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						Shell Valley 32 A3
All American

Shell Valley 1929 Ford Roadster

Story and Photos by Steve Temple

Ford’s Model A was a huge success for the company back in the day, with more than 4.8 million units sold during production from 1927 to 1932. But that’s not the end of the story, as customizers embraced the car as one of the most popular choices for a wide variety of hot rod projects.

In addition, a company called Shay Motors Corp., founded by Harry J. Shay, resurrected production of the original-style Model A back in the late 1970s. He worked out a deal with Ford to send at least one car to every dealership across the country. Eager customers began lining up at showrooms, just as they had back in 1927.

In response to demand, Harry planned to build replicas of other Ford roadsters as well, along with the ’55 Thunderbird, ’40 Lincoln Continental and ’65 Mustang. Unfortunately, the entire program was beset by problems with production, cash flow and legal issues. So just a few years later, Harry had to shut down operations in March of 1982.

Camelot Motors Corp., or CMC, purchased the tooling out of bankruptcy and made some improvements in the frame of the Model A. Speedway Motors then offered the car as a DIY kit from 1982 to 1993. 

The history of the Shay Model A gets a bit cloudier at this point. According to Dana Dankert of Shell Valley, the Swoboda brothers (founders of this replica firm) acquired the Shay inventory when CMC went out of business. They were mostly after the Mustang II front suspension components for use in Shell Valley’s Cobra replicas, but the roadster molds were part of the deal. Later on, Rich Anderson acquired the company and more recently Travis Roth.

Getting back to the Model A replica: After sitting around for several years, the molds were brought into the shop to see if they were still good. “We got one body out of the original mold,” Dana recalls. “We cleaned that body up and modified it to work with our own frame and made it into a hot rod.” The company then splashed a mold off this reworked shape and has been making its own version of the Model A roadster ever since, adding Kevlar and steel into the critical stress points.

Today, Shell Valley’s component package consists of a box-tube frame with the suspension installed and either Chevy or Ford engine mounts welded in place. The body is pre-positioned on the frame to ensure a snug fit, and a body-mounting kit with weatherstripping is included.

While Shell Valley’s Cobra replica has always been the company’s most popular seller (stay tuned for a feature on one in an upcoming issue), Dana says he’s seen a renewed interest in traditional hot rods lately. 

“We decided it would be a good idea to build one of our ‘A’ roadster kits into a roller to take along to some of the shows we do every year,” he notes. Not wanting to go overboard on the paint and leave the color choice for the eventual next owner, Shell Valley decided to coat the body in a flat-black primer. 

This basic-black color scheme turned out great and looks right at home on this hot rod. The look is understated and dignified, as it doesn’t have those intentionally funky treatments seen on rat rods. And the ebony hue also contrasts dramatically with the chromed control arms and ceramic-coated Sprint-style headers with extensions.

The engine is a fresh 355 Chevy engine out of a Nova that was being repowered with a big-block V8. The SBC is coupled to a turbo 350 transmission actuated by a Lokar shifter. The rest of the driveline consists of a custom drive shaft from Fast Shafts hooked up to a Ford 9-inch with a four-bar setup. The solid rear axle is fitted with a Panhard bar and Moser axles, and it’s suspended by QA1 coilover shocks and chrome trailing arms. This classy rod rolls on American Racing Salt Flat Specials, 15-by-sevens in the front and 15-by-10s in the rear, shod with Cooper Cobra tires, 235/60 and 295/50 respectively. Disc brakes with 11-inch rotors scrub off speed at all four corners.

Interior upgrades include VDO Cockpit Royale gauges and an ididit tilt steering column. “We went with a two-tone gray interior, so it will match just about any color palette down the road,” Dana adds.

While most street rod companies offer bits and pieces requiring some shopping around to complete a project vehicle, Shell Valley takes a different approach by offering a total package with just about everything needed for a full build. And now financing is available as well for purchases ranging from $1,000 to $35,000. All of which makes getting into a street rod a whole lot simpler.

Things sure have come a long way since the early days of Henry Ford. But one thing has stayed the same: This Model A is still all-American. 

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