Jon Cumpton’s Back-to-Basics Model A Roadster is Straight Out of His High School Dreams
A lot of guys who build traditional-style hot rods are recreating the “one that got away” – that high school ride or a car from earlier in life that managed to get wrecked, sold, or otherwise lost to time. For others, though, building an old-school hot rod is more about getting the car they always dreamed about in earlier years, but never had. That’s the case with Jon Cumpton’s retro-styled ’29 Model A roadster.
“When I was 14 years old, Hot Rod Magazine was required reading,” Jon says. “Every month my friends and I drooled over the latest rods and all the hot rod personalities. Our hot rod activities were limited to building plastic models.
“When I began to drive, my family only had ‘normal’ cars,” Jon continues. “But my dad was a car nut like me. These normal cars included a ’66 Olds Toronado, in which I got my first speeding ticket. At any rate, since we were privileged college-bound boys, building hot rods was only a dream.
“Fast forward to 2015,” Jon says, “when building a traditional hot rod was front and center on my bucket list. I had worked on building my 1965 Chevy Bel Air wagon with Mike Norrie, who did all the fabrication. I discovered that he shared a love of traditional prewar hot rods. Shortly thereafter, Mike moved to Union Speed and Style in Osseo, Minnesota, to work with Jordan Dickinson. Crafting traditional hot rods of beauty is right up their alley.”
You can see where this is leading. Jon soon began hatching a plan with Mike and Jordan to build the Model A hot rod Jon wanted as a teenager. “I had acquired a two door Model A body and a 59A flathead with a Thickstun intake,” Jon says. “After realizing that many months would be involved to get a vintage body into shape, a Brookville Model A Roadster body appeared from Jordan’s inventory, and off we went.”
Mike and Jordan used stamped reproduction ’32 Ford frame rails recontoured to fit the Model A body and slightly narrowed to allow the body to be channeled 1-inch over the frame. Model A-style front and rear crossmembers were used in conjunction with Union’s custom drilled and dimpled X-member, plus a dropped ’32 Ford “heavy” front axle mounted in a spring-behind configuration and located with early Ford-style wishbones and Lincoln-style drum brakes from Boling Brothers. The early Ford banjo rearend was set up on a transverse leaf spring, located with ladder bars, and filled with 3.78:1 gears. Things got rolling on wide five artillery-style wheels fitted inside Excelsior 5.50-16 and 7.50-16 tires.
Rick Schnell rebuilt the 276c.i. Flathead, which had previously lived in a ’40 Ford hot rod. It was assembled using Edelbrock heads, a Thickstun hi-rise dual-carb intake, Thickstun finned aluminum air cleaner, electronic ignition, and custom headers leading to a stainless exhaust. A Cornhusker Rod & Custom adapter linked the Flathead to an S10 T5 transmission controlled by an early Ford swan-neck shift lever topped with a Millworks V8 shift knob.
Beyond being channeled an inch over the frame, the Brookville body had its cowl shortened and the body was cut to accentuate the lower body line sweep up to the frame. Custom floors and a transmission tunnel were also built, and the seat riser was moved backward 2-inches to better fit the ’32 frame sweep. The aluminum hood top and sides (which are not always used) were hand built, while the ’29-style grille had the radiator cap and peak removed and was filled with a custom stainless insert. Paint by Shane ultimately sprayed the custom-mixed olive green PPG paint – a fitting hue for a roadster of this style.
The roadster’s cockpit saw a similar combination of traditional elements, starting with the lower portion of a ’32 dash being integrated and filled with Classic Instruments gauges. A Schroeder four-spoke wheel topped the custom column, while the custom bench seat was covered in classic-style brown leather by the guys at Union Speed. Other classic details included a shortened ’40 Ford emergency brake handle, custom clutch and brake pads, and vintage-style cloth-covered wiring. The Hooker four-point harnesses were a modern concession to safety. When asked about air conditioning, Jon jokes, “only in the fall.”
Built over the course of two years, the roadster was finished in early 2017 and debuted at the Grand National Roadster Show that year. Jon has been driving and enjoying the Ford when possible ever since. “The most memorable experience was driving the car in a charity road rally with my son, Heart, and driving it from my home in Wisconsin on back roads to Des Moines for the rally,” Jon says. “We are excited that the car has received wonderful attention from those who appreciate that our hearts and souls are in this car.”
Photos by John Jackson