Tuesday, February 17, 2015



Shawn Shirley was destined to connect with this 1959 English Ford 103E Popular - the "Poor man's Anglia". We call them all Anglias, here in America. The English just call 'em Pops. We call our dads Pops, and the English call their mothers Mum. If Shawn were a priest, Americans and English alike would call him Father Shirley. Crazy world, huh?

Time takes time. And I'm slow to process ideas, concepts and theories, so things happen even slower in Scottyville. Luckily, car projects at the hobby level (I no longer build them on the clock) have elastic deadlines and/or finish lines. We wrench as time, funds, and inspiration allow. In my eyes, there's a beautiful purity in that approach (though Pro builders might disagree). So projects shuffle between back burners and afterburners in dizzying succession, and some never see daylight at all. Most parties seem to adopt a Buddhist-like acceptance to this reality. There is no right or wrong with home builds. No pass or fail. There only is what is: Your project is either in progress or is on standby. Even the most tragically stillborn project is still considered to be active, as long as the builder is researching, scheming, collecting, or even just dreaming. So here's to the home builder, and the serenity of garage zen.

Shawn Shirley grew up as an Army Brat in the Carolinas: "We used to go to Blaney (South Carolina) Drag Strip. I was always attracted to the Anglias. I was 13 in 1981, when my dad died of lung cancer (he sprayed Agent Orange in Vietnam). A year later, my mom took me to a car show in North Carolina, where I saw an awesome Anglia - black with flames! The owner was local radio DJ Jerry Farmer. He asked if I'd like to sit in the car. Then he asked if I'd like to fire it up. I turned the key, and it fired. He said, 'Rev it up!' I did, and I was hooked. I told him I'd have one someday. In 1988, I joined the Air Force and got orders to RAF Alconbury, in Huntington England. Within a month of arriving, I bought my Anglia. I struck a deal with the owner for 800 pounds - about $1,200 American. It took four months to pay it off. It didn't run, so I had to decide: Make it run and drive it stock until I get back to the States, or tear it apart now and build a hot rod. I started ripping it apart. At that time, I had very limited skills. My only other build had been a V-8 Vega." With some help from York Shore Street Rods (following a 6 month stint in Desert Storm), Shawn had a rolling chassis when he returned Stateside to Davis Monthan Air Force Base (near Tucson, Arizona) in 1992. The Anglia took the scenic route, via a slow boat through the Panama Canal. 

In Arizona, Shawn connected with Old Ford Store lead fabricator Wade Musil, who mentored Shawn in the ways of crafting and welding steel. Drivetrain mounts, floors and firewall were all built and installed under Wade's watch. Then, "I lost interest in the car. I just didn't want to work on it. It became a storage area for a few years, while I played with my '66 Nova wagon. I had several good years of street racing and general abuse with the wagon, then it hit me: What I really wanted was to go racing with the Anglia! It took a week of digging to get it out of the garage."

"I ordered a fiberglass tilt front end and blew the car apart. I painted the chassis and started reassembly. In '96 I got out of the Air Force, and went to work at Lear Jet. The pay was low and work on the car came to a halt. In '98, my daughter was born, which brought the build to a snail's pace. We moved across town to a bigger house and work resumed on the car. In 2003 my son was born, but still I plugged away..."

January of 2004. Fourteen years after buying the car, Shawns Anglia takes its first baby steps: "I stood on the throttle and almost took out my neighbor's mailbox. That scared me, but I was truly a happy man. About a month after this drive, I drove it to work, with plans to register it at DMV on my lunch break. I made it half way to work (8 miles) when the rearend let me know it had no gear oil. But I went home with a fully legal street car. Woo hoo! 12.5 to 1 compression, 4.11 gears and 4,500 stall kept highway driving to a minimum. On a lonely street one night, I was doing some tuning when the #7 rod broke. End of that motor. I put a stock 305 in, and absolutely hated the car during the year it took to build the new engine."

"I knew I wanted a turbo, so I built the motor accordingly: 9:1 compression, .480" lift/230 degree duration hydraulic roller, 2,500 stall and 3.25 gears. I put a shitload of miles on it like this. It gets 18 MPG, goes fast, and gets driven everywhere."

Happy Ending: "About six months ago, I pulled it apart for the twin turbo install. I hope to get back on that build again soon. Right now, I'm finishing up a '74 Duster with a bigblock Chevy for my daughter's daily driver." (Photos courtesy of Shawn Shirley)


Dave Hopson's dog. He's practicing for that first test ride in Dave's project car, scheduled for a Spring 2015 debut. 

The chassis and drivetrain are done, so Dave can focus on getting the body ready for this spring's hot rod action. He has a pretty nice '55 to drive, so Dave isn't sweating the calendar too much - a sweet spot to be in.

Dave and his sidekick run errands in a hot rod Corvair daily driver.

The body Dave has been thrashing on. '57 Chevy lovers will recognize this rare factory option as the storied Open Aire (COPO 57OA). They didn't make many of these.

Dave and friends pose with his slightly modified MGB roadster. SGE Approved!

With the '57 body mocked up on the T chassis, the possibilities become apparent. Before this, they only existed in Dave Hopson's devious mind.

Dave just hung out this neon shingle last week to announce his candidacy for your project build dollars. Of course, this disqualifies him from claiming Home Builder status. Let's hope the leap of faith pays off for all involved... (Photos courtesy of Hopson's Hot Rod Garage)


Hot rod artist Lance Sorchik has been refining his '33 roadster since it came home from from Jesse Coots' Old Soul Hot Rod Shop last fall. Alas, the one-off torsion bar front and rear suspension (featured previously on this blog) are now under cover, but man, what a cover! 

Hiding the rear torsion bars is a simplistic appearing (but complex to build) pan that still highlights the quickchange rearend.

Lance's fabrication skills shine in the form of this beautiful flooring, installed in between globe hopping celebrations of the retiree lifestyle and various life events, but it's coming along. Luckily, the Sorchiks have other hot rods to drive in the meantime.

Lance's swoopy top design only enhances the graceful stance, guaranteed to scare any life forms taller than one inch off the road and into the nearest ditch. Stay tuned for more developments as spring approaches. (Photos courtesy of Lance & Dianne Sorchik)


Jesse Coots' Old Soul Hot Rod Shop in Le Roy, New York illustrates the professional end of the builder spectrum. Never a dull moment around this place, as the clock never stops ticking.
Jesse keeps plenty of '32 frame rails in stock at all times. These veritable rails support builds from T's to Deuces, and Jesse does 'em up nice!

After dropping several stock early Ford axles for customers (top two stacks), Jesse recently set up a jig to enable mass production. He doesn't make money on them, but feels the service is a way to thank the rodding community for their support. And Jesse's annual Hardcore Happening events drive the point home, every August.

While most Old Soul builds are complete custom affairs, Jesse isn't above knocking out the occasional standard issue customer car, like this fiberglass '32 5-window. He says this coupe took a week to bring to this point.

The latest in a string of Chevy shop trucks at Old Soul. If only more builders would shorten these beds for the proportional goodness that Jesse achieves...

Jesse felt good enough about this bed to autograph it via a combination of bead rolling, hammer forming, and custom die work. (Photos courtesy of Old Soul Hot Rod Shop)


Employee parking at Steadfast Manufacturing in Mansfield, Ohio. When you see a lot like this, you know you're at the right place.

While researching an entirely different subject, I stumbled across the action at Steadfast Manufacturing. Stance and rolling stock are the keys to coolness, and these guys hold all the keys.

Steadfast has enjoyed so much success with their arched crossmember '32 chassis that they're now mass producing them.

Here's one now, ready for customer pickup. Check the fitment of the rubber in the wheel coves. Oh my!

If you're all Deuced out, don't despair. Steadfast has you covered. The shop Guinea pig A-bone coupe is all stance...

... thanks to Steadfast's Model A slammer frames, designed to use their chassis components or yours.

But Deuces are any shop's bread and butter, and the Steadfast company car is an exceptional example of the breed. It's getting the Sports Illustrated swimsuit treatment here from photog Steve Coonan at Daytona Beach.

The finished image. Want your car on the cover of your favorite magazine? Better call Steadfast Mfg! 

The SGE Model A Sport Touring project (begun in the year 1996) received some more professional help last week at Dr. Lockjaw's Custom Metal shop in Applegate, Oregon. Consider this a hybrid of pro (Doc) and rank amateur hack (Scotty) building. I obviously got my camera repaired (with duct tape and super glue), but was dialing it back in while shooting this week's action. My apologies.

As advertised last week, the mount for our Mazda 5-speed redefines minimalist design. Behold! Simple as a rock, and just as strong (though we might add a tiny center gusset upon final welding). This was also a quick fab, thanks to Doc's monster hydraulic press.

Where the rubber meets the metal. This factory mount for a Ranger 4 X 4 fit our needs perfectly (after prodigious cleanup of extremely sloppy Taiwanese manufacturing tolerances - thanks a lot, NAPA!).

With the tranny mounted, Doc took a minute to TIG the 4-piece motor mounts together, while I manned the security camera. No shop dogs entered or escaped the shop on my watch.

Ta Da! Just imagine this image in focus, highlighting Doc's beautiful beading skills. He welded the inside joints, as well. Note water drainage notch at bottom - I actually plan to wash this car at some point (or at least drive it in the rain).

Drivetrain installed! It felt SO good to knock out the stacks of wood blocks that have been supporting the little 2.3 L Ford/5-speed combo. Good riddance, splinters! Next week: A cowl steering breakthrough! (Scotty shots)



Chronicling the evolutionary process has been an ambitious project, but we're getting there. Last week: Graphic proof that dinosaurs evolved from squirrels! You saw it here first. Next week: The chicken AND the egg!

Attitudinal beat artist Coop (AKA Christopher Cooper) can consider his garage to be his toolbox. We consider every aspect of this image to be art.