1931 Ford: From Rusty Shell To Award Winning Hot Rod
A rusted 1931 Ford Model A body found in a south Georgia kudzu patch, a big V8 engine taken from a 1985 Lincoln, and a rear spring off of a 1927 Ford. These are just a few of the components Richard Argo and his son, Jackson, turned into a trophy-winning custom hot rod in a very special father-son project.
“I always wanted to build a car from the ground up,” said Argo, feature and technical writer for NAPA Connect. When he’s not on the job at HQ, he can usually be found restoring classic cars in his three-bay garage, including a 1967 Mustang that can be seen in the first two seasons of the Netflix series Stranger Things.
But he never attempted to build a car from scratch, the way a 1950s teenager might, until an offhand remark by Jackson. “One day he looked around and said, ‘We have enough parts around this garage to build a car,’ remembers Argo, who quickly realized, “This could be the perfect lad-and-dad project.”
While they had most of the parts they needed to build their hot rod, they were missing a body — specifically, a Ford Model A body.
Then a friend contacted Argo with an unexpected proposition. “A kid down in south Georgia was selling two Model A bodies that had been buried under kudzu in an empty lot. The owners had paid him for cleaning up the lot by giving him the rusted-out bodies. But he would only sell them together,” Argo recalled.
After he and his friend bought the bodies and transported them back to Atlanta, Richard and Jackson got to work in their garage.
They assembled the axle with parts from six different vehicles. To accommodate the V8 engine they cut out the fire wall and moved it back several inches. Then they took a gas tank from a 1957 Chevy sliced it in half and welded it to the fire wall. After looking through the NAPA catalog, they bought a master cylinder for a Chevy pickup to build the brakes. They spun the driveshaft — which was originally on a pickup — backwards before bolting it in. And the column drop supporting the steering wheel was made from a piston rod found on the side of the road.
“Every part on this car has a story,” said Argo. “The fun of building your own car is in figuring out how to make things work. There was a lot of fabricating, a lot of grinding and drilling.”
The car also features military influences including some aircraft hardware. “There was a lot of military surplus around after World War II. And many Detroit car designers and hot rodders were very inspired by aircraft,” Richard explained.
The 31 painted on the doors is not only a nod to the car’s model year, the design is a replica of one he saw on a WWII biplane in a Tennessee aircraft museum.
‘It’s loud, fast, and fun’
During the building process there were many trips to their local NAPA store, in Douglasville, Georgia, to buy necessities including fluids, gaskets, switches, a clutch kit, brake and gear oil, belts, hoses, and bearings.
After roughly four years, their hot rod was ready to hit the streets and the local show circuit.
They’ve won a few trophies so far, including Best Hot Rod and Best Rat Rod. But the father-son bonding experience trumps any trophy, said Argo.
“We both learned a lot. Building a car takes vision and creativity. It really makes you think. For example, the parts we used were never on the same model car in the same decade,” he pointed out.
Richard joined NAPA in 2004. “NAPA is the perfect fit because I’m a gear head,” he said. Jackson is a math whiz now working in Silicon Valley.
“He used to do complex math problems in his room for fun. But I wanted him to have some real-world skills, too,” said Argo. “While he was in college some guys he knew got a flat tire and they didn’t know how to change it. I didn’t want Jackson to end up like that.”
So what’s it like behind the wheel of the Argo’s custom hot rod?
“It’s a pure adrenaline rush,” said Richard. “It’s loud and fast, and fun.”