Perfectly Imperfect – Rolf Åström has a delightfully Dull Model A Coupe
Story and photos by Chris Shelton
There’s the textbook definition of irony. Then there’s mine. And in it is a photo of a Model A coupe owned by Rolf Åström. An unrepentant perfectionist, he created a car that shone far brighter than its finish. Which is to say he left it dull.
But there’s nothing dull about this coupe, figuratively speaking anyway. He built the car entirely from scratch, starting with a Deuce frame he made in a borrowed jig. He played some tricks in its construction, like moving the front crossmember 1 1/2 inches forward to give the engine more room than even the Deuce chassis allowed.
“I can’t have ’em all but I can own ’em one at a time,”
And room it needed; the Buick Nailhead isn’t exactly tiny. He topped this 425 with three Strombergs on an Offenhauser manifold and made his own headers from Buick flanges and a big-block Chevy tube kit. Cutouts in the inner sides feed a 2-inch system with Cherry Bomb glass packs. He then dressed the engine with early parts like a generator and mechanical fan.
The 425 backs up to a Borg-Warner T-10 which drives a Ford 9-inch. That attaches to the chassis by way of Pete & Jake’s ladder bars. Just as Ford did, Chassis Engineering forged the front axle but with a little more offset to drop the nose. It wears Buick drums and Ford backing plates on a pair of ’37-to-’41 spindles and mounts to the frame with a Chassis Engineering spring and a split ’37-to-’41 wishbone. Rolf broke with pure tradition for the steering box, a Chevy Vega that he set up to run cross-steer.
Despite the longer engine bay, Rolf Åström still needed to recess the firewall. Only instead of recessing the whole thing, he pushed back the area below the reveals, making the installation seem almost factory-like. He then chopped the top 4 inches and channeled the body half an inch over the frame. Rolf did everything to the car except finish bodywork and paint, which he farmed out to friend Chris Schimke and Dan Mycon at Newlook Autobody in Kirkland. The flat finish Chris applied is actually PPG’s Flexed ’n Flat clear over a red basecoat.
Believe it or not, but the bench is a jump seat from a Mopar minivan. True to his “I did it all” philosophy, Rolf bought a sewing machine and trimmed the interior himself. He did cheat a bit and used heat-pleated black vinyl from JC Whitney. Which was actually a common material in the day that this car resembles.
If Rolf Åström has a tradition, it’s that he sells just about everything. “I can’t have ’em all but I can own ’em one at a time,” he says. This one went to Marco Wenzel who makes life a little less dull for the people around his German hometown.