Not long after I’d shot 7:16, a good friend tipped me off to a derelict old car near his house, not far from where I’d lived about 5 years earlier. He said it has been there pretty much when he’d bought his house, and hadn’t moved in probably 35 years. It was in an industrial area — actually on Industry Street — just parked in front of a building. Sure enough, I grabbed a camera one sunny day and headed to my old neighbourhood and there it was… a late 1970s Ford LTD Landau.
The LTD nameplate debuted as the top trim level for the full-size Galaxie line in 1965, touted as quieter than a Rolls-Royce. In 1974, the Galaxie name was retired, and LTD remained with 3 trim levels — LTD, LTD Brougham and LTD Landau, the latter added in 1975. As the top Ford, the Landau offered the buyer many luxury appointments, and was powered by a choice of Ford’s 351, 400 or 460 cubic inch engines, all backed by the smooth Cruise-O-Matic transmission. This LTD Landau is from model years 1975-78, the final years before the downsized Panther platform debuted.
The decay on this car was obvious. Certainly it seemed my friend was right, the car had been sitting a long time. The Ontario license plate would seem to be correct for a mid-1970s issue date. I took quite a few shots, and decided I liked the detail of the front end best. The combination of the rusted bumper, the rusted hole through the hood, and the way the plastic grille no longer had any hint of its chrome plating, all spoke to how neglected this old boat was.
The featured image was shot with the Nikon D3200, 18-55mm Nikkor zoom, at ƒ/9.0, 1/640 second exposure using ISO 100, and processed using Topaz Adjust, and then a border added in Photoshop. The original shot is included below. Also included is a full 3/4 front shot of the car as it sat then. It’s a while since I’ve been by Industry St., but it may still be there today.
This 1936 Ford hot rod was yet another car shot at the 2016 Fleetwood Country Cruize-In. This would be considered more of an ‘old school’ rod, as the engine used is a Ford flathead, as opposed to one of the more modern 1950s OHV engines. As Autoweek noted…
“hot rodders loved this relatively simple engine. Hundreds of manufacturers offered speed equipment for flatheads. Bored and stroked, with wilder camshafts and multiple carburetors, hot flatheads ruled street and strip until the mid-’50s, even holding their own against bigger, heavier Cadillac and Chrysler overhead-valve designs”
With the engine compartment open, the red flathead drew you to the car. The flathead engine was introduced in 1932 and offered consumers V8 power but at an affordable price. The first version was 221 cubic inches and is identified by it’s 21 studs that hold the head to the block. This version, however, would be the later 24-stud model, introduced in 1939 for the Mercury line (and factory-installed in Ford beginning in 1946). The chrome nuts on the studs is a popular hot-rod style, as is the aftermarket Offenhauser heads. These finned-aluminum heads helped performance in different ways, not the least of which was the fins which allowed for slightly better cooling to alleviate the flatty’s notorious penchant for overheating. Of course, the chromed air cleaner assembly and ignition coil are also popular ‘bright parts’, and keen viewers will notice the addition of a modern electric fan ahead of the radiator to further aid cooling.
The Ford itself featured a piano-like mirror finish in black, with pinstripes in red to match those heads and engine.
As with all photos taken that day at Fleetwood, this was shot with my Nikon D3200, and my 18-55mm lens. The settings were ƒ4.5, 1/80 sec exposure and ISO 400. Topaz Adjust was instrumental in the post-processing to bring up the details in this image. The original shot is below.
Mustang Classics by Randy Leffingwell, with photography by David Newhardt Published 2014 by Crestline 384 pp., hardcover
Purchased new from a retail bookstore.
I have always been a Mustang fan. Growing up, a neighbour I hardly knew had a 1972 coupe, and a 1968 coupe briefly occupied our garage while dad did some repairs for a friend. My cousin had a 1969 coupe but traded it on a new 1972 Charger when I was a toddler. Yet, somehow I became enamoured of Ford’s ponycar. Years later, Dad saw an ad from a now defunct Ford dealer, saying they had about 100 new 1988 Mustang LX notchbacks equipped with the 5.0L and 5 speed, all at the same low price. He bought one, and after a few months he told me it was killing him on gas, and I should drive the Mustang while he took back his Honda Civic. I was one very lucky teen.
Given my admiration for Mustangs it’s no surprise Randy Leffingwell’s Mustang Classics is a favourite in my library. It hits many of the sweet spots I tend to look for in books on cars. It’s well-written, and packed with great photos. And there’s a wealth of info not just about the cars, but about management decisions and product development surrounding the generations of Mustang. I’ve reviewed another of Leffingwell’s books, Legendary Corvettes, and I found it enjoyable and very informative. This is also true of Mustang Classics.
The story begins in the immediate post-WWII years. GIs returned from the service, jobs were plentiful, and families became more prosperous. As explained in Fifties Flashback: The American Car, people began driving for pleasure, taking long road trips as their vacation. Some returning soldiers had brought British and European sports cars back home, and American manufacturers took notice there was a market for cars that weren’t simply ‘transportation’.
At the same time, Henry Ford II took over at Ford Motor Company, an organization in dire straits. Hiring Ernie Breech, an experienced auto man from GM, as well as a group of former military men who came to be known as the Whiz Kids, Henry Ford II managed to transform company. Ford was now better managed and started producing better products.
Leffingwell then documents the pre-Mustang years. Included is information about the Ford Total Performance program, designed to put Ford at the forefront of auto racing worldwide. There’s coverage of the Mustang I concept, the corporate decision to create a smaller Thunderbird-like vehicle, and the company’s partnership with Carroll Shelby, both in support of the Cobra cars and his role in Ford’s GT40 program. There’s so much background on what led to the Mustang, it’s 68 pages into the book before we see the debut of the car that would set sales records beginning April 17, 1964.
The chapters break out the Mustang into groupings by years: 1964.5-1966, 1967-1968.5, 1969-70 and so on through to 2003-present (being 2005, when first published). The early years are interspersed with the Shelby cars getting their own chapters (1965-66, 1967-68, 1969-70). The mid-1980s SVO Mustang also has its own chapter. Most of the focus is, as the title suggests, on ‘classics’. The featured vehicles tend to be of the high-performance variety. There are California Specials, Mach 1s, and Boss Mustangs. There are some rarely seen models, such as the 1969 Shelby de Mexico (306 produced), the 1970 Twister Special (a regional variant, 96 made) and the Monroe Handler, a Mustang built as a promotional vehicle for Monroe shock absorbers (1 originally built, 6 others built afterwards). I appreciate the inclusion of these uncommon Mustangs, especially as they’re photographed beautifully.
Throughout this book, Leffingwell drops info of all kinds. The SVO chapter is an example. After describing how Special Vehicle Operations developed the SVO Mustang differently from the 5.0L GT to create more of a driver’s car, the author moves to how SVO’s success as a small group influenced decision-making throughout Ford at the corporate level. Similarly there’s paragraphs about Lee Iacocca‘s Fairlane Committee, the reign of Bunkie Knudsen at Ford, the re-entry to racing in the late 1970s. There’s mention of John Coletti’s Skunk Works that designed the 1994 Mustang. In fact, many people are named including designers such as Gene Bordinat, Larry Shinoda and Jack Telnack, engineers like Bob Negstad who spent over 20 years working on the Mustang. All of these speak to the culture of the company, and ties in to the Mustang’s development.
Now, as good as this book is, I still found a couple minor things to mention.
Firstly, it’s important to note that this book is a reprint from another publisher. The first edition was published around 2005, and though this edition is from 2014, it’s not been updated. That is disappointing, as the chapter ‘2003 and Beyond’ only deals with the Mustang GT design proposal. That’s the show car that hinted strongly at the retro-themed Mustang that hit the market for 2005. It’s a shame that the 2014 edition was not updated, as by 2014 the Mustang had seen a redesign in 2010, was about to debut another redesign in 2014, had reunited with Shelby to offer special models, had seen the introduction of the 5.0 Coyote engine, as well as the rebirth of the Cobra Jet drag car.
Secondly, there are minor quibbles. I have mentioned (in a previous review) the use of the term ‘big block’ referring to the FE engines. These engines are not truly big blocks but rather medium blocks, as they are lighter than Ford’s MEL and 385-series families. I suppose, as it’s cropped up again, perhaps the matter is not agreed upon by all. The other quibble is that the author referred to ‘Ford Galaxy’ more than once. As the Galaxy is a van sold by Ford internationally, there is no doubt he meant ‘Galaxie’, the correct spelling for the full-size car sold from 1959-74. And sadly there’s a few other typos here and there.
Thirdly, I found the period of 1994-2003 was somewhat abbreviated. There are few pictures or references to the 1994-98 cars which include the last of the pushrod 5.0L GTs. There’s more emphasis on the 1999-2004 cars, and while the Mach 1 appears, there’s no pictures of the Bullitt edition. The SVT Cobra does show up. Actually it’s somewhat strange that the SVT Cobras aren’t broken out to their own chapter. These cars, built from 1993 through 2004, were the ultimate Mustangs available. That they are not treated similarly to the Shelby cars seems the wrong choice.
These things aside, Mustang Classics is a great automotive coffee table book. David Newhardt’s photos are fantastic, showing off the classic Mustang lines that have captured the hearts of so many. And Randy Leffingwell has packed the pages with stories of the Mustang that will interest history buffs as well as car nuts. There isn’t a lot in the way of pedestrian Mustangs, but what is presented is quite stunning visually and really details much of the Mustang’s high performance story. This is one book Ford fans should own.
Pros: fabulous photos; great information on the cars and company; high quality book Cons: somewhat dated, having not been updated since 2005 Where to get it: Amazon, bookstores
The Illustrated Directory of Muscle Cars (no writer credit) Published 2013 by Chartwell Books Inc. 432 pp., hardcover.
Purchased new from a retail bookstore.
File this one under ‘Disappointing’.
I had high hopes for The Illustrated Directory of Muscle Cars. I mean, 400 pages of the best American factory-built hot rods, over 120 cars profiled. That’s a book I could really get into.
I’ll admit, it is a difficult task to compile such a directory. Even just a few pages on every muscle car would fill volumes. Just defining ‘muscle car’ is not an easy task. Many would agree it’s an intermediate-size car with a powerful engine in, for the purpose of increased performance. Yet, people call the Impala SS a muscle car despite it being a full-size car. Mustangs and Camaros are too small to be intermediates, and Novas and Darts are compact cars (such as they were in the 1960s). Still they get called muscle cars. No 4-door could have been called muscle car back in the heyday, yet today, the Charger sedan is a modern muscle car.
People don’t even agree what the first muscle car was. Was it born in 1964 when Pontiac dropped a 389 engine in its Tempest Lemans coupe and named it GTO? Maybe it was Chrysler, who took their 1955 New Yorker, added some Imperial touches and placed its Firepower Hemi between the fenders to create the C300. How about the famed Rocket 88, Oldsmobile’s 1949 80-series coupe with the screaming new overhead valve V8 underhood. Or was it the first V8 Ford coupe with its flathead engine?
The Illustrated Directory of Muscle Cars does indeed include all the cars mentioned above, and many more. I can’t argue with any of the cars included in this volume. As such it gets points for going beyond the typical roster. Of course there are GTOs and Chevelles, Mustangs and Fairlanes, Challengers and Road Runners. There’s a number of full-size coupes, like the aforementioned Impala SS and the 7-Liter Ford Galaxie. But it’s nice to see cars like the Dodge Polara D500, M-code Thunderbird, Mercury Comet, and AMC’s SC/Rambler, Rebel Machine and AMX. These cars get a lot less ink than the Camaros, Firebirds and Cudas, and their inclusion does help to fill out the book.
But… the errors. So many errors. Typos. Improper formatting of tabs. Misplaced paragraph breaks. Widows and orphans. Incorrectly captioned photos. It’s a very sloppy book. When a 1969 Camaro photo shows up in the profile of the 1970 AMX, that’s an issue that’s hard to overlook.
There’s also the inconsistencies. Each car profile gets a chart, kind of an overview that mentions things like engine displacement, horsepower etc. Some of them list a dozen stats, some list 5 or 6. Some list the car’s base price, or quarter-mile performance, many don’t have the kind of information. Only 1 engine is listed per car, though some are the base V8 while others list an optional engine. If the object is to create a directory, then it shouldn’t be hard to determine criteria you intend to include and then make sure you include it for each car.
And some profiles are just confusing – such as the 1969 Cuda 383, which is titled such and features pictures of a 383 Cuda, but doesn’t really mention the 383 anywhere in the text. Instead the 273 base V8 of previous years is referenced. Actually a great number of profiles are filled with information about the manufacturer or the history of the model featured but little about the actual year and model of the feature.
Finally, there are still many omissions from this collection. The Golden Age of Muscle Cars did fade out by the mid-1970s, but there were a few highlights. There’s no mention of cars like the Monte Carlo 454, or 1973 Stage 1 Buick GS. And, the muscle car rebirth began in the mid-1980s. Yet, there are no 1980s cars found at all – no Grand Nationals, 442s, Monte Carlo SSs, or Fox-body Mustangs. Further, there are profiles on the 1994 Impala SS, 2005 Chrysler 300C and 2012 Dodge Charger SRT-8, but no mention of the early 2000s Mercury Marauder (except a sentence in a 1969 Cougar profile). And you really can’t call a directory complete when you include the Dodge Viper but cars like the SVT Cobra Mustang or ZR-1 Corvette are missing.
It’s a shame. There was real potential for a great book, a directory that would be a great introduction to the wide range of muscle car offerings. In spots, there is some good information here. And honestly, there’s a lot of good photography. The coffee-table size and quality paper have the feel of a book you want to read. There’s pieces of a great book here. It just isn’t executed well.
If you can find this book cheap, and really need to get some muscle car info on your shelf, then sure, pick it up. But if you’re looking for a serious overview of muscle cars, give this one a miss.
Pros: a good number of models profiled; some little-known cars get some ink; great pictures in a coffee-table book format. Cons: far too many errors; some significant models and eras are lacking coverage. Where to find it: retail bookstores, Amazon
Chrome is still all over the place at old car shows. I am a fan of shiny bits, whether it’s bumpers, grilles, dashboards, wheels, whatever. Despite the rise of rat rods and the trend to monochrome presentation, chrome parts remain a popular choice for a traditional hot rod look.
Down at my local Tuesday night cruise, hosted by the Highway 11 Cruisers club (sorry, not a secure website), where I found a 1954 Ford with wide whitewall tires and smooth, baby moon type wheels, reflecting the early 1950s Chevy hot rod parked next to it.
Shot with my usual rig, the Nikon D3200 and my Nikon 18-55mm lens, the settings were ƒ/16, 1/20 second exposure and ISO 100. As always, this can he purchased as a poster by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org, and the original shot is below.
The Complete Book of Classic Ford F-Series Pickups: Every Model from 1948-1976 by Daniel Sanchez Published 2014 by Motorbooks 240 pp., hardcover
Purchased new from a close out sale.
Pickup trucks are everywhere today. They’re very popular, and together with SUVs they’ve almost completely replaced station wagons and sedans on the roads. I’ve had 3 pickups myself, and I muse on the idea of getting a classic pickup if I ever was going to have a ‘collection’. So, as I enjoy pickups, and I love books that detail model histories, I grabbed The Complete Book of Classic Ford F-Series Pickups: Every Model from 1948-1976when I found it at the bookstore.
The book itself is large and a little heavy, despite being only 240 pages. That’s because the pages are almost a cover stock, they have a high-quality feel to them and dimensionally it’s the largest book I’ve reviewed thus far. The type borders on large, though it doesn’t feel like it’s compensating for lack of content. There’s quite a lot of photographs, lots of corporate photos and official advertising, both in black-and-white and colour. Overall, it’s a visually appealing book.
The central theme of this book seems to be how Ford made a corporate decision to develop a new truck that would be car-like in terms of comfort, ride and economy while offering all the utility of a truck. The goal was to turn the pickup into a viable option as a second vehicle for families and a more desirable vehicle for farmers, tradesmen and anyone who’d use a truck. This idea comes up frequently through the book.
The chapters are (generally) divided by generations of the truck – 1948-52, 1953-56, 1957-60, 1961-66, 1967-71 and 1972-76. After a short introduction, each year is explained and there are info boxes detailing engine and transmission specs and production numbers for the 1/2 ton and 3/4 ton versions, as well as a separate option list. The text does a good job of detailing the design revisions for each model year, as well as mechanical options, horsepower and torque, trim levels, major engineering changes and pricing and production. In this respect, there’s some great information here.
Ford did innovate a number of changes that we see in the modern pickup. The all-steel Styleside (that is, non-fendered) bed, steel bed floor, the modern overhead valve V8 in pickups, as well as various ‘special’ models for contractors and campers. And this book illuminates well the year-to-year development of the F-Series.
I am, however, a little disappointed. For one, I encountered some production errors – typos, images with incorrect captions, a 1973 ad appearing in the 1967-71 chapter, that sort of thing. There’s also a somewhat common misconception repeated in the book. The author refers to Ford’s 390 cubic inch FE engine as a ‘big block’, more than once. Ford offered a number of FE engines in the F-Series, but despite a relatively large displacement, the FE, even at 390 cubic inches, is a medium-block.
I didn’t quite understand how or why the author made some decisions. I suppose that the word ‘Classic’ in the title is a qualifier, and the author arbitrarily established that 1976 was the cut off. But, there’s no explanation as the why 1976 is the last year for the ‘classic’ F-series. In fact, the 1977 model appears very similar to the 1976, and the 1978-79 trucks seem to be of the same generation. My own research shows the only major change between 1976 and 1977 was the end of the FE engines in favour of the 351/400 engines of the 335/Cleveland family, which doesn’t qualify as a real model update. Further, the 1972 model F-Series is obviously a 1971 with minor styling updates. Yet, the author broke out the chapters as 1967-71 and 1972-76, rather than starting the last chapter with the redesigned 1973. I’m not sure what criteria the author used to group them this way.
I enjoyed this book but I also feel it was lacking in other ways. I may have been spoiled by other books, but I noticed there are no pictures of any design proposals or mock-ups. There are no quotes from any engineers, designers or executives – in fact, no person was mentioned by name anywhere. Who were the people who drove the decision to make the F-Series more car-like? Who created Ford’s famous Twin I Beam suspension, or the Camper Special, or the Ranger and Explorer models? This information would have been interesting to know.
Further, it is fact that the Ford F-Series eventually claimed the top sales spot (and has held it for decades), but there’s no good explanation other than the author’s assertion that the increased comfort and wide range of options and models drove sales. There’s no in-depth analysis of what Ford offered versus Chevy/GMC or Dodge, so it’s hard to know what Ford did better than its competitors – better options? more models? better pricing? The author never says.
Finally, the focus here is squarely on the 1/2 and 3/4 ton versions of the F-Series. In the early chapters there’s mention of the larger trucks, the Big Job series. But there’s not much information on how the larger trucks eventually diverged from the F-Series line. I understand that really, the book is about light-duty trucks. It’s just that the early chapters make mention and then the subject is never revisited. Funny enough, I did learn about some lower GVRW models, such as the F-110 and F-260, which I’d never even heard of (this contradicts information on the internet that claims F-110 and F-260 denote the 4×4 version).
Despite my seemingly numerous criticisms, I did enjoy reading this history of the early F-Series trucks. I am a fan of these old pickups, especially the post-1967 versions. I found so much good info on options and trim levels, and lots of great pictures of these trucks. If you’re a fan of pickup trucks, specifically Fords, this won’t be the ultimate book in your collection, but it is definitely one you’ll enjoy having on the shelf.
Pros: good, straightforward historical account of almost 30 years of F-Series trucks; many great pictures from Ford’s corporate files Cons: lacks in-depth information in terms of who was directing development; no comparative analysis of competitor offerings Where to get it: Amazon, retail bookstores
In 2014, some friends and I made the trip to the New York State Fairgrounds for the annual Syracuse Nationals car show. What an amazing event! This car show takes in over 8000 cars (double the size of the Fleetwood Country Cruize, and was impressed with that!), and takes the whole weekend if you want to see as many of them as possible. As you may expect with a show of this size, the weekend turns Syracuse into a huge custom and classic car show, as hotel and restaurant parking lots fill up with the show’s attendees. It’s really like a huge cruise night.
We stayed out in East Syracuse, and our parking lot was filled with hot rods, musclecars and cruisers. One vehicle that came through our lot was this 1956 Ford F700 Big Job truck with a pickup box on it. The Big Job trucks were the heavy-duty commercial line based off the regular Ford F-Series truck line. As you see, this truck had seen it’s share of hard work, and would certainly have fit the ‘unrestored’ category. I personally am a fan of the old-fashioned chromed logos, and I decided I wanted to capture this big bold badge on the hood of this Ford.
I shot this in the evening, under the roof that covered the hotel entrance. I used my Nikon D3200 and my 18-55mm Nikon lens. I left the camera on auto, and the camera chose ƒ/4, 1/40 sec exposure and ISO 100. As usual, I used Photoshop and Topaz Adjust to crop and edit, to bring out and emphasize the details such as the rust and the pitting on the chrome. The above image is available as a 20″x16″ poster by contacting email@example.com. The original shot is below.
Roadsters and Runabouts: Collecting and Restoring Antique Classic and Special Interest Sports Cars by Bob Stubenrauch Published in 1973 by Dodd, Mead and Co. 274 pp., hardcover
Acquired from the estate of a friend and fellow ‘car guy’. Currently out of print.
You could be an auto enthusiast your whole life, owning many different vehicles. You can go to cruises, meets, car shows and auctions, and travel to automotive museums. There will still be cars you won’t have much chance of ever seeing in person. Some of the great classics of automotive history are rarely seen and often in only the most special circumstances.
Author Bob Stubenrauch was a collector car hobbyist who wrote a couple books about old cars. Written in 1973, this book is a real trip back to a different time, and not simply because the cars are old.
Stubenrauch opens with almost 45 pages of information on identifying worthy classic cars, searching them out, negotiating a sale, finding parts through meets and flea markets. Though written almost 50 years ago, some of the information is still relevant. Certainly, the internet has helped make the process easier. There are still cars to be found in back garages and old barns, and there are still treasures to be found in flea markets and swap meets. The author writes of inquiring at the local garage about cars that may be hidden in town, or befriending local tradesmen who may have spied such cars at their customers’ homes. Believe it or not, some of these methods still work! I know of one such tradesman who has acquired a few nice cars himself simply by noticing and asking if the car is available. Now, these methods are more difficult today, as the world has changed. But it’s true that word of mouth still works well.
One thing that certainly has changed since 1973 is what it takes to purchase such cars. It’s a trip to read things like…
… a 1930 Model A roadster being sold for $350. … three years ago this writer (could) acquire an excellent 1931 Chrysler Imperial sedan for $1000 and a 1926 Minerva opera coupe for $1250.
… and so forth. For reference, in a Facebook group I saw an ad with a new 1970 Ford Galaxie sedan for $2469. Imagine acquiring a that ’31 Imperial, a top line classic in excellent condition for 40% the cost of the average new car! Today, a search on Hemmings shows a 1935 Imperial sedan at $68,000. The days of acquiring an ‘Approved Classic’ for a grand are surely long gone.
Strangely, the remainder of the book veers away from finding and restoring cars to features of 24 classic cars. The names are legendary – Hupmobile, Packard, Mercer, Stutz, Lincoln, Mercedes, Jordan, Bentley, Ruxton, Marmon, Duesenberg, Cord, Bugatti and more. Stubenrauch even considers what would be ‘modern classics’ by adding cars such as the 1953 Buick Skylark, 1960 Corvette and 1963 Studebaker Avanti.
The text of the features is somewhat odd though. It’s a mix of corporate histories, notes on other cars by the manufacturer and some info on the particular car featured. There isn’t a discernible pattern – the 1957 Thunderbird feature is mostly about the 1955-57 Thunderbird, while the Avanti feature devotes much space to the history of Studebaker and the cars it built before the Avanti debuted. However the information found is interesting and still tells a story about collector cars.
What is wonderful about this book is the photographs. Yes, they are in black and white (for reasons I’ve mentioned in other reviews). However, there are many of them. Each car gets 9-12 clear, mostly large photos, many detail shots including interiors and special features. Some features include advertising. The photos are a great way to learn about these cars, which as stated above, you’d be lucky to encounter in person.
All in all, I enjoyed Runabouts and Roadsters very much. Coupled with Famous Old Cars, these books give wonderful insight into some of the truly classic cars of early motordom. Don’t look for any technical information to help you restore your pre-war car, it’s not here. This book is strictly for relaxing and travelling back to the early days of roadster motoring.
Pros: some of the most revered cars in early motoring are featured; lots of great photography of cars that are often hard to find. Cons: there could have been more detailed information on the feature cars. Where to find it: Amazon, eBay, private collections, used book dealers.
The ‘rat rod’ has risen to prominence in recent years, gaining its own devoted following. For some, it allows that seemingly never finished project to be proudly displayed. For others, the rat rod is a rejection of the high-dollar, professionally built hot rods that always run away with the top prizes at shows. And for others, rat rods represent a more grass roots movement, a return to the early days of hot rodding.
Early hot rodding often consisted of finding a decent but inexpensive car – often one of the many old cars that by the 1950s had been retired from regular duty. While any car could be a hot rod, Fords were especially popular. Model Ts were built from 1908 through 1927, and Model As from 1927 through 1931 and in huge numbers. Many parts, even updated equipment, could be fit to virtually any year car. Furthermore, parts that could be scrounged or acquired cheaply could be made to fit, especially engines. The old Ford 4-banger was often tossed in favour of a later Ford flathead, Cadillac V8 or Chevrolet small block. Rat rods return to that aesthetic – battered or rusty parts, sourced from wherever they can be found, employed to turn a withering hulk of a car in to something resembling ‘useful (but fun) transportation’.
This rat rod would appear to be a 1931 Ford, though I’m 100% sure. The license plate gives us the year, but the radiator shell would be from the 1932 Ford Model B, and the headlight buckets are more likely to come from a car built after 1936. The engine is definitely a transplant from a much later car.
I do not have a lot of information on the car itself, I did not note anything down. But I can say that I managed to grab the picture in July 2015 at the Tottenham (Ontario) Classic Car and Truck Show. It was shot using my Nikon D3200 at ƒ6.3, shutter speed 1/160s, ISO 100. I did some minor cropping and adjustments in Photoshop. I used the finished file as the cover of a calendar I designed and produced in 2018. The original photo appears below.
Mustang 5.0 Performance Projects by Huw Evans Published 2004 by Motorbooks International 112 pp. paperback
Acquired new from a book retailer.
I’ve mentioned before that I was very lucky as a young man to have a 1988 Ford Mustang LX 5.0, 5 speed notchback as my daily driver. It was a lot of fun, and I put over 408,000 kms (250,000 miles) on it before I finally retired it with the intention of restoring it.
Among the resources I’d gathered for the job was Mustang 5.0 Performance Projects, by Huw Evans from the Motorbooks Workshop. It turned out to be a valuable resource, providing a great deal of information on various upgrades for 1979 through 1995 Mustangs equipped with the 5.0L Windsor V8.
The Fox-body Mustang (so called as it was built on Ford’s Fox platform) has come to be seen by some as a new Deuce coupe or 55 Chevy, due to its high production numbers, relative low cost, and willingness to accept easy modification to build power. Evans observed in his ‘Introduction’…
“So popular did this humble pony become for modification… that it led to the creation of one of the largest performance aftermarket industries tailored to a single car.”
Evans goes on to say that, while he couldn’t possibly showcase every project that could be, he’d collected those he felt were useful, especially for cars that would probably see mostly street duty with the occasional trip down the drag strip.
There are 37 projects in 9 sections, each section represents a major component group (ie engine, brakes, interior etc). Some of the projects are very simple — the first is jacking the car up, the second is performing an oil change. Those with limited skill can tackle these and begin to get comfortable working on the car. Some may seem a bigger deal but are fairly easy, such as swapping out the front seats. Other projects, such as pulling the engine to replace the cylinder heads, are much more involved. And others, like strengthening the AOD transmission, do not actually discuss doing the mechanical work, but provide education on what should be done and why, and steer the reader to choosing a transmission shop to actually do the job.
The layout is great, making each project easy to understand. An introductory box breaks it down, listing Time, Tools, Talent (a relative rating of the skill and experience needed), Applicable years (based on a stock car, from 1979-95), Parts, Tab (a rough figure in 2004 $USD), Tip (information to make the job easier), Performance Improvement (expected) and finally Complementary Project. Projects stall out when things happen and frustration sets in – budget concerns, lack of the correct tool, or the job is beyond the ability of the owner. Setting it out in realistic terms helps one know what to expect before tearing into the car.
Evans provides info that even seasoned pros may overlook. The underdrive pulleys project instructs to inspect related wear items such as the plastic clutch fan and serpentine belt, and highlights that the project can affect the cooling and charging systems. The nitrous oxide project cautions to pay attention to older engines which could easily grenade themselves due to the added stresses of a large nitrous shot. That’s insight that may not be available when excitedly ordering parts from the internet.
If there’s a criticism, this book is light on pictures. When I had my Mustang I read magazines like Muscle Mustangs and Fast Fords and Mustang 5.0 and Super Fords. The tech articles in magazines tended to be filled with photos, illustrating many steps. This book relies much more on descriptive text. Someone who finds following text, or would feel more comfortable with visual cues, may have more difficulty following this book.
The newest of the 5.0 litre pushrod Mustangs is now 25 years old. But today, retailers still stock many parts for the projects found in this book. And there are still many of these cars floating around, some even remain relatively stock. That’s not to mention the many Mustangs that began life with 4- or 6-cylinder engines that have had or are available for V8 transplants. This book therefore remains a relevant source for enthusiasts new and old.
Pros: well organized; good range of projects from easy to more involved; lots of great tips to ensure projects are done well. Cons: could have more illustration/pictures. Where to find it: Amazon, eBay, private sellers.