Rod Revival – A Guide to Early Hot Rod Parts – and a Peek at In-Progress Pre-’49 Projects
Hot rodding is all about building and driving what you want. That’s more evident than ever at Goodguys events these days, where we see variety that ranges from muscle cars and ’50s cruisers, to trucks and a growing number of ’80s rides. For many enthusiasts, though, the term “hot rod” conjures up those traditional early cars that launched our hobby and have remained popular ever since. We’re talking about Model Ts and As, Deuces, ’33-’34 Fords, plus the fat-fendered rods through the first few postwar years.
In talking with builders across the country, we learned there are plenty of pre-’49 hot rods and street rods being built – and rebuilt. In fact, the number of new builds in shops may be rivaled by the number of previously built rods that are being freshened up or completely reimagined with updated suspensions, wheels, powertrains, and paint. We’ll show you a sampling of some in-progress rides that are on our radar.
Aftermarket manufacturers haven’t stopped designing and refining new components for early model rods, either. Brakes and suspension systems continue to evolve, as does the availability of sheet metal and restoration components to help these old projects look better and drive their best. Take a look through this hot rod parts product guide and you’ll see innovative components that just keep coming for vintage rods.
The bottom line is that pre-’49 cars and trucks are simply cool, and always will be. And they can be built into so many different styles and combinations that there’s no shortage of direction to take a project. Like they say, life’s too short to drive a boring car, so drive a hot rod!
Planning a ’34 Ford project or ready to make your stock chassis-equipped classic really handle? Total Cost Involved has introduced their ’34 Ford Moonshiner Chassis featuring fully boxed frame rails, stamped from USA-supplied steel providing increased rigidity and strength without compromising the original profile.
The front end boasts a custom-designed spindle with bolt-on steering arms and proprietary geometry to ensure maximum comfort and performance. The innovative torque arm rear suspension eliminates binding during cornering, leaving conventional leaf spring setups in the dust. With a wide range of additional options, you can customize the chassis to your exact needs. TCI also offers the Moonshiner for ’35–’40 Fords and they all carry TCI’s Dual Warranty of six years, 60,000 miles for wear and tear, and a lifetime warranty for anything built in-house.
New Heads for Flatheads
You can’t go wrong with a vintage Flathead for your hot rod and there are many new parts available for these vintage engines. Edelbrock was there during the Flathead heyday and continues to develop and manufacture heads and intakes for the iconic V8.
The Edelbrock #1125 Heads feature the original Edelbrock script logo design for Fords and Mercurys. The 65cc heads support an 8.0:1 compression ratio on blocks with a 3/16-inch base relief (stock bore and stroke) and feature larger water capacity and excellent breathing characteristics along with finned construction. The heads are cast from T-6 tempered A356 aluminum at Edelbrock’s USA-based foundry.
There has never been much room around the engine on vintage rods, which is why the compact manual gearbox from a Chevy Vega has long been a favorite. Since there aren’t many Vegas to plunder any more, Borgeson took the time to develop and manufacture an all-new steering box.
Borgeson’s all-new Vega 140 manual steering gear is built to the original specifications and drawings from the original Saginaw steering manufacturer. Each gear features a new precision-machined casting created from original tooling, coupled with all new internals. Each steering box is carefully assembled, inspected, and tested to Borgeson’s precise specifications at their South Carolina facility.
Precision Hot Rods and Fabrication Inc.
This ’39 Ford sedan delivery is perched on a new Precision Hot Rods and Fabrication chassis. The Precision team will be making all the metal repairs and will primer the body then hand if off to the customer. It will have a Johnson’s Radiator Works radiator, Vintage Air system, and an Ididit steering column installed.
4-Barrels for Flatheads
Feeding more fuel and air to a Flathead is simplified when you step up to a four-barrel carb. Speedway Motors offers this classic cast aluminum Offenhauser intake that fits ’49-’53 Flatheads and is supplied with a carb adapter to accept a Carter-style four-barrel with a WCFB bolt pattern.
The single-plane intake provides a great platform for a four-barrel carb and fits the smaller ’50s-style Carter (or Edelbrock, an AFB, or Holley-style) carb. For best results it should be used with spacer or an adapter for a Holley carburetor. The supplied spacer has a bore size of 1.5-inch which opens to 1.685-inch and has a dual bolt pattern to accept other carbs.
IFS and IRS
Looking to modify an early chassis with great-performing modern-design front and rear suspensions? Reach out to Kugel Komponents for their trick independent front and rear suspension systems. With over 40 years of hot rodding experience, Kugel has nearly any model from ’28 to the late-’40s covered.
Each IFS system comes complete with a crossmember, rack-and-pinion steering, sway bar, adjustable coil-overs, Wilwood disc brakes, Kugel’s proprietary stainless steel spindle assemblies, and either cast stainless A-arms or tubular versions. The IRS systems are available with a Ford 9-inch third member or Winters quick-change center section, cast aluminum housing and hub uprights, cast stainless or tubular control arms, two or four coil-over shock design, in-board disc brakes, and a crossmember to fit your frame. Available in hub widths from 50-inches to over 60-inches.
Blue Sky Performance and Restoration
Blue Sky Performance and Restoration will be transforming this ’80s-built ’39 Ford into a “classy gentleman’s coupe.” The exterior will get a Deluxe front end with a period correct color with a touch of pearl along with an interior by Bux Customs. Power will come from an LS dressed as a Thunderbolt 427 nestled in a Roaster Shop chassis. The goal is a classic-style, modern-performance, well-rounded cruiser.
A vintage engine adds so much character to the looks of a hot rod, but to really make one stand out from the crowd, the idle chop must be just right. Comp Cams knows what it takes to get that just right “thumpity-thumpity-thump” idle chop with their Mutha’ Thumpr series of camshafts.
These cams feature specially engineered profiles for each engine platform including Flatheads, Nailheads, Hemis, Y-blocks, and more. Each cam features an early intake valve opening and long exhaust duration with generous overlap to get the right idle sound yet retain terrific drivability. Three series of cams are available ranging from the Thumpr to Mutha’ Thumpr and finally the Big Mutha’ Thumpr for aggressive high-compression engines.
Roadsters have never been known for their comfort and spacious interiors. To help you get comfy behind the wheel for a long drive, Flaming River offers its popular Roadster steering column with the modern convenience of a five-position tilt. The column is built on a 1.75-inch diameter tube and is available in a variety of lengths and finishes including paintable, powder coated black, or polished.
With only 5.50-inches from the bottom of the dish to the top of the column’s shroud, this compact space-saving design has a nostalgic look and full-tilt functionality. This new roadster-style tilt column fits snug against the dash and, compared to a standard tilt column, allows for an additional two-inches of clearance in the driver’s seat. A common GM 4.25-inch connector, canceling cam, turn signal and tilt lever, hazard knob, and of course, a functional horn are all included. All Flaming River steering columns are proudly made in the USA.
Classic Package for ’33-‘34
The iconic ’33 and ’34 Fords exude sexy styling from the inside out and Classic Instruments can help refresh and retain that styling with their bolt-in instrument assembly. The package includes a machined, chrome-plated bezel and engine-turned aluminum faceplate along with all-new Deco-styled gauges.
The ’33–’34 Ford car cluster includes a speedometer, fuel level, temperature, oil pressure, and volt gauges along with indicator lights for turn signals, high-beam and a warning lamp. All the gauges are electronic and feature Classic’s precise air-core movement. Sensors are included, the fuel gauge is programmable to be used with any sending unit, and the speedometer can also be programmed thanks to CI’s Zeus Speedometer technology.
Roseville Rod & Custom
The crew at Roseville Rod & Custom has a pair of cool hot rod projects in the works. One is a ’31 Ford with a 5-inch top chop and 3-inch channel over a Boling Brothers chassis. The other is a ’32 Brookville coupe that will soon be chopped 3-inches and bolted to a Roy Brizio chassis. Both cars will have vintage GMC inline-sixes backed by Tremec five-speeds.
Inline-Six Speed Parts
While the Ford Flathead was gaining popularity amongst rodders, the GM straight six cylinder engines were holding their own thanks to several innovative engine builders and parts companies. There were companies producing performance intakes, headers, cams, and internal parts and of course, the cool engine accessories to go along with the performance goodies. Two well-known parts manufactures of those days include Wayne and McGurk Engineering and thanks to York Speed Shop with the team at Roseville Rod & Custom, you can get new parts for your GMC or Chevy inline six.
York now offers a cast aluminum McGurk dual carb intake, Wayne intakes for their historic 12-port Chevy head, a valve cover, and side cover from both vintage speed names. These engines not only stand out in the crowd but can be built to produce a bunch of torque! Do your powertrain different with the help of York Speed Shop.
Flathead enthusiasts, particularly those who care to run a stock cooling fan, will be happy to see that Powermaster has stepped up their PowerGEN offerings with a new model that supports the OEM fan. The housing features cast iron end caps to support the weight and frequencies of the heavy factory cooling fan with a new steel pulley that is machined to accept an OEM fan (not included).
The new PowerGEN also features a non-functional cut-out cover and rear lube cap for factory looks. The unit is easy to install in the factory mount and features a one-wire connection. Two housings are available: a long unit for stock applications and a short housing for dual carb setups. Models are available for 12-volt negative ground or 6-volt positive ground systems.
Tim Strange, a recent KKOA Hall of Fame inductee, is deep in the throes of customizing this ’36 three window coupe. It will be getting a chop, some mild body mods and some real cool sheet metal work. The owner plans to drive the car a lot so power will be coming from a Holley fuel injected late model Hemi with a 5-speed Tremec, Wilwood brakes and Vintage Air for comfort.
You spend a lot of time looking over the dash of your favorite hot rod, so it’s important to detail it in a way that makes you smile. Lokar understands the importance of finishing touches and offers several oval dash inserts to secure your gauges in an attractive arrangement.
Machined from billet aluminum, these Oval Dash Inserts are perfect for your street rod and available in five- and six-gauge configurations. Lokar offers brushed or fully polished finishes, and the bezels have a recessed-face design so the gauges mount from the back. Most all aftermarket gauges will easily install, and Lokar includes two green LEDs for turn signals and one red for a high beam indicator, along with mounting hardware.
Modern ’40 Gauges
The 1940 Ford dashboard has become an icon in its own right, finding its way into many street rods over the years. Dakota Digital offers a modern take on the gauges, but with classic flair. The kit comes with a classic-style chrome-plated machined bezel that is filled with Dakota’s feature-rich TFT message center. The assembly fits right into the stock dash opening in ’40 cars as well as ’40–’47 Ford pickups.
Dakota’s RTX Series retains that stock look without sacrificing the late-model features you want. Every effort has been put forth to incorporate OEM design elements including the face styling and indicators. A casual glance may dismiss these as original, but once the key is turned on the LED backlighting comes to life in your favorite color scheme to let you know it is 2023!
Vintage style and modern convenience are paired seamlessly in Ididit’s ’40s-style straight steering column. This brushed stainless steel special edition column features Art Deco styling and flair with brass knobs, a vintage-style brass shift indicator, and a cutting-edge locking detent with an exposed shift tube.
Even with all this classic flavor, the column also includes self-canceling turn signals, four-way flashers, horn wiring, and a 3-7/8-inch GM-style wiring connector. The column, for three or four speed automatics, accepts most aftermarket steering wheels with a ’69-’94 GM adapter and is available in 30- or 33-inch lengths with a common 3/4-36 lower shaft.
Pinkee’s Rod Shop
Three serious hot rod builds are in the works at Pinkee’s Rod Shop. The louvered ’33 five-window rocks a 331c.i. Cadillac V8, five-speed, and a quick-change rear. The Deuce highboy has a small-block Chevy, five-speed, and quick-change, and the other ’32 roadster will run with a small-block ford, five-speed, and quick-change. Recognize a trend here?
Forged Steel Axle
Today’s hot rods need to be able to handle modern roads and speeds while being safe and reliable. Pete & Jakes Hot Rod Parts has been around for nearly 50 years and understands the importance of designing quality parts with strength for the road. This determination has led them to re-tool and create a new Forged I-beam axle.
Forged steel is far stronger than cast steel, making their new SuperBell I-beam a must-have when building or upgrading your hot rod. The axles feature a 46-inch width with 2- or 2.25-inch perches. The axles provide a 4-inch drop and are available solid or drilled in a plain or chrome finish. Forged and machined in the USA.
Machined Glove Box Doors
You owe it to yourself to dress your ’33 or ’34 Ford with some interior eye candy! Summit Racing Equipment now carries beautiful glove box doors from Phoenix Machine to add some vintage flair. The non-functioning doors are available for the Ford ’33 Model 40/46 and ’34 Model 40/40A cars. Each glove box door is CNC-machined from 6061 aluminum bar stock and then finished with a ball-milled, engine turned, or a recessed engine turned stainless steel insert.
Summit Racing also carries other Phoenix Machine products including dash panels, gauge adapters for factory Ford dashes, glove box trim for ’42 and ’46-’48 Ford, and an under dash switch panel for ’32s.
Smithson Speed and Engineering
This ’38 Chevy has been with its owner for almost 50 years and was showing its age when it arrived at Smithson Speed. Serious rust damage warranted plenty of new sheet metal and custom touches including the dash of a ’55 Chevy. The car will be riding on a Scott’s Hotrods chassis with a reliable 350/700R4 drivetrain soon.
Classic Fuel Carrier
Every hot rod and street rod project is going to need a fresh, clean fuel tank. Whether you’re making the move to electronic fuel injection or sticking with a carburetor, Tanks, Inc. has a bolt-in ready fuel tank for your project car or truck. Just check out their ’38–’40 Ford car and ’38–’41 pickup tank.
These tanks have a 16-gallon capacity and are equipped with internal baffling to prevent fuel starvation even when you’re running an in-tank pump for EFI. The steel tanks are alloy coated for maximum rust prevention and accept a common five-bolt sending unit for the fuel gauge. These tanks carry two-gallons more fuel and measure 42.5×15.5×10-inches and mount with supplied caged mounting nuts just like the factory.
Quick Change V8
A favorite rear axle for hot rods and street rods is the quick-change rearend. The benefit of these rear housings is that you can easily alter the final drive ratio in minutes simply by swapping the two quick change gears in the back of the housing. This was a favorite feature for racers that drove their rods out to the lakes or track. The other benefit is that they simply look great in a hot rod.
Winters Performance has been bringing their race-winning quick-change rearend technology to the street for decades with models for everything from hot rods to even pro-touring muscle machines. Winters’ rears are available in a several different styles that fit the vibe of any build, including the nostalgic Steel Tube and Bell version shown here for traditional rods, which can be complemented with their new trunk or truck bed mounted Remote Breather and Oil Fill Tanks – a collaboration with Mooneyes to provide a cool-looking breather for the rear and allows for easy oil refills after gear changes.
Tread and Tires
The choice of tires can enhance the stance and overall feel of your hot rod, especially when it comes to traditional-style rods. Coker Tire may be known as the inventor of the wide whitewall radial tire, but the Chattanooga, Tennessee-based company also has an eye for tires designed specifically for pre-WWII hot rods such as their Excelsior Stahl Sport Radial.
The Excelsior Stahl Sport Radial offers a narrow tread design and tall sidewall, making it the perfect style and fit for vintage rods, while also providing a safe and smooth ride on the highway thanks to a modern speed-rated radial design. Coker offers a wide range of sizes to fit 16- to 21-inch wheel diameters with many options for staggered “big ’n little” fitments, including 500R16 and 750R16. The Excelsior Stahl Sport Radial is proudly made in the USA and features a black sidewall for a correct, traditional look.
Cotati Speed Shop
This ’35 Ford is going to leave the Cotati Speed Shop as a traditional tail-dragging vintage custom, but will drive like a new car thanks to a custom Roadster Shop chassis. It’ll be receiving an early Hemi with a vintage mechanical injection system converted to EFI, a TKX five-speed transmission, and a more than a few custom touches to the body.
With all the distracted drivers zipping around out there, it’s a good idea to add a third brake light to your hot rod. UPcarparts offers a Dual-Function LED that is housed in an inconspicuous black mount with a 180-degree swivel base, making installation in an older rod easy. The light may be compact, but once the red LEDs are activated, it glows extremely bright to garner extra attention to those that follow.
The Dual-Function LED serves as both a driving light and brake light and features a durable polycarbonate lens that is sealed to lock out moisture. The adjustable base assembly is easy to mount in a small rear window and thanks to a solid-state circuit board, the lamp is extremely energy efficient and does not require a relay. UPcarparts offers pages of different lights and other restoration products.
Heritage in Wheels
“Tradition is not a focus of the past; it is a preservation of the future.” That said, Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop has started on a journey to bring back an original wheel design with roots dating back to when Indianapolis was ingrained with names like Watson, Kurtis, and Offenhauser. Johnson’s Magnesium Roadster wheels are cast in the USA in a modern aerospace foundry and each one is individually x-rayed to ensure quality before final machining is done in-house at JHRS.
Wheel sizes include 16×5-inch fronts and 18×7-inch rears, available in five-pin or six-pin and 4.5-inch to 5.5-inch bolt circle. The standard wheel package set comes with machined rim lips, knock-offs, and adapter plates. Available upgraded wheel options include the original Dow 7 finish, Cerakote, and show polish finishes. Every effort has been made to produce a stronger, truer, and safer wheel while paying tribute to originals.
Murray Kustom Rods
Murray Kustom Rods is knee deep in this ’36 Ford three-window coupe that is being built in more of a traditional hot rod style. They started with renderings from E. Black Design and went back and forth on several subtle details that include a 1-inch chop, re-arching the rear wheel openings, recreating the hood sides, and moving the cowl lines. It will have a raked stance with Johnson’s Rod Shop’s new Wide-5 wheels. Power will be supplied via a 383c.i. stroker small-block Chevy with a TKO five-speed transmission and a Ford 9-inch rearend.
Wheels of Style
LimeWorks Hot Rod Parts is known for its line of classic hot rod parts and now offers cool fresh color options for their iconic ’40 Ford styled steering wheels. These latest colors present an exciting opportunity to enhance the aesthetics of any hot rod project, enabling builders and owners to infuse their hot rod with timeless elegance combined with a striking contemporary touch.
Embrace the harmonious blend of classic craftsmanship and modern design with LimeWorks Hot Rod Parts’ latest colors for the ’40 wheels to elevate your hot rod to an unprecedented level of style and sophistication. As the demand for customization continues to grow, LimeWorks will be at the forefront offering automotive enthusiasts an unparalleled array of choices to make their hot rods truly stand out.
FAT MAN IFS
Making the move to an independent front suspension (IFS) is often the right choice when it comes to improving the handling of an early rod, not to mention helping to nail the right stance. Fat Man Fabrication offers a complete IFS setup for early Ford, GM, Mopar and other applications that you can install on the original frame rails.
The Affordable IFS kits are designed to give you the same ride height and width as a 4-inch drop axle, but with a much more contemporary ride. The kit was designed with many OEM parts to keep maintenance easy and once installed the wheels will be 56-inches hub-to-hub with the spindle center approximately 1-inch above the bottom of the frame rail. With proper geometry, stance, and tire-to-fender clearance you’ll be one step closer to hitting that open road!
Retainers for Classics
If you’re gearing up to rebuild a vintage engine, there is absolutely no reason to use any of the original bolts and fasteners. Even if they’re not rusty or look worn, new retainers should always be used to ensure the most accurate fitment and torque strength. ARP has old engines covered with fasteners to handle the needs of most domestic OHV V8s including the fabled Flathead.
ARP offers head stud kits for the early and later Flathead engines including sets for many aftermarket heads. These kits include precision-machined 8470 chrome moly studs, parallel-ground washers, as well as show-quality polished forged stainless steel acorn nuts. Nailheads, Cadillac, and Chrysler LA & B engines are also covered with application-specific head stud kits.
Ryan’s Rod & Kustom
Chris Ryan is hard at work on this ’38 Packard 115 with the goal of a classic Westergard-style custom. The car sits on a custom Fat Man chassis with a vintage 331c.i. Cadillac topped with a set of Strombergs. The body has been sectioned, chopped, lengthened, and modified throughout.
Pull up a Seat
A comfy seat makes all the difference on road trips and cruise nights. Glide Engineering offers a bunch of comfortable and great-looking seats for early rods ranging from benches to buckets. The seats feature all steel construction with non-sag springs and are powder coated for long-lasting corrosion protection.
Glide also offers 50/50 seats so each one can be positioned independently from each other. Roadster seats provide access to the trunk and others have reclining backs to get you set for a long cruise. Each seat is ready to be upholstered and Glide also offers seat foam for all their applications and prides themselves on their USA-built products and customer service.
New Vintage USA offers a number of direct-fit gauge packages for ’48-and-older rods, including their stylish Woodward Series. This package is based on a pair of 4-3/8-inch housings that include a programmable speedometer, oil, coolant, fuel, and voltage gauge. You can also mix and match the gauges and sizes to create just the right look for your car or vintage truck.
The Woodward series has a period-correct design thanks to wrap-around Deco-styled graphics with an inner accent on each face. The assembly is capped with a domed glass lens creating a distinct vintage look. Each set of the Woodward Series gauges are supplied with sending units, adapter bushings, color-coded wiring, and detailed instructions.
It’s been over nine decades since a new ’32 Ford was built. Any original cars or shells are hard to come by and if you find one, who knows what could be under the paint. If you’re ready to build your dream Deuce coupe, do it right and get started with an all new steel body from Brookville. No surprises and no rust, just perfect new sheet metal to start your project right.
Brookville’s three-window coupe bodies are made from original-gauge steel and great care was taken to ensure that any original parts will bolt in place on the new coupe body. Even the stamping details, internal bracing, and wood components are designed as original. These pieces are assembled with the benefits of modern welding and finishing techniques to create a brand new canvas for you to build from. (If a roadster is more your style, Brookville has you covered there as well!)