envisioned.
It all started with a Model A Ford roadster body and a 1932 frame; the petrol-head wanted a late-1940s look, and I’m starting to feel I’m looking at Bonnie & Clyde’s tuned-up escape car. A modified 1931 roadster, full-fendered and with a dropped axle up front and a set of split wishbones on the flanks, seemed like the ideal ride. The project included era-appropriate modifications such as 1940 juice brakes and a 1932 grille, cut to fit. The car had no motor or transmission with it, which meant other difficult choices to make.
In the meantime, Terry went for an F-1 steering box, an early Halibrand Culver City–model quick-change rear-end, a pair of Model A crossmembers and a 1933 truck dash. He thought a set of cherished Duplex gauges for the 1931 would be a nice touch, along with a Glide seat and headlights, sourced out of an old 1935 Chevy truck. As I said, that engine choice made things quite difficult; so much, in fact, that the complications postponed the project for 25 years. But what makes a man start over after such a long time? Well, for starters, New Hampshire rescinded its fender requirements and allowed open-wheels cars to be registered in the state – that already sounds fun. Second, he managed to get his hands on an original 1932 frame; this could be interpreted as a sign, and it seems so he did.
The man behind the project was dreaming about a Chevy powerplant, with mid-1950s style; as such, he got excited when he came across a 265-inch small-block. Jim Lowery, local rod guru and owner of Lowery’s Auto Restoration, sat down with Terry and, together, they hashed out the details of this unique vehicle. There were some small modifications that had to be though of, such as a roll pan for the fuel tank, a new hood to fit the longer wheelbase The latter was added 1933 truck-style louvers and a Model A body line through the sides.
A 1933-1934 truck dashboard was custom-fit to the roadster, complemented by rare Duplex gauges; when everything was over and done, it was up to the paint-shop to work its magic on this car. All body work and the new Washington Blue paint were done in-house by Lowery’s crew, with all the front-end components showing off Argent Silver. The machine work on the Chevrolet 265 engine was done by Ted and Randall Wingate, at Precision Balancing in Hudson, after which is was brought back to its mid-1950s look and performance.
The final touches were made on the inside, where trim, custom cloth wiring, original 1941 Ford maroon leather and vintage white-cloth-covered top bows mesmerize any petrol-head, and we have Stephen Pierce at One-Off Technologies to thank for that. Once the tire/wheel installation and various other tweaks were done, the 1931 Ford Highboy Roadster was there to be admired, in all its glory.