It’s attitude. More than the style, flavor, or personality, attitude is the ingredient that distinguishes traditional hot rods from every other corner of the automotive world. This chopped and channeled 1931 Ford Model A pickup has attitude all over it.
Scott Parkhurst has been a muscle car enthusiast for a long time. That interest led to owning his first car at the age of 14. Combined with his writing talent, it eventually led to a career as an automotive magazine writer, working for Popular Hot Rodding and Engine Masters for many years. Scott’s taste is diverse, and his years in the magazine business exposed him to every type of car that could be called a hot rod, including some famous ones. “While working at Popular Hot Rodding, I had the chance to drive Street Rodder magazine’s clone of the McMullen ’32 roadster,” he told us. “I was even able to borrow it over weekends occasionally. I fell in love with the pure driving experience and overall simplicity of these early cars, and knew I’d have to own one someday.”
When Scott discovered the Model A online a few years ago, most of the modifications that give the pickup its attitude had been made. He has been able to trace its history back through several owners, the earliest being Jay and Bev Dean at Nostalgia Ranch in Fallbrook, California. Nostalgia Ranch builds authentic ’50s and early ’60s-style rods (Model T’s, Model A’s, and ’32s primarily, among others).
“Jay and Bev told me that they bought the truck in pieces and got it together enough to be a runner,” Scott explained. “They are the ones who chopped it, channeled it, and built the custom chassis.” They cut an ambitious 6 inches out of the top and channeled the original Ford body 4 inches over the modified factory framerails. The lower cowl was flared to clear the split wishbone radius rods. Door handles were shaved, and a shortened 1932 Ford grille shell and insert were added. The pickup went into the Nostalgia Ranch paint booth for the retro blue-gray finish. A just-right amount of low-key traditional pinstriping was brushed on the grille shell, tailgate, and dash. When the Deans sold the pickup to an enthusiast in Texas, it had wide whitewall tires, a white grille, and a 264ci Buick Nailhead engine.
The Texan ended up selling the truck to Craig Cochran in Minnesota, who eventually sold it to Scott. “I met Craig online through mutual automotive interests here in the Twin Cities area. When I saw his build thread for the truck online, it was obvious that he’d put a ton of time and effort into making it a really good hot rod.
“Craig is a very discerning builder who used to build and fly vintage biplanes. He loved the truck’s chassis design, the chop and channel job, and the overall style, but wanted to modify it. He blew it all apart and began an ambitious rebuild, including the entire front and rear suspension system, steering, brakes, wiring, engine, transmission, interior, and more. He moved the spring mounts, changed the shock angles, and made a slew of improvements. He redid pretty much everything except the paint job. Everything was powder coated or plated. When he was done—after 1,500 hours—it was like a different truck, except for the basic style, the Nostalgia Ranch paint, and the awesome frame.”
“I love that style and I really want the truck to carry a ’60s dragstrip vibe.” —Scott Parkhurst
That Ford Model A frame was customized by Nostalgia Ranch with front and rear kickups to bring things closer to the ground. Suspension parts are traditional, including a custom three-link locating the ’57 Chevy narrowed rearend, SoCal shocks, and custom springs. The frontend features a drilled and dropped I-beam axle, buggy springs, and split wishbones from Super Bell. Fifteen-inch Gasser-style Launcher 10-spoke wheels from Rocket combined with American Racing Torq Thrusts reinforce the pickup’s ’60s-era hot rod attitude.
A 0.030-over 322-inch Buick Nailhead built by Ray Funk in Makato, Minnesota, powers the pickup. Six Holley 94 carbs on an Eelco intake feed the Buick and custom 4-into-1 headers draw exhaust. Motorcycle baffles in the sidepipes dampen the tone just the right amount. A Lokar-shifted Turbo 350 trans backs up the Nailhead.
The dash was customized by Craig Cochran and houses vintage Stewart-Warner gauges. Doug Engstrom at Kraftwerk Upholstery in Janesville, Wisconsin, covered the custom seat in black and white vinyl.
Scott was impressed by the quality and design of the Model A and knew this was the hot rod that could make a muscle car guy drift over into the early traditional rod lane. “Craig told me that he’d recently located another car that he’d built in the ’70s—a radical street-legal Funny Car that he was working really hard on—and that the truck hadn’t been getting any miles under it lately,” Scott reported. “I said that if he’d ever consider selling it, I’d be very interested. Sure enough, a few months later, he said that if I wanted it, he’d sell it to me. I told him that if I could fit into it, I’d buy it! I went to his home and learned to get in the tight cab, and we went for a drive. He told me that I was the only other person to drive it since the rebuild. It’s snug, but I like it. I have been enjoying it while I plan the next round of mods to make it even better, in my own vision.”
Scott’s vision is to enjoy the Model A pickup while making plans for modifications of his own. For enthusiasts like Scott, and Jay and Bev, and Craig Cochran, driving a hot rod is only part of the hobby; personalizing a hot rod to reflect yourself is just as important. He told us about a few of the mods he has planned. “I’ve acquired a set of Hilborn stack injectors for the Nailhead. I was told this set was originally on Max Balchowsky’s Ol’ Yeller car, but I haven’t been able to confirm that yet. I have plans to update them to modern EFI (Don’t worry, I’m not drilling into the original Hilborn castings) and be able to run stack injection on the street. I’ve also got some new lakester headers on the way from Patriot Performance. I like the way they look a bit more than the header/sidepipes currently on the car. I’d like to get a pair of rear wheels that look like vintage Halibrand mags. I love that style, and I really want the truck to carry a ’60s dragstrip vibe, so that look would work perfectly for that. I’d also like to add a floor to the bed to make it more functional, but I’ve got some changes to make before that can happen. Plans are in the works there.”
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The pickup gets a new disguise
Anatomy of Scott Parkhurst’s 1931 Ford Model A Pickup
Body & Paint
- 1931 Ford Model A pickup
- 6-inch chop
- 4-inch channel
- shave doors
- 1932 Ford grille, shortened
- Custom peep mirrors
- Model A headlights with modern bulbs
- Stock Model A taillights
- Blue-Grey (SF801) R-M Paint by Nostalgia Ranch
- Pinstriping on grille shell, tailgate, and dash
- 1931 Ford frame, modified by Nostalgia Ranch
- Super Bell dropped I-beam front axle
- 19461948 Ford spindles
- Split wishbones
- Transverse front leaf springs
- 1941 Ford cross-steer steering
- SoCal Speed Shop shocks
- 1941 Ford hydraulic drum brakes, 1957 Chevrolet rear drums
- 1957 Chevrolet rearend, narrowed 6 inches, 3.08:1 ratio
- Custom three-link rear suspension
- Moser rear axles, narrowed
- Custom rear springs
- RCI Racing stainless steel 15-gallon fuel cell
Wheels & Tires
- Rocket Racing Launcher front wheels, 15×5 inches
- American Racing Torq Thrust rear wheels, 15×7 inches, 3.75 inches backspacing
- Nexen SB 802 front tires, 165/80R15
- All Position Radial L/T rear tires, 235/75R15
Engine & Transmission
- 1954 Buick 322ci bored 0.030-over, built by Ray Funk, Mankato, Minnesota
- 1959 Buick replica camshaft by Berry Cams
- Holley 94 carburetors with Vintage Speed stacks
- Eelco 6×2 intake manifold
- Ribbed aluminum valve covers and valley pan from Centerville Automotive
- Custom 4-into-1 headers
- Exhaust sidepipes with motorcycle baffles
- Stock 322 water pump
- Flex-A-Lite programmable electric fan
- Custom radiator modified for ’32 grille shell
- Pertronix billet distributor and wires
- GM Turbo 350 transmission, assembled by AB Transmission
- Transmission adapter by Speed Gems
- Custom driveshaft
- Custom dash and insert by Craig Cochran
- Stewart-Warner gauges
- Custom seats
- Vinyl upholstery by Doug Engstrom at Kraftwerk Upholstery, Janesville, WI
- Lokar shifter
- Moon Steering wheel
- Custom center console
- Rebel Wire wiring harness