Finish Your Way! Chopped 1930 Ford Hot Rod

By the 1960s, millions of Ford coupes littered the nation’s junk-yards, back yards, and barnyards. Folks made them into sandboxes and chicken coops, tractors, saw mills, and other contraptions. Stuffing a later model V8 in the lightweight bodies or souping up the Flathead V8 kept generations of young motorheads occupied. Stripping the fenders and bumpers off made them even faster. This 1930 Ford coupe in Sacramento, California comes to market here on eBay with enough begun to envision a finished project, and enough work remaining to call it your own. The seller mentions the 1973 film American Graffiti, and it’s interesting to compare and contrast that film’s now-iconic ’32 Ford five-window coupe  to this ’30. Speaking of 30, more than 30 bids have driven the market value of this hot rod beyond $5000. Note the forward-canted radiator shroud for that early speed look — the illusion of motion even at rest.

John Milner’s ’32 coupe in American Graffiti ran a 283 cid Chevrolet V8 with a fancy quartet of Rochester two-barrel carburetors. A 289 cid Ford V8 powers this Model A, and it looks like a $50 special yoked from a nondescript late ’60s Dadmobile. A stock single two-barrel throws gas down the holes. Though not running, the small block turns by hand, and the seller says the radiator has been rebuilt at some point, presumably with the capacity to cool the 289.

The front wheels gained “juice” (hydraulic) brakes, with discs even! A power steering rack eases the task of turning fatter modern wheels and tires, or at least it will once the car gains a steering wheel and shaft. Old-timers say the the police used to pull you over and measure the height of your windshield with a vertical dollar bill. Any shorter and you got the ticket.

Compared to the three-inch chop on the American Grafitti hot rod, this one is more subtle. Fitting glass in the chopped window openings tests the fabricator’s skills, and this one seems to pass. Note the mixture of wood and metal still common in the ’30s before manufacturers went “all steel.”

Milner’s ’32 wore bobbed rear fenders where this Ford’s are gone. The listing shows detached front and rear fenders, running boards, and a drive shaft, all presumably part of the sale. The four-link rear suspension features a Ford 9″ rear axle assembly of considerable width. Don’t rely on trial-and-error to test the back yard engineering.

From this angle we realize this hot rod was never finished. The (probably three speed) automatic may disappoint purists, but it’s typical of budget builds that placed a high priority on utilizing parts on hand. Moving the engine rearward helps with weight distribution and ease of maintenance, but also calls for a proportionally customized firewall. Luckily the few brackets here can be modified or relocated however you want. It’s tough to see this Ford becoming a high-dollar show car, but I like the idea of a late-’60s build using only parts available in those days. Personally I’d find a manual transmission, but the rust and mismatched paint could stay… for a while. How would you finish this old-school hot rod?

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  1. Chris in Pineville

    loose the new V8. replace with a flathad + a ’39 transmission & rear end.
    16″ wire wheels with radials. new factory-style interior. safety glass all around.
    new top as needed. leave the paint as-is.

  2. Jack M.
  3. gaspumpchas

    would be cool to leave it as it is body wise. sbf likes sitting in it would be cool with a 4 or 5 speed. Please no bowtie. Lots of work but endless possibilities. You could box the existing frame, or build A new one out of 2×4 steel. Love to see it go traditional (notice I didnt say old school). I really dont like the engine setback; a lot of guys did this for the drag cars for weight transfer. should be up by the radiator. Flatty would be cool also. Good luck. Build it outa whatever’s on hand!!!

  4. Dutch 1960

    The driver is going to fit just fine, as long as the amputations aren’t too far below the knees…

  5. Dave

    While the 327 wasn’t available in 1962, hot rodders were cajoling their local machine shops to poke those holes out. Perhaps someone might have even created the famous 302 Z-28 motor by accident?
    While Milner’ rod ran a smallblock, Falfa’s ride wasn’t period-correct, as it runs a built 454 and is capable of 10 second quarters. Period-correct would have mandated a built 409, but not knowing what was under the hood didn’t matter. Having Falfa pop the hood on a Rat motor would have gotten groans from the motorheads.

    How about a drivetrain from a Ford truck, a 300 inch six and granny gear 4 speed? Three two barrel carbs and a nudge from Clifford Engineering?

    • Camaro guy

      The 327 first came out in 1962 in Corvettes and Impala’s 250,300,340,&360 and 302’s were built by hot rodders long before Chevy did in 1967 hot rod guys called them 301’s actually 301.6 racers rounded down the .6 Chevrolet rounded up .6 =302 my best friend had a 67 camaro with a built 301-302 ran very low 12’s with a 5.38 gear

  6. Bmac777 Member

    I was unable to ever get a Deuce, however with a few BOP’s , I was able to become the John Milner of my own valley in the world.
    Some wild and fun F*%#&^ rides !!

  7. 56 Olds

    The Police (allegedly) measured the windshield glass height? Never heard of that. What was that about? Sounds like there was a minimum height, but why?

  8. Gaspumpchas

    Holstein- that front end looks a little low, Milner,
    Milner: No, officer, its 9 inches, regulation. You can check it if you like, sir.
    Holstein: you cant mess with the law, Milner.

    Best movie ever.

  9. Joe Haska

    This car as it is ,lacks allot. Mostly engineering and decent fabrication. To make a nice Hot Rod, take the body off the frame. Take the front axel, brakes and running gear and. trash the rest. Salvage what you can from what’s left, buy or build a new frame, based on 32 rails. Add paint ,interior ,tires & wheels, chrome, oh and a 40K budget to do all of this or an unlimited credit card for a shop to build it for you. Another possibility, scouer the internet and want ads and find a better buy!

    • Chris in Pineville

      some people will build a car the way they like it and never worry about being upside down in it……just sayin’

  10. Old Eddie, Fast Eddie, take your pick.

    I remember some of the talk around that time, and it was no accident: the guys with knowledge discussed the parts combination, then did it.

  11. 37hotrod

    In the movie, Milner’s car is 12 1/2 inches…regulation size.

  12. 37hotrod

    Oh yeah, they were referring to the height of the headlights above the road. The dollar bill thing on the windshield was used when racing on the dry lakes. If the roof was chopped so the windshield was shorter than the length of a dollar, you had to run in the “streamliner” class. Less of a chop, and you were put in the “street modified” class.

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