Vintage Land Speed Racers Influenced James Wolk’s 1934 Ford Coupe
If you’re looking for topography that’s as flat as a dry lakebed, Kansas isn’t a bad place to start. That’s where you’ll find James Wolk and his wife Michelle blasting around in their heavily chopped three-window 1934 Ford coupe, a back-to-basics rod that incorporates plenty of inspiration from racers that competed at historic Western venues like Bonneville and Muroc.
To be a little more forthcoming, James lives in the city of Leavenworth, adjacent to the Missouri river, so there are actually plenty of hills around his home. His coupe is a little bit deceptive, too. Despite the old-school lakes racing vibe, this Midwest rod a fresh build – with a fiberglass body.
James and his brother David have been building cars in their spare time for years and have a knack for capturing a clean, traditional look – see the ’36 Ford David built for his wife for another taste of the Wolk Design style. James had been wanting to build a retro-style rod for a while and combined elements from some of his favorites in crafting this coupe.
James started with a body and frame from Russ Nomore Street Rods. The body already had a heavy top chop to help establish that lakes look. He assembled the chassis to match the theme, using a Super Bell dropped beam axle and Ford wishbones, along with a Pete & Jake’s ladder bar rear suspension supporting a Winters banjo-style rearend. Lincoln front drum brakes furthered the traditional style, with 16×5-inch Ford wheels in front and 18×5-inch milk truck rear wheels, wrapped in 5.00-16 and 7.00-18 Excelsior tires.
A small-block Chevy kept things affordable and simple for this road-driven rod. A Holley Sniper EFI unit is about the most exotic part on it. Most everything else is back-to-basics simple, from the block-hugger headers to the HEI distributor. The TH350 transmission uses a Gennie shifter for control.
Besides the chopped top and raised rear wheel wells that are part of the ’glass body, James extended the cowl to stretch the front end, added an original steel hood, modified a ’37 Ford truck grille to fit, and built a louvered rear panel for the deck lid. Vintage Guide BLC headlights and ’37 Ford taillights fit the theme, with aircraft wingtip lights used as front turn signals. The DuPont gray paint was strategically sanded to age the coupe’s appearance and James’s daughter Ellie painted the numbering on the sides.
James incorporated vintage aircraft elements where he could, without going overboard. An aircraft-style fuel tank was mounted in the trunk, with a fuel filler above the left rear wheel. Vintage aircraft seatbelts were used inside on the basic black bench seat covered by Torres Kustom Upholstery; James’s daughter Shelbie helped with the rest of the upholstery. James found a ’31 Cadillac dash insert and filled it with Stewart-Warner gauges, and then turned the ash trays on each end of the dash into vents for the Southern Air A/C system. A ’31 Buick steering column was topped with a Bell four-spoke wheel.
Finished earlier this year, the 1934 Ford coupe made its first road trip to the Goodguys 29th Speedway Motors Heartland Nationals – a pretty easy 200-mile trip on paved highways and Interstates. Whether the coupe will make a pilgrimage to any dry lakes out West remains to be seen. If it does, there’s no doubt this competition-influenced rod will look and feel right at home.
Photos by Damon Lee