There were many times Glen Waters could have given up on his dream of having his 1929 Ford Model A “square cab” pickup turned into a beautiful street rod. There were certainly plenty of obstacles along the way.
There was a costly false start where the truck languished in a body shop for months before the shop quietly closed its doors and disappeared. There were other times when it looked as if the project was about to get started, but then went dormant again.
And finally, the most devastating setback: Waters lost his eyesight, which appeared to doom the build for good.
“But then Joe came to my rescue,” Waters said. He was talking about his friend Joe Slechta, a former co-worker who had built his own street rod back in the mid-1960s and was in the process of restoring a ’29 Ford Tudor that had been in his family for generations.
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“He came over with a trailer and hauled my Model A out here and put it up on blocks,” Waters recalled. More importantly, he agreed to take on the street rod project.
“I spent about a year trying to talk Glen out of it. I asked him, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’” Slechta said. “And he said, ‘Yes. I want you to do it like you would do it for yourself.’”
Waters had found the old truck listed in a Wichita Eagle want ad in the early 1990s.
“It already had an old Chevy V-8 in it. It was rough, but I drove it home and the first corner I went around, the passenger door swung open and I had to lean over and pull it shut. There was a rope with knots in both ends that was supposed to hold it shut,” Waters laughed.
By the time the truck was in Slechta’s hands, the engine had been removed for another project. But Slechta was able to buy a 305 V-8 out of a salvaged 1985 Chevy pickup, which also donated its tilt steering column to the project.
He began work on the heavy-duty Model AA truck chassis, setting up the TCI 4-link front and rear suspension components that came with the truck.
“About four years ago, we really got serious about it,” Slechta said. He said the metal cab Model A pickup was a rare piece to begin with, as only about 300 were manufactured and this one was still all-steel, original construction.
But he wanted to replace the old padded fabric top with solid metal, so he bought a new ribbed roof skin for a two-door Chevy Tahoe, cut it to size and installed it, maintaining the original roof’s subtle curves. He also built a custom rolled rear pan for the truck and peaked the radiator shell.
Although Waters couldn’t see the work being done, he and Slechta worked closely on the project.
“Joe has a vision for this stuff. He is an amazing guy, the knowledge he has,” Waters said.
“We talked on the phone a lot,” Slechta said.
When it was time for the body and paint work, he approached Eric Weninger, known as the “Model A Medic” for his restoration work on vintage Fords, and asked if he would be willing to work on a street rod. He agreed.
Slechta already had a spot reserved with Weninger for his own ’29 Ford.
“He gave up his place in line and put mine in it,” said an appreciative Waters. “Now that’s a friend for you.”
Up to that point, Waters had planned to have his truck painted yellow, but for some reason, he changed his mind and ordered up orange instead. Weninger sprayed the pickup an amazing PPG hue called Firecracker Orange.
“That has got to be the smoothest paint I ever touched,” Waters declared.
The engine was refreshed, with a 4-barrel intake, Hooker headers and a set of dual Smitty glasspacks. Chance Transmissions rebuilt the torque converter in the old Powerglide transmission, which was overhauled at Walt’s Auto & Truck Parts in Peck, after it was discovered the transmission somehow had got clogged up by milo during its years sitting outside.
An original set of Centerline wheels was cleaned and polished, with BFG T/A radials used up front and fat Remington radials in the rear.
A set of leather bucket seats from a Chevy minivan was installed in the narrow cab, where Slechta built the solid oak dashboard and mounted the Auto Meter gauges. Roger Maunz was called on to install a new headliner, carpeting and other upholstery.
Slechta also cut and stained the oak planks that line the bed of the truck. As the completed vehicle came together, Slechta suggested to Waters that he should show the truck at the recent Starbird-Devlin car show.
“It just blew me away. I had over 50 people that came back and complimented me. The women would take my hand and tell me, ‘You just can’t appreciate how beautiful it is,’” Waters said.
Waters said it is frustrating that he won’t be able to drive his truck on a regular basis. But he hopes to get a chance to slip behind the wheel at an old abandoned airfield, with the help of friends, and take his bright orange Model A out for at least one jaunt.
An incredible bond has developed between the two men as a result of this long-delayed truck project.
“We call each other brother now,” Waters said. “You just don’t find a better guy than Joe.”
Reach Mike Berry at firstname.lastname@example.org.