Jason Jewett has been immersed in car/bike culture for years, making his living as a painter, pinstriper and an artist, decorating other people's rides or capturing them on canvas.
But there was still a void waiting to be filled.
"Everybody had a hot rod but me. I always wanted one," he said. "I didn't know how to go about it," he said, but he knew it would have to be an open-wheeled traditional style hot rod based on a 1930s vehicle.
"I don't really like fendered cars. For something like this... I'm leaving it wide open," he said. His point of departure for his hot rod would be, of all things, a 1936 Ford 1 1/2 ton truck sitting on a long, heavy frame suspended by huge 20-inch commercial-strength wheels.
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"I started by chopping the top 4 inches. I never had chopped a top before... but I can weld," Jewett said. So he limited the chop on the back window to 2 inches. "I don't like the mail slot look," he said. He retained the pop-out front window and the cowl vent.
For a frame, he turned to his friend, Kevin Kaiser, who runs an American Muffler shop. Lengths of 2 x 4 steel were cut and fabricated into a chassis that features a 6-inch "Z" in front and a 12 1/2-inch kick-up in the rear, which allows the truck to sit close to the pavement without channeling the body down over the frame rails. "Gabe Robbins at the Chop Shop drew it all out in CAD for us," Jewett said.
Jack Marinelli donated a bone-stock Model A front axle to the project, which is suspended from a set of Posies quarter-elliptical springs. Speedway Motors supplied a set of GM-style disc brakes up front, while the stock Ford drum brakes were rebuilt on the 9-inch rear end.
For rolling stock, Jewett chose a new set of Cragar Deluxe 69-series 15-inch steel wheels that look period correct with 6.70x15 Firestone bias ply wide whitewalls in front and tall, skinny 8.90x15 Firestones in back.
For a power plant, Jerry Heinrich offered a test motor out of a boat, a lightly used 396 Chevy big block bored out to 402 cubic inches. Doug Botkin handled assembly of the engine, which is basically stock except for a mild cam of unknown make, a Weiand single plane intake manifold and an 850 cfm Holley double-pumper carburetor. Breathing through a set of Speedway headers welded up from a kit, the engine puts out an estimated 350-400 horsepower and is mated to a Turbo 400 "Flip-O-Matic" transmission built by Phillip "Flip" Williams.
Holzman Race Cars modified a Speedway radiator, which is mounted not between the '40 Chevy headlight pods, but horizontally in the specially built stubby Refuge Hot Rods bed behind the cab. Although he was warned he was inviting overheating problems, Jewett said the arrangement, with a set of twin electric fans blowing 4,000 cfm of air through the radiator, has worked great so far.
Inside, a pair of old racing seats, a Speedway dirt track steering wheel linked to a Vega steering box and a TCI shifter provide the basics. Brian Cushenberry used an Affordable Street Rods wiring kit to handle the electrical necessities.
Jewett left the '36 truck cab in its original faded green/red primer patina and added some vintage signs to the doors proclaiming "American Red Custom Paint and Muffler," a nod to both Kaiser's muffler shop and his own Red House Custom Paint shop. Kaiser, naturally, built the snug fitting Flowmaster-based exhaust system.
"I tried to keep it old school as much as possible," Jewett said. "Some people may call it a rat rod, but the only thing ratty about it is the '36 Ford truck cab... everything else is new technology."
Amazingly, the whole project came together in about seven months' time. He says that couldn't have happened without a lot of hard work by a lot of good buddies. "I've got a lot of payback to do," he said.
"I couldn't ask for more in a hot rod. The one disappointment is that now that we've got it done, it's getting too cold and I can't take it to shows right now," Jewett added. He plans to rectify that with a debut of his hot rod truck at next month's Starbird car show at Century II.