Richard Kibbe honed his skills on Model A restorations on a collection ranging from sporty roadsters to a cabriolet to a family-sized 4-door sedan — even a wood-bodied extended cab truck.
But the one that catches everyone’s eye is his 1930 Ford Speedster.
“I call it my ‘toy car,’ ” he says proudly. “It’s really a replica race car.”
The speedster began as a leftover Model A chassis and drive train.
“A guy in St. Louis was building hot rods. He bought the body from a guy south of Kansas City. I like hot rodders. The pieces they throw away, I can use.”
Kibbe had a vision of what the rusty old frame and 4-cylinder engine could become, a sort of 2-seat open roadster with a more streamlined shape. Speedsters were modified Model A’s and T’s popular on dirt tracks of the 1920s and ’30s.
He cleaned up the stock frame rails and rebuilt the Model A engine, adding a modern Weber carb, a 12-volt alternator and a straight pipe exhaust only slightly muffled by a glasspack muffler.
“I wanted the front end looking low,” he said. So he bolted a one-inch shorter 1929 radiator to the front of the car and slipped a four-inch dropped axle under the frame rails. He also moved the firewall back four inches, where he mounted the Rootlieb custom cowl. That required lengthening the hood, also a metal Rootlieb piece, by four inches. It also meant he had to extend the steering column by about the same amount.
For the rounded off rear end of his speedster, he used part of an old Dodge Power Wagon hood for the top section, hand-forming sheet metal for the lower portion and then blending it all together. A 16-gallon fuel tank fed through a side-mounted filler cap is stationed within the sculptured rear end, which also includes a bit of storage space.
“It was kind of an engineer-as-you-go job,” Kibbe notes. “It’s basically a ’30 Model A chassis with a handbuilt body.”
Kibbe upgraded the stamped steel Model A brake drums to heavier cast iron pieces, but he retained the original rod-controlled mechanical brakes and friction shocks.
The crowning touch for the chassis was finding a rare set of conversion spoke wheels manufactured somewhere in Kansas during WWII. Model A center hubs that would normally mount 19-inch or 21-inch rims were removed and welded into smaller rims, which were easier to find tires for during the war.
“They sort of resemble Kelsey Hayes wheels. I bought them in Newton,” Kibbe said.
In this case, the back wheels are 19-inch hubs that carry 265/75R15 Kelly radials, while the fronts are 21-inch hubs mounting 225/80R15 Yokohama radials.
A stock Model A instrument cluster is mounted in the wooden dashboard, with a small electronic tachometer positioned behind the 4-spoke steering wheel. Fellow Model A guru John Stone donated a genuine Great American Race calibrated mechanical speedometer/odometer to the cause. A factory Model A shifter controls the original 3-speed manual transmission.
For occupant comfort, Kibbe chose the “60” portion of a 1986 Chevy pickup “60/40” seat, fitted with lap belts. He created a two-piece leaned-back windshield by mounting 1929 Model A wind wings on the cowl, horizontally.
After everything was pieced together, Kibbe painted his speedster in a cream color accented with blue striping of his own design, using swap-meet-sourced paint. He added the number 32 to the design and presented the car to his wife, Linda, as a 32nd wedding anniversary present. Their names adorn the tail piece of the speedster, as does a swap-meet nerf bar and a diecast Wichita Air Capital emblem.
“People say how fast will this race car go and I tell them I’ve had it up to 60 and that’s as fast as I want to go,” Kibbe grins.
“It’s really not a race car, more like a motorcycle with four wheels. It’s my `toy car,’” he reiterated. And it is obviously meant for fun, first and foremost.
Mike Berry: email@example.com