Rod & Custom Magazine, August, 2006
"Quick Remedy: Al Packard's '29 Roadster Pickup."
By Tim Bernsau & Al Packard, Photos by Kevin Lee.
"I have a sickness," admits Al Packard. Symptoms include hacking sheetmetal, construction of the mechanical sort, and unusually elevated levels of fun. He's had this condition since he was 14, when it progressed from the scale-model stage into full-size hot rodding. Over the years it has manifested itself in 10 project vehicles in various styles, most recently in the form of this '29 Ford roadster pickup.
Al says he felt the itch to build something in the authentic style of a late '40s, early '50s rod. A model-A rpu was a natural choice. He figured a '30-31 would have been a more popular pick, but for his taste, "it just had to be the little square box of 1928 and '29." The finished project looks like a basic period rod, but keep reading because those looks will fool you. This simple-looking hot rod was treated to as much imagination and construction as many high-tech street rods.
The Deuce frame from Hot Rods & Custom Stuff (Escondido, California) was the starting point of Al's Project A. "I thought it was the single most innovative new twist on '32 'rails since Henry first produced them," he says. The 'rails depart from stock in a couple of ways: the wheelbase is extended 3-inches past stock, and the exaggerated front curve drops the front end down noticeably, for a far more aggressive crouched stance.
The frame is a perfect match for the steel Brookville cab riding on top of it, highboy style. When selecting the bed, Al got some good advice from Denny Hall, a pickup owner from Tacoma, Washington, who recommended using a '32 bed for a lower profile that would better match the cab. The Mack steel bed was modified by the metalworkers at Hot Rods & Custom Stuff to fit the '29 body. HR&CS built the louvered steel hood and shortened the Brookville '32 grille shell to keep the line of the body angled forward.
The Hallock windshield, which Al calls "the single most unusual visual component on the whole hot rod," nails the '40s-era flavor of the pickup. HR&CS dug up a brand-new casting and modified cowl to make it fit.
Although he knows a hot-rodded Chevy small-block would be a chronological impossibility in a late-'40s or early '50s ride, AL has no problem imagining the evolution from a banger or a Flathead to a Corvette overhead V-8 in a rod like this. One look at this stroked 350 dressed up a vintage style, and we don't either.
Since it had to be a shifter car, a "bone-crushing" Borg-Warner four-speed was dropped behind the engine. Al reports that the 2.88:1 first gear 3.55:1 rear-end allow him to pull head-snapping launches when the light turns green and cruise above the speed limit at below 3,000 rpm-hypothetically, of course.
Beyond all the work done at HR&CS, most everything else on the pickup was accomplished in Al's garage with the help of his fiancée, Kelly. Kelly is aware of Al's chronic condition-known to laymen as the hot rodding bug-and may be catching it herself. With any luck, there is no cure in sight, but for Al and Kelly, treatment is available. It comes in this little square box. R&C
'29 Roadster Pickup
Al & Kelly Packard, Fort Meyers, Florida
The Hot Rods & Custom Stuff-modified Deuce frame is one of the least noticeable components but was a centerpiece of the build and probably plays the biggest part in the success of the finished pickup's overall look. The 'rails drop the front end 3-inches, a Magnum I-beam axle lowers in another 5. The front rides on Eaton springs and Pete & Jakes shocks, plus a split wishbone. Wilson Machine & Welding provided the '39 Lincoln brakes riding on '40 Ford spindles. The lower links of the rear four-link are made from early Ford radius rods. Ford grabbers were mounted in the rear, along with Bilstein coilovers. A Flaming River Vega-style box controls the steering.
Sixty years ago, no hot rodder had access to a small-block, let alone one stroked out to 383 ci with a 400 crank, and loaded with Keith Black pistons on Pink rods, plus Dart Iron Eagle heads, and a Barry Grant Speed Demon 650 carburetor on an Edelbrock intake-but if he did, this is exactly the engine he would've built. The Borg-Warner Super T10 four-speed with a Hurst shifter is tied to a Currie rear-end with 3.55:1 ring-and-pinion ratio.
Wheels & Tires:
Big 'n' little bias-ply skinnies on steelies provide the perfect postwar look Al was going for. The Wheel Vintiques 16x4 and 16x6 rims were painted and pinstriped and dressed up with rings and caps. Coker Tires provided the vintage Firestone rubber, measuring 450/475-16 and 750-16 front and back.
Body & Paint:
The Brookville '29 cab and Mack pickup bed were sent to Hot Rods & Custom Stuff, where they were dropped onto the HR&CS 'rails. That's where the custom hood was built. Al knew punching louvers into the hood would add a longer appearance to the narrow '29 cowl. The louvered tailgate carries the look to the back of the vehicle. The Speedway Motors grille is framed by a Brookville shell, with '40s Guide headlamps on either side. The '42-48 Ford tail lamps came from Bob Drake. PPG epoxy primer was used to finish the body, bed, and frame. Jake from Jake's Pinstriping added a little brushwork to the headlight housings and dash, plus a custom cowl piece depicting Kelly and her pet parrot. A custom convertible top goes on when the Florida sun shines hot.
The cockpit is as basic and cool as the rest of the pickup, and perfect for the time period. Al is a retired Flying Tiger pilot and his interest in aircraft is reflected in the 1939 Beechcraft AT-11 bomber seats, plainly upholstered in military cotton duck olive drab and school bus vinyl, with military seatbelts from Hooker Custom Harness'. Al's own uniform wings were added to the '34 Plymouth gauge cluster, which he bought off of eBay and installed in a modified '32 Ford dash. The knob on the Hurst shifter is decorated with the Flying Tiger logo. Diamond point rubber covers the floor and a '40 Ford wheel from LeCarra rides on a '48 panel truck column. Al installed the stereo components and Kelly took care of the wiring duties.