PCH, Before They Were Rat Rods Edition: Model A or Studebaker?

It's hard to beat a stainless-steel-bodied, French/Swedish-engined, Northern-Ireland-built car for hell, although I figured the inherent coolness of the first-year GTO might balance the scales a bit (it's true that the easy availability of repro pieces for just about everything on the Pontiac reduces the Hell side of the equation). Of course, the De Lorean beat up the GTO pretty handily in yesterday's poll. Today we're going to look at a couple of cars that car freaks of 50 years ago lusted after for customizing and all-around hoonage. The "rat rod" term that gets thrown around with such abandon these days seems to be shorthand for "I'll feel like James Dean/Bettie Page while driving this crude-looking hoonmobile, like something out of a Robert Williams painting, only with a punk rock soundtrack!" So why not build yourself a real 50s-style hoon chariot, using all vintage equipment? Yeah, that means no fuel injection or disc brakes or Mustang II front suspensions!


The Model A Ford was the American hoon's cheap car of choice from the 1930s well into the 1960s (when they started becoming "classics" instead of "beaters"). Drag racing, dirt-track racing, donuts on your lawn, insane engine swaps- you name it, the Model A has done it. But now you got these guys building Model As that cost more than Henry Ford paid all his shoprats for an entire year, and if you get a fingerprint on one you'd probably stop the owner's heart on the spot. But what if you could find a project Model A that some 50s hoon started back in the day? Say, something like this 1929 Model A, still under $2000 top bid in a no-reserve auction? The seller likes to use different font colors in the description, but we're so relieved to avoid CAPS LOCK PAIN that we don't mind... especially since he or she isn't trying to sugarcoat the very harsh reality of this project's magnitude. You like patina? Well, "this thing is ate up with it," according to the seller. There's a frame and a very rusty body. There's some sort of small-block Ford engine sitting in it. Now you could go ahead and throw some money at a bunch of repro parts for this thing... but we're thinking more along the lines of the kind of car that would have been a total cop magnet back in 1959. Drop something like an early Olds OHV V8 or a Y-block Ford in it (or, hell, go for the just-returned-from-the-war thing and do a 1947-style flathead setup), the works. Throw some black primer over the rust, lose the BMW seats, and you're done!

Ever notice how so many ads for project cars mention how much non-trashed versions of the same car are worth? It seems such an irrelevant detail, but in fact it reminds us of the lure of Project Car Hell- not so much the money part, but just the sense that you got a diamond in the rough here, buddy! This 1950 Studebaker Starlight Coupe (go here if the ad disappears) is just such a car. The seller says "car rolls and steers nice but not quite a driver," but at least it has a drivetrain. Unfortunately, there's some rust (hey, it's in Wisconsin), but among the extra parts available subject to negotiation is a new trunk floor. It's got the all-important "bulletnose" trim, so all it needs is a 1960 hoodlum-style chopping/lowering routine, a complete drivetrain overhaul, a bunch of rust repair, some sort of interior... well, you get the picture. But just imagine how evil this thing could look!

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