Mass Appeal – Junior Mass’ 1931 Model A Pickup
They say practice makes perfect. For hot rod builder Dave Hamilton, it seems to ring true. Dave is the owner of Ham’s Auto Body in Grants Pass, Oregon, and they’ve been cranking out top-shelf work since 1966. In his free time he builds hot rods at his house. To be more specific, he’s been building nothing but ’31 Fords, and this Model A Pickup was number 10.
About 15 years ago Dave drove out to Bonneville for the first time and saw a group of traditional hot rods hanging around. A ’31 Model A in particular caught his attention and he knew right then he wanted to go home and build one to drive there the next year. And he did. And then he built another one, and another, and hasn’t stopped.
Up until this one, they’d all been black, and they all had a roof, be it sedan or coupe. This was his first non-black, open-top build. He also tries to keep them within a time frame, and this was the last with a Chevy small block, as the rest have all been Hemi powered.
For this one, Dave started with a Brookville body. Clean steel and things like longer doors and a flawless factory bed make things easier. The windshield is chopped 2-inches, and he added a ’32 cowl vent. After owning enough of them, he knows they can get a little stuffy under the dash, and the cowl vent is a welcome addition, though it does have a heater, too.
Dave also chose a set of ’35 Buick headlights and converted them to sealed beams. They are just the right amount of swoopy without being out of place, and they mount from the bottom. He also used a ’32 grille but kept the chrome Model A cowl band intact behind the louvered hood.
For the chassis, Dave selected a frame from Blackboard Hot Rods, “the ’32 Ford chassis specialists.” They make things easy by offering pinched ’32 rails for Model As with a variety of options like C-notches or bobbed and filled ends. The suspension was properly set up with a painted 4-inch dropped and drilled I-beam axle and hairpins up front, while the rear is a 9-inch Ford on a Posies Super Slide spring. Lincoln drum brakes were capped with 16-inch Wheelsmith wires and big ’n little Firestones.
As previously mentioned, this was the first car Dave didn’t paint black. He knew he wanted something that wasn’t too loud and would “let the car do the talking.” He finally settled upon this vintage-looking hue he calls “cardboard” in Glasurit single-stage paint. It pairs well with the black wheels and tires and the tasteful pinstriping by Don Tippet.
Dave wanted a healthy dose of power from the engine, but also wanted to keep it vintage. This one packs a real small-journal 327 from 1962, bored .020 over and put together by Jerry Peckham of Jerry’s Precision Engines. A welcomed concession for modern highway driving was made with the Tremec five-speed. The small block is adorned with cool stuff like three Rochester carbs on an Offy intake, matching valve covers, a Mallory ignition, Gear Drive headers, and Smithy mufflers.
The interior was decked out in Stewart Warner gauges in a finned panel, a ’32 dash, a ’40 Ford steering wheel, and a Hurst shifter. When he brought the yards of distressed brown free-range leather to Greg’s Upholstery in Eugene, they asked if he wanted them to make shoes with it instead. No was the answer, with a laugh, so they used it to cover the Glide seat and door panels in a pleated pattern. Dave also added a custom locking box to the bed to safely hold road trip essentials.
When Junior Mass saw the earth-tone Model A on eBay, he fell in love with it instantly. He liked that it was open-wheeled, the fresh sheet metal, the workmanship, and the vintage look. After emailing Dave for more pictures and talking on the phone, he bought it sight unseen and had it shipped to Colorado.
At 74 years young, Junior has had a passion for building and restoring street rods for the past 60 years. He still keeps a stable of them, including two Deuce three-window coupes and his wife Carrie’s ’35 Ford coupe (which also won an award at the Colorado Nationals). Junior stays busy tinkering on his cars and fabricated a top for the roadster that can either fold up or be easily removed and stored away; after all, Colorado weather isn’t always open-top friendly. Dave said he’d been torn on whether to put a top on it but didn’t before it was sold. He hadn’t seen it with a top until these photos.
Junior said the truck drives very well and has plenty of power. He’s done a few other minor things to it, but overall has simply been enjoying it as-bought. With a long line of Model As under his belt, it’s a safe bet that Dave builds a pretty solid car that will need nothing. Practice does make perfect, indeed.
Photos by Damon Lee