Enthusiasm for the hot rod hobby comes in many forms. You can attend and/or organize events, go on rod runs, blog your deepest anonymous thoughts on the Internet, or even spend your time (and money) building a car.
But you know you’re dealing with someone who has been around the block once or twice when, after they start on a project, you realize it would be better in the long run to start over with a totally different approach rather than spend valuable assets (again, time and money) on beating a dead horse. Jim Heller is of the former camp.
Jim, who lives in Southern California in the beachfront town of Seal Beach, had bought a 1934 Ford roadster pickup years ago and, when it needed some paint repairs, found Tom Rodriguez of Cypress Auto Body to do the work. Rodriguez, whose business has revolved around providing hot rodders with exceptional paintjobs for the past few decades, was able to do what Jim wanted, and soon Jim came to trust Rodriguez’s expertise.
So a few years ago, when Jim had bought a ’30 roadster pickup and wanted to add a Kugel IFS and a Jaguar rear, and took it to Cypress Auto Body to see if Rodriguez could bring life back into the project. Rodriguez consulted Kugel Komponents (La Habra, California) about their IFS/IRS systems for the Model A frame, and it wasn’t long before everyone concurred it would be easier to start over with a new independent chassis rather than try to work the old one into submission. The decision was made easier after Jim discovered Brookville Roadsters had started marketing a full-fendered ’32 roadster pickup out of their factory in Brookville, Ohio, so he kept the IFS, engine, and transmission out of the roadster pickup, then sold it to make room for the new project.
Kugel Komponents, a company most well known for their independent front and rear suspensions (as well as brake system parts, reservoir kits, a line of shop tools, and more) for most any hot rod, isn’t readily known for building entire cars for customers, but they certainly have the talent. Part of that is due to Chris Smith, who had stayed with his previous employer, Boyd Coddington, until that business folded, and had recently been brought on board to expand that side of the Kugel’s empire, so it worked out great for everyone involved.
Brookville’s roadster pickup is not a faithful reproduction of Ford’s personal utility truck but rather a customized interpretation of it. The cab is little longer (because it needs to be) and the bed, even though it’s shorter than stock, has a lot more curves to it when compared to Ford’s version, which can only be described as a rectangular metal box.
Starting with ’rails from ASC, Kugel’s added a tubular centersection and crossmember pieces that would support their independent 9-inch rear and front suspensions. The rear uses a hub width of 55 inches while the front measures 56 inches wide, and the wheelbase was dialed in at 106 inches. Stainless steel tubing was used for all of the chassis plumbing, and Wilwood disc brakes (controlled by a Corvette master cylinder) are found on the front and GM calipers on the rear. Chrome-plated Real Rodder wheels—15×5.5 in the front, 16×8 in the rear—were shod in BFGoodrich Traction T/A radial rubber (195/60R15 and 235/60R16).
The small-block Chevy motor is basic, but dressed up with a 16-inch Billet City radiator fan and lots of chrome and polished aluminum pieces. A 200-R4 Chevy transmission was used along with a driveshaft from Drive Line service of San Diego, California, and a Lokar shifter.
Along with the aforementioned factory body mods found on Brookville’s roadster pickup package (which includes a windshield kit that has a factory 2-inch chop already in place), Kugel’s also modified the rear framehorns (tucking them closer to the body). After the louvered three-piece Rootlieb hood was attached, Rodriguez painted the car its Rodriguez Root Beer Brown, and the owner, who used to build kitchen cabinets, stained the bed box wood its special shade. Chrome bumpers from Rock Valley were also added, as was a custom gold leaf lettering job on the tailgate by Jones Custom Lettering & Striping.
Ron Mangus got the call to supply the rod’s threads, and Dynamat insulation went down before the color-matched square-weave carpet went in. Magnus used pleated brown leather on the Glide Engineering bench seat as well as the door panels, and saved a little extra to wrap the banjo steering wheel that was bolted to a Flaming River column. Classic Instrument gauges were then fitted to an oval gauge insert, and controls and vents for the Vintage Air A/C system are located on a smaller sub dash that runs just below the factory dash.
Once completed, Jim was able to roll up 600 or so miles on the odometer, plus take it to a few local car shows. At night it’s parked next to the ’34 roadster Jim still owns, as well as a ’57 Chevy 210 and a ’67 Mustang. But Heller likes driving his cars, and says this roadster pickup drives as nice as it looks, and considering how the finished product appears that’s really saying something!
Photo by Kyle Adey on Unsplash