They say that all men are created equal, that may be so on some piece of paper or to a CHP radar gun, but when it comes to owning a Model 40 coupe, you’re one step ahead of the game in my book. If you ask 20 hot rodders what’s the most perfect hotrod, I’d say 19 of them would return with the answer the model 40. With that comes a huge price tag for most of us. It would be as much a pipe dream for me to start looking for one to buy at this point in my life as would it be for most of you. But as history has shown me, if you want it bad enough the jewel you’re pining for has a habit of landing in your lap after a good bit of hard work. Not all things that glitter started out life that way though, lord don’t I know it. For guys like us, we usually find the parts and cars that we can and then start trading up. To go to the “store” and pick one up just wouldn’t work for us and having the price tag that these cars command, we have to start getting creative. Maybe build a few cars to get us in the door and after selling them, being lucky enough to find that one widow that has one in the garage and wants what she paid for it, or even finding some drug addict that doesn’t have a clue what he has but needs a fix. I’ve heard some stories about how guys have gotten into these cars through a side door, but here’s George’s.
George is a regular guy, has a 9 to 5, a mortgage and family, but he’s a hot rodder and good friend. He lives in Whittier, Ca. but for now we‘ll just say he’s from Long Beach because he is a Cavalier, and besides, Whittier ain’t too far away. He’s one of those hard working guys that I know that hasn’t let a blade of grass grow under his feet since I’ve met him. He’s a hustler, not the Larry Flint type, but is always working the angle and always finding the deals. You may have a friend that is always coming up on bitchin’ stuff for cheap and wonder how the hell they do it. Well, like George, I just don’t think they sleep a wink and are always on the lookout for the goods. When he isn’t at work he is either in the garage or driving home from a swap. The reason I say driving home is because he was already there getting the deals as we were still sleeping. I’ve known him quite a few years and even when I think I’m early to the swap, I hear George’s wagon creeping by me going toward the front gate on his way home with all of the deals he scored. This is how a guy like us makes the cars of our dreams happen, one piece at a time and getting a deal on it. For this car or any of his others, he isn’t always looking for the stuff he needs, but things he can get for a deal that he knows he can sell for a profit later that week. Therein lays the hustle.
A few years back George had just sold a model A Sport Coupe that he had trading up on and he decided to put out a want ad on the HAMB. “Looking for a 34 coupe……” A few months went by and he finally had someone message him. The price was right, and the project was huge. The car was un-chopped and sitting on a 34 chassis. Some parts were there, but not everything. The body was rough, real damn rough, needed floors, sub rails, patches, and really was just a pile of sheet metal gutted with no structure. The best George can think is that it was used for round racing at some point and then probably was used some more for drag racing. Most folk would turn their nose to the project and that may be why he got it. He isn’t used to getting the puss cars, he’s used to getting the full-blown projects because they are in the budget of a regular working man. At the end of the day he went home with his first Model 40 and an empty bank account. Once he got home and stared at his new project for a while, he knew that he needed to start gathering parts. So into the garage he went, to see what he could sell off. Along with a menagerie of hard parts, he offed a Model A Coupe body he had sitting around. With car funds starting to roll in he found himself back searching for parts at the swap meets and wheeling and dealing to get the stuff he needed. The first chunk of cash went to Steve’s Auto Restoration, as George found out they made some of the best replacement panels out there, but they were very spendy.
In the first six months he hauled ass on the car and made leaps and bounds putting in all of the sub rails, floor patch panels, different firewall and all the sheet metal he could get. Somehow he managed to bring the body back to somewhat stock condition sitting on a roached chassis. He took the rest of the year off from it and focused on a couple of other projects, but was stashing away things he needed and turning and burning other parts to be able to afford what he wanted. “’34 shit ain’t cheap, man,” recited George more times than he can remember. He had to do everything in his power to get the right stuff and if that meant sleepless mornings going to San Diego for a swap, he was all about it. The problem you’ll sometimes find is that there’s always a few guys just like him that are out there early as hell or even the day before, just buying stuff to hoard. The earliest bird does get the worm.
After a year of owning the car it was finally time to pull together all the parts he had acquired and get the show on the road. The Cavaliers CC usually enter two or more cars in the Grand National Roadster Show every year; I think it’s in their bylaws as a club. They usually access who has cars that are close to completion and everyone pitches in to make the car get there. This year it was George’s turn to get the coupe finished so the pressure was on.
He had been mulling over the chop on this car and doing some research to find the one that suited him. He put it out there on the HAMB to see what his peers thought and most of them said to leave it stock. I think George may have done that if he had started out with a 25k body or it was an original car, but this one was a lost cause for many owners before and is a good candidate to look even better than Henry could make it. I’m not gonna lie, in my head if there’s one of each model of the 33-34 preserved for history, I think the rest of them should get a haircut, but that’s me. The research George did had him looking in depth at what a great many people had done in the past to see what appealed to him. He ended up looking at lakes style chops, especially the Pearson Bros. Coupe, one of the most iconic out there and also at what the Peckerheads CC up in Reno were doing. This led him to a layer back window style chop without having to split the roof and add any material. Finally, after a few weeks, he had a plan and contacted Josh Carrillo in Los Osos to do the surgery. The car was a roller by this point and it was time to trailer it up to Josh to get his 2 cents worth. When he got to Los Osos, he showed Josh what he was thinking for styling. Josh had cut cars before, but this was his first model 40 and he wanted to make sure that both chopper and owner were gonna be happy. He had to sit down and do his own research for a few weeks, but then it was time to cut and with a solid plan in his head, most of the hard work was done.
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After the chop was finished it was back down south to Long Beach for George and the club to whip the girl into shape for GNRS. They had about seven months to get it done, but as usual, most of the work happens in the last two. The swap meet finds were painted, polished and refurbished and then put on Georges jewel one piece at a time, just how he got them. There’s a story that’s connected to each component and George can give you the details. Like many of us, this gives it the soul the car needs. We can’t all be millionaires with deep pockets, but we can do what we can to make our dreams come true.
The Coupe made it on time for GNRS and was very well received winning multiple awards given to him by his peers. George is still in shock and hasn’t totally come to terms with the fact that the coupe is actually his. As we drove around Long Beach together he was tripping on the car and kept telling me he owned it. We here are super stoked for George and his coupe. This is the sort of grass roots stuff we love so much. For George, the chase continues. He not only has this 5 window, he recently is scouring the swaps for a 3 window that he has in the back yard as well. The hustle never ends.