'29 Dodge DA Sport Roadster Competes for AMBR Award
The AMBR award is a competition to be named America’s Most Beautiful Roadster and takes place every year at the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona California. Jellybean AutoCrafters built a stunning ’29 Dodge DA Sport Roadster that was worthy of the competition. The AMBR (America’s Most Beautiful Roadster) at the Grand National Roadster Show is a competition open to only 12 cars each year by invitation only. These cars are the 12 best hot rods in the world and are stunning in every way, from their design, build quality, uniqueness, and driveability.
This ’29 Dodge DA Roadster is very rare, not only because it’s a Dodge, but also because it has a rare 1952 Canadian Plymouth engine. The competition for the AMBR award is stiff given that there are only 12 cars selected to compete each year. Ewald and Kurt Penner explain some of the challenges they faced to prepare the car for the competition.
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If all goes well, we're gonna hit the key and we'll hear some cool noises coming out of this thing.
Ah oh. That ain't good!
Hi folks and welcome to Center Lane, I'm Bruce Hitchen. I'm here at the Grand National Roadster Show
in Pomona, CA. This show is in its 72nd year and it's the longest running indoor car show in the world. In these buildings there's about 500 cars and there's a whole bunch more outside. One of those cars is a 29 Dodge which Jellybean AutoCrafters has put together and is competing for the AMBR award. A few weeks ago I went and visited Jellybean and they showed me the car when they were preparing it for the show.
It's a 1929 Dodge. It's a DA Sport Roadster. At the time it was a hot rod, at the time. It was a 12-volt car which is really rare back then, the cars were six-volt and also had a six-cylinder motor in it and 63 horsepower. So for back in the day this was a quite a high performance car. The car came in as a as a driver. A very poor driver. The stance was wrong, it had a lot of really bad issues. So we took care of all that. We took the car down to bare bones. Every bolt, nut and everything was all taken apart. New wiring, brakes, all through.
So this car has kind of evolved over the time when it's been here. It started off as a pretty simple project, just correct the ride height, clean up a couple of details and then as we kind of got it deeper into the project, it morphed into, okay let's paint it, let's make it something really cool.
We're building a high-end street car, so it'll drive excellent. It's gonna be a beautiful looking car, it'll be stunning actually, but the main thing that we'll concentrate on the car was, how it drives and how it performs.
"I really like the look of it because it does look like carburation here but it's got injection inside right...".
So the engine itself is kind of the jewel of the car. It's a 1952 Canadian Plymouth block which
is extremely rare for engines. And we've also adding a hand-built fuel injection
that's going into there. Some really rare vintage racing pieces that are in the car. The wheels also are one-off pieces that we designed and and made um so the wheels themselves will be the only ones in the world like it.
The original frame was actually in excellent condition and one more thing about the Dodge
as compared to the other manufacturers is the frames, they basically use truck frames on their cars so to even put a V8 in the into a Dodge of that era was not an issue. The frame is extremely strong. So we used the frame that was there. We changed the front cross member over to a modern suspension but
that's the only modification we had on the frame itself.
The amount of man hours to build a car like this depends on how complicated you want to
get Generally speaking, a pretty basic car, you'll be spending five to eight hundred hours on it. Typically for the stuff that we're doing we're spending a thousand hours plus. What's been neat about this car though too is , guys have kind of broken out their creative skills and said, you know what, I'm going to come in in the evening and I'm going to do something really creative, off the clock. Just to give them a chance to build something totally unique, totally one-off pieces. Things you can't really charge your customer shop rates for but you want to put them on the car because it makes it your own personal touch on each vehicle.
One thing that's unique about the Dodge is that they didn't use any wood for the structure on the underbody typically there's wood in behind here and it's all nailed, the body's nailed to it. This ones all metal all the way through. The only thing that was wood were the floorboards but we've changed that over to the metal now. This way it's a much stronger floor as well and it will be a much safer car.
The car itself is quite rare. It's what they call a DA Sports Roadster. It was a 12 volt system. Back then it was six-volts that most cars had. It also had a six-cylinder motor which was almost unheard
of back then and it was 63 horsepower so in a sense it was a hot rod right when it was
brand new so for us to modify this into more of a hot rod, more of a, not modern, but close
to...is a real privilege because it still pays respect to what the car was when it was initially built and now the client can have that as a much more reliable piece.
When the car initially came in it was a running car but it was not a safe vehicle. The paint on
it was was old and terrible, it needed to be redone in a big way. So we ended up stripping it down, doing the metal work that it needed. There was a lot of rust in these areas here and stuff like
that. There wasn't that many dints it was, that part was good so it was quite good in that way but these
cars were never straight. So what we've done is we've done all the metal work to a level where, as you can see now the uh the paint has got a really good reflection on it. Anything you put here, it's like a mirror and so with our body work process that we use, that's how we got it to that. So all your door gaps
are our modern spec as well. So a new car has about eighth inch door gaps, so does this car and so once the door is closed, this whole area here looks like a mirror so anything that's in here beside it is reflected on it. When this car came in, this engine was already in the car. It was running really poorly. It was leaking gas, it was leaking oil and leaking water, and smoke out the back, that sort of thing. We did a little bit of research as to what it was, and it turned out to be an extremely rare Canadian Plymouth block so we felt this would be the perfect one to use. It just fit the car so well. From there we went and got an Edgy head which is extremely rare. It's a reproduction piece. There was only 15 ever made of the reproductions.
This bracket that you see here, that's all hand built. We built this little pivot here. When the
throttle moves, this goes back and forth. That's all hand created in the shop here. We're trying to get an old school look. Something that somebody could have built in the 50s because the motor is in 1952 so we thought that would be the area that would kind of stick to as far as the build is concerned. So the bracket holds the pivot, it holds the coil, and also the oil filter. These cars never had oil filters. In 1952, they didn't have oil filters in the car so any car you see with an older car like that, it would have been a either dealer installed piece or it would have been an aftermarket piece altogether.
We looked for a long time to get this piece. The factory one had a stainless steel piece here but it was just impossible to find. This car is too rare for that, so we ended up making it. So we took a piece
of brass, a d-shaped piece of brass we ended up then forming it around the corner here
and on the bottom. It looks pretty basic now that it's done, but this cowl is, from top to bottom, is angled this way, so that means it's a compound curve. It's not just going over a round pipe and bending it. You have to figure out this angle, this way, and that way at the same time. That makes it an extreme challenge. You've only got one chance when you're working witha brass. You make it wrong, and it's done. You've got to start all over again. Kurt's a master fabricator with metals and all sorts of things so he nailed this part out perfectly. So it comes all the way down here. This piece here was never there from the factory vehicle. There was just bolts here, and here, and here, all the way along. What that did is that held the body to the frame. So what we did, we fabricated this brass piece to cover them all
so you don't have these visible bolts. Just give it a cleaner look.
Typically when you see a radiator on an older vehicle, a 20s or 30s vehicle, they're either black, or they're aluminum, and if they're really old, they're just plain brass. We just had to go a different route here. It's a copper radiator but we painted it all black and we just sanded the front slightly, just to remove the paint off the front lips. This way here, it's not black and it's not aluminum or copper.
So you got a very unique look. As a person walks by the car, the light actually shimmies back and forth because these bars are so thin, the way it comes across, it actually looks as if the lights following you as it goes along. It's quite a neat effect. That effect quite honestly was a surprise. We weren't going for that so it's a bonus to what we had done.
So this is the factory logo on the car.It's the only marking on the car that actually
says Dodge on it. They didn't have any side scripts or rear script. This is the only way to know what vehicle it was.
Initially this car would have come with a single carburetor. What we decided to do, being a hot rod, we
went with dual. They look like carburetors but they're actually fuel injected. These are hand-built units so it looks almost like a Stromberg carb type of deal, but there's actually instead of having a float bowl here, there's actually fuel injectors inside here. So you got your fuel line coming in and you have your electrical coming from the bottom so the look is as the way it was as far as the carb is concerned but the function is fully modern, fully reliable. Better power, better fuel economy, everything that the EFI
The intake manifold was an amazing score. This is one of five ever built. In 1952 this company closed down. It was Tattersfield. They closed and I was able to purchase this part from the owner's son, from his private collection so we're really really proud and honoured to have this on this car.
Things like cars not starting first-time around, especially with computer controls, it's not uncommon. Normally we're not on the big time crunch that there is now and so you've got time to step back, take your time, bring in pieces if you need it. In this particular case we're on such a tight time schedule right now that there just isn't time to order something in from a manufacturer that takes, you know, 3-4 days to get here.
"We've gone through and tracked all the wiring, so we're down inside of here, there's the throttle position sensor that lives in the back of the of the units back here. Right! So we've pulled that off. That seems to be defective. So basically, we've narrowed it down to at this point either crank trigger and throttle position sensor or both creating issues".
With an AMBR award car, part of your judging is that the car has to run. It needs to drive into the building under its own power and appear to be streetable as far as the way it runs. It can't be coughing and it's sputtering and spitting. If it doesn't run they won't even judge it. So to have a car that wouldn't start makes the thousands of hours that are in this car, useless.
So we brought two parts in. They're the same part number, different manufacturer. Neither of them fits. That's just one of those bizarre things that happens in this industry sometimes. The orientation in the back here is incorrect so neither of these here will bolt up. So we're back to square one!
Yeah, it gets pretty stressful when you're a week away from departure and the thing won't run. Stress level comes out pretty good.
"You guys the parts arrived. This should be problem solution right here."
Well this system is pretty complex too with the dual injectors on it, and so the balance between the two is gonna be pretty critical.
So there's a lot of different things that could potentially go wrong with the system as far as initial tuning goes, but once we get it dialed in, it's going to be really really cool.
The Grand National Roadster sure is on another level. It's not just a show. It's the Grand Daddy of all car shows. It's the show to go to.
What does it mean for you to be here at this show?
For us it's a complete honour to be here. I can honestly say that. We are among the best of the best. There's four cars here where the builders are Hall of Fame people. These are the top name brands of the world and we're competing head-to-head with these people. Tell me about some of the things the judges are looking for when judging a car like this.
The main thing they're looking for is: how good does it look, how unique is it. In that way it really gives us a lot of freedom and it challenges us to reach that next level. From there, they look for perfection. In paints for example. They'll literally take a special light to look at the color of the car, the paint, door edges, under the door, between the frame and the body. Make sure it's all wet sanded and polished
or perfection in those areas. They look for perfection. These are the top 12 cars in the world.
Normally you know roadsters and hot rods we think of Fords, a bit unusual to have a Dodge at a show like this I guess right?
We get the comment all time. A lot of people come here and, no offense to these cars, but they're saying I'm sure glad it's not a Ford, or a Chev. It's something different right and that is also one of the things that the judge really go for as well is they want to stay unique. You know as a show promoter I would say let's bring the unique cars because that's what brings more people and it just builds the industry really well right so uh. Yeah, I think that's a really big plus for us being a Canadian Builder too, it makes us stand out a little bit differently from everybody else, right.
Sure. Well Ewald, you know win or lose it's a beautiful car. Thank you. What would you say about your team and the people that have worked on this car to get it to this level? The guys are amazing. They're
just absolutely fantastic. I can't say enough good about them. These guys spent some weekends
on the car, donated time. They put every effort that they possibly could. Now, these are top of the line guys and they're putting the extras in there just to make sure we got here, that the car would be as good as it can be. Just a great group of guys. At the same time though, so are the clients. These clients are passionate. This is...typically it's their passion, they've dreamed about this car for who knows how long. It's not easy to be the guy who cuts the cheques all the time. They look at the work ,they see what they
want and they see this is exactly what they're looking for. And sometimes we blow their minds a little bit as well but, they're great people so it's just an honor to work for these people as well. It's the client's really that push us the most. Yes, we like the shows, but the clients are the ones that are saying, this is what I want. They have a dream of what it should be like we then make it it's a reality and we added
a little bit of our own flavor in there and stuff like that.
"It might be the second time in history that a 34 Chevy is America's Most Beautiful Roadster".
It's really exciting! Absolutely! It's top-of-the-world. This show is the top. The class we're in is the top of the world. It's beyond exciting.