Tony DeMarco Set Out to Replicate His Old Model A Coupe and Ended Up With an Even More Bitchin’ Model A Sedan
By now you’re likely familiar with the “one that got away” trope. In the automotive variation, a person had to part with a special car; but, now that they have more control over their circumstances, they want back what they unwillingly gave up. The story usually culminates with our hero finding a reasonable facsimile…only to rebuild it entirely differently than the machine that inspired it.
Tony DeMarco’s Model A sedan isn’t exactly the car that he built almost 40 years ago, either. That was a coupe. And the steel wheels and abundance of chrome on his current one stand in stark contrast to the Enkei Hurricanes and billet-inspired features of its ’80s counterpart. Sure, they’re both the same color and have hot small-blocks. But at face value these cars are about as like each other as Oakley Blades are to Ray-Ban Wayfarers.
Tony built the coupe that got away in the early-’80s from what was once a hot rod according to the lead in the top-chop seams. But by the time he finished the car, it featured the latest trends for the day. He blacked-out the windows. Then he slammed it over uncannily big-and-little tires mounted on Enkei Hurricanes. The pro street look was just coming on and the coupe looked as if Tony ripped it straight from street-machine event coverage.
Tony sold the car in 1995, a year after he moved from California to Idaho. “I built my own house when I moved up here and I needed the money to pay off credit cards,” he laments as he describes how he still sees his old coupe at shows.
But on the 20th anniversary of selling that car, Tony went looking for a reasonable facsimile. This is the Model A sedan that he found.
This time Tony chopped the top (3-inches if you’re wondering). He also replaced the lower sheet metal and had Darrel Peterson at River City Speed & Custom in Post Falls reskin a door. The grille shell came from Tony’s brother, Phil. “He’s the one who really was into hot rods when I was a kid,” Tony says. “He’s six years older than me, so I grew up with all his hot rods and his friends’ hot rods in the ’60s.” Tony tailored Rootlieb hood tops to fit. Rob Kessler fabricated a rear nerf bar from 3/4-inch bar stock and built the cage with tube clamps for easy disassembly.
Just as the original did, this car sits on a modified Model A frame. “It had disc brakes with a Super Bell axle and four-bar,” he says. “Once I put the tires on it, all the bias-ply everything, I just, I couldn’t…I couldn’t do it. Didn’t match the car.” So, he replaced the front with a Pete & Jakes hairpin kit. He also installed a flatter crossmember to recreate his coupe’s stance. On the aft end of the chassis, he installed a Deuce tank with Tanks Inc. components. Internally the 350 resembles the one in the coupe. But it breathes through Holley triple carbs and Speedway Motors’ stainless ram’s horns and a pair of un-muffled 2 1/2-inch pipes.
The TH350 transmission backing it has one less gear than the four-speed contemporary standard, which is also in keeping with the coupe (that had a Powergilde in an age when most builders ran three-speed automatics). But with a 3.23:1 gear and 31-inch-tall tires, Tony really doesn’t miss that extra gear.
Speaking of tires, they’re Firestone 5.00/5.25-16s and 7.50-16s on 16×4- and 16×6-inch Wheel Vintiques Gennie wheels. They mount to early Buick aluminum drum brakes by way of Wilson Welding hubs. Bass Kustoms modifies early Ford backing plates with servo-action mechanicals to reduce leg effort.
Russ Freund at River City Speed & Kustom straightened the body, Tony blocked it out, and Russ shot everything in Tony’s home shop. The color? 1975 Corvette Bright Blue Poly. “I had a little left over in a can from the coupe,” he says.
Tony made the interior panels from ABS, then delivered them and the body on a dolly to Dwayne at Dick’s Upholstery in Hayden, Idaho. Dwayne also recreated the top skin and covered it with factory-style cobra long-grain vinyl topping. Joe at River City Kustom Threads in Post Falls trimmed the Procar seats in black vinyl with blue basketweave inserts and carpeted the floor.
Meanwhile, Tony prepped everything except the brake drums and rear axle for plating. Spokane Metal Finishing chromed everything else, right down to the nuts and bolts. “You know, it is expensive,” Tony admits. “But if I had somebody paint that stuff for me, I betcha I didn’t spend any more money than that.”
Tony finished the sedan in March 2020, just in time for lockdowns to scotch all community events. He debuted it at the 2021 Spokane Speed & Custom show and later drove it across the mountain to attend the 33rd Pacific Northwest Nationals in Puyallup. But it was at the 19th Great Northwest Nationals that he snagged a spot in the Top 10. And this year he got the Hottest Hot Rod and Goodguys Feature Pick, which you’re reading right now.
Tony DeMarco’s Model A sedan differs significantly from the car that inspired it. And not to detract from that car, but this one’s all the better for it. Like Blades and Wayfarers, they’re near-perfect specimens of their respective eras. And he can say that he’s had ’em both.
Photos by Damon Lee & Chris Shelton