This article from 2017 features a period correct Cragar OHV conversion
Bill Grant graduated from Pomona High School in 1952, so he experienced the postwar hot rodding boom firsthand. He had his first car, a Model T, when he was 12 and a ’36 three-window coupe when he was 14. He remembers, “My mom kept hiding the keys because I was sneaking around, driving her crazy.” In high school, he had a ’40 coupe “that was pretty quick. Chick Wilson built the engine. It was all glitzed up.”
He’d go up to the dry lakes with his buddy Tom Morris. Tom’s V8-powered ’29 roadster is still around, its timing tags testament to 110 mph or better on the lakes and at Bonneville. Bill also remembers going out to the drags on Rivergrade Road, which is now the 605 Freeway, and cruising the Townhouse Drive-In and Stan’s Drive-In in nearby El Monte.
“We didn’t just talk about it, we did it,” he says proudly.
About five years ago, before Tom passed away, the two friends had a conversation about hot rods while they thumbed through a book about Harry Miller’s race cars. “Tom virtually built a car from memory,” Bill says. “‘I’d do this with the body, that with the frame.’ Tom and I went through a whole litany of things.”
That conversation, a collection of parts, and the desire to keep alive the memory of early hot rodding resulted in this ’28 Model A, which Bill dubbed the Muroc Roadster.
The roadster looks a little nicer, a little bit better turned out, than your typical prewar hot rod build. That’s because during the translation from idea to reality, Bill and the father-and-son team of Terry and David Stoker at Stoker’s Hot Rod Factory decided to enter it in the Grand National Roadster Show and compete for the show’s top honor, the 9-foot-tall America’s Most Beautiful Roadster trophy.
“I knew we wouldn’t win,” Bill says. “But that wasn’t the point. It wasn’t about spending money. It was about making a statement and reaching people. We figured people would either get it, or not. And you can’t believe the number of conversations I had at the show and since. People got it, and they’re passing it on. Passing the torch. That’s what hot rods used to look like. If you went to the lakes in 1936, you would have seen this car. Maybe it wouldn’t have been this nice—it might have been in primer and not had painted rails—but it would have been this kind of car.
“We did make a statement, for what it’s worth. We made a dent.” And while he may not have his name engraved on the big AMBR trophy, he and the Stokers did bring home a trophy for the Best Detail among the AMBR contenders.
The starting point for the build was a low-mileage Model A phaeton that Bill bought some 30 years ago. Back then, Terry Stoker took the body off and used the shell to build a hot rod on a TCI frame. “Terry built that bathtub with an Iron Duke engine. God, it was fun,” Bill says.
The gennie Model A frame, transmission, and running gear went into a Fontana barn. “It’s just one of those things,” Bill admits. “I don’t get rid of much.”
One exception was a ’29 pickup powered by a banger with a Cragar OHV conversion that he sold about five years ago, a decision he’s been “agonizing about” ever since. So when he heard from a friend that the friend’s uncle “had a Cragar or a Miller or something in his garage in Redding, California, and it was for sale, I told him, ‘Go up there and buy it. ‘”
Good move on Bill’s part. The engine turned out to be a Model B four-cylinder that had been hopped up in 1954—Cragar OHV, insert bearings, C crank—but never fired. Soon after getting the engine, Bill and the Stokers realized that putting it in the long-dormant Model A chassis would be the perfect foundation for a very traditional prewar hot rod. Then came the conversation about entering the GNRS, something Bill and the Stokers did in 2014 with a gorgeous, pale blue, full-fendered Deuce roadster. When Bill had his epiphany about making a statement at this year’s Roadster Show to keep the flame of ultra-traditional rodding alive, the Stokers got their marching orders.