Tuesday, February 27, 2024
FEATURES

GRADE A ROADSTER – CRAIG FISCHER 1930 FORD ROADSTER

Every now and then you come across a car that stops you dead in your tracks, just like this ’30 Model A Ford did to me while on assignment at the 2013 ASRF Nationals. One that’s got the look! As your eyes dance around the vision before you, something inside your brain switches and you start to question why this car, amongst hundreds of other immaculate hot rods, seized your attention. 

Creating the 1930 Ford roadster will always be credited to Edsel Ford and his design team, but this timeless version, finished in deep Emerald Green, is the result of 14 months of hard work and the critical eye of Craig Fischer. Exemplified by the accompanying images it’s no surprise to learn that Craig is no novice when it comes to vintage tin. “Dad (Bill) had vintage cars since I was three months old!” Craig explains. “We had a 1928 Plymouth tourer that I grew up in for the first 15 years of my life and then he bought a Model A Tudor. I joined the Navy and was out of cars for a few years. While I was busy with that my sister, Janelle built a fiberglass Model A tourer hot rod, which dad helped finish in the late 1990s.The week I got out of the Navy, I rode my bike up from Sydney and went to the 2000 Street Rod Nationals at Cleveland. After that I mucked around with modern rubbish cars for a while and started building a custom XP hardtop, and then I saw a picture of a truck that I liked in an American hot rod magazine and I stopped everything and built my own.”  

Craig pieced together a 1939 Chevy pickup that was chopped, channelled and built out of everyones cast offs with a 253 and Datsun diff. “The pickup was supposed to be a shit-stir and along the lines of a rat rod, but I’m too fussy and it turned out better than expected. In 2004 it was done and we drove it to the Sydney Rat Day for our honeymoon, and people liked it. They weren’t supposed to!”

Well and truly bitten by the rodding bug he then built a tidy ‘34 Chevy tudor with a V6 that he drove to work every day for a couple of years, but began to tire of its power operated everything.

“It just wasn’t me in the end so I sold it to fund the roadster,” Craig confesses. “I got a bit bored with catalogue built hot rods and became more interested in restored cars and resto rods.  The tudor was supposed to be our everyday car but some idiot painted it black! I swore after that I would never paint another car at home, it looked like the garage had been on fire,” he says with a laugh. 

Craig’s day job is plumbing but while serving for his country he honed his skills in metal fabrication which has come in very handy while tinkering with rusty old panels. “I bought a ’30 A bonnet from John Philpot a few years back and it was then that I decided I wanted to build an improved A roadster, as there aren’t many around. I wanted to build a simple car made up of as many parts as I could find in time for the 2013 Nationals.”

With sights set firmly on his goal, Craig gathered as many original pieces to the puzzle as he could from acquaintances introduced by his dad and friends within the rodding scene. “Through a restorers network I ended up with a chassis, cowl and doors from one guy that knew he just didn’t need it anymore and was going to scrap it. I did hear later that he scrapped 30 tonnes of Model A stuff but that’s a sore point! I bought a lot of flathead gear from a friend when he got out of vintage race cars and that also swayed me to build a Ford. The rear quarters are Brookville and I guess that’s why I finished it the way that I did. I was going to leave the patina, but with the new quarters it just didn’t work. So the theme became a rod that someone could have built in the mid-50s if they had the money and the time to do a neat car. As a lot of the parts are reproduction you really couldn’t do the barn find look properly. Everything I did to the car was in the vein of pre-1952 even if it was produced in 2012.”

With the body panels slowly resembling the desired appearance Craig added new bottoms to the original cowl, steeled out the doors and with the help of Al Scheuber, prepped the entire ensemble for Creative Bodyworks to lay down the Protec two-pack exterior. At first glance the era perfect platform for the roadster fools most admirers as that of the ever popular 1932, but closer inspection reveals the stock chassis is cleverly dressed with owner fabricated steel valance panels resembling that of the deuce. Craig stepped the stock frame 2 1/2 inches before boxing the rails and adding a channelled K-member for improved strength. 

The roadster’s drivetrain reads like poetry; 1951 8BA flathead, ’40 Ford pickup gearbox and Winters Quick Change rear end. The well-dressed side valve was machined and ported by East Coast Engine Centre before Craig buttoned it all together with JP .040 pistons, stock crank and rods with a cam from H&H. Finned Navarro heads are perfectly matched with an Edelbrock “slingshot” intake featuring new 97 jugs from Stromberg. MSD ignition adds the spark to the sparkle while Speedway Motors headers expel spent fuel through baffled ’36 driveshaft exhausts. Craig thanks Dick Vermuelen and Fred Sharpe for their valued assistance in bringing the old 239 back to life.

Cog swapping the three speed box is made possible by a stock 9” clutch while gears are chosen by a ’39 sedan shifter. The spirited flatty is brought to life via the polished Winters quickie that is sandwiched between original 1935 bells, axels and ’40 drum brakes. The stunning third member is located by split ’35 radius rods, ’46 lever action shocks and a Model A spring from Posies.

Underneath that distinctive stainless grill shell, a So-Cal SS dropped I beam is attached to split ’37 radius rods, another spring from Poises and So-Cal tube shocks. The air cooled front brakes are ’48 Ford. So-Cal dropped steering arms on ’48 stubs are directed by a HQ box in cross steer fashion articulated by a ’40 Ford standard steering wheel atop a ’48 ute column.

The complete period piece is suspended above the asphalt by 16”x4.5” steelies from Wheels Smiths shod with Firestone 450 and Olympic 656 front and rear. Modified 1936 spare wheel covers on all four corners keep wayward rocks and the law at bay.

The simple wheel choice is finished in cream that complements the minimalistic and tasteful interior stitched by Bayside Trimming. Once Craig finished removing 3 ½ inches from the windscreen posts, Bill Fischer created a removable top to match the revised head height trimmed in Mercedes material.

“Dad’s a restorer but he’s help me build three cars and my sister to finish her hot rod. He wouldn’t call himself a hot rodder but he’s probably done more on rods than most.” 

Capping off the neat roof is the timber tack strip running around the seat back that anchors the roof bottom to the car, mimicking the original piece. It was expertly crafted by “Woody” Bill Ross.  

It’s little elements like this and the dickie seat grab rails that set this roadster apart in a crowded arena. Even Craig’s choice of ’41 Ford taillights, stock gas tank and gauge cluster keep the entire accomplishment fresh and thought provoking. 

“I was lucky that I had good people around me that could help when I was away for work,” reflects Craig. “I’m lucky that my wife appreciates the cars and we go to most runs together, she can also see the investment side of my hobby. Our first run in the roadster to the High Altitude Run in Toowoomba was in the rain with no bonnet and it was faultless, and it picked up Entrants Choice. After attending every run since its inception it was a pretty good feeling to take that trophy home. I have always seen a lot nicer cars that I thought I would never receive an award so it was special. We then made it to the Nationals and our goal was acomplished.”

Drinking in the beauty before me I think that we are the lucky ones. Without individuals like Craig Fischer giving a damn to get it right this would be just another pile of old rusty parts lost forever to the scrapers. For that I thank you, Craig.

BY DALE HABERFIELD, PHOTOS MILLBROOK STUDIO, FULL FEATURE CRUZIN #167.

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