Hottest of the hot rods, post war 1931 Ford Coupe

By David Fleet
Brandon Twp.—  As World War II ended, the era of the hot rod was just beginning. The once plentiful Ford Model A and Ts from the 1920s and 30s were the preferred vehicle for racers back then who had a need for speed on a budget.
Don Stanford of Brandon Township recently rekindled the historic transformation with Ford’s 1931 Model A from a family ride to the classic 1950s era hot rod.
The rusty, patched up old Ford was purchased in St. Johns, Mich. about two years ago.
“It ran,” said Stanford, a 1967 Ferndale graduate and Vietnam veteran. “It was a nice car, but I drove it on the trailer and brought it home. Most all are rust buckets at that age. Back in the day after WWII car builders would start with an old Ford, then go out in some junkyard and build a hot rod. Many of the same parts are available today.
Under the hood is a rather unique 59-A Ford Flathead built in 1943. While production of the V-8 was halted due to the war, Stanford’s engine was built to run a generator rather than for an automobile. The engine produces about 90-100 horsepower.
“I purchased that engine from a farmer in Ohio,” he said. “He had the engine hanging off his tractor bucket when I arrived, he said it ran well. So I brought it home, cleaned it up and with a little paint it still runs great.”
The 1931 Ford Coupe was chopped 2 ½ inches and a three speed Ford Top Loader transmission used in passenger cars up to about 1939 was dropped into the frame.
“The 1939 transmission was synchronized, you could shift faster,” he said. “A big step up from the Ford Model A.”
The brakes are 1940 Ford Hydraulic (juice), an upgrade from the Model A 1929-31 the brakes were mechanical with no fluid that just pulled a rod to stop.
The post war hot rod builders used the smaller 16 inch Ford 1935 wire wheels. The Model A steering box was pretty primitive, so they went with a newer Ford F-1 that featured roller spins for easier steering and longer life.
“It goes down the road pretty well at 50 miles per hour,” he said. “I could go faster but there’s no seat belts either, since I’m keeping it in the 1950s.”
“Back in the day I used to race up and down Woodward Avenue so this hot rod would fit right in,” he said. “My son is 49 years old and into Model As, so it is fun to work with him.”
Stanford’s attention to detail recently paid off as his classic hot rod took first place for his class at the 2023 Detroit Autorama, America’s greatest hot rod show held this past February.

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