Charlie's 1930 Model A Coupe
For many of us, our way into the old car hobby is to start out with an affordable, clapped out junker and then work up through a few progressively nicer cars until we finally arrive at our dream car. When we get there, we’re seasoned pros who have been there and done that over years in the hobby. But sometimes, things work out differently.
Such is the case with Charlie Morris and his beautiful Model A coupe. Believe it or not, this is his first hot rod. First attempts aren’t supposed to be this nice.
This story really starts long before the first wrench was turned on the coupe. Years ago, Charlie and his sons Darin and Brent started attending Hot August Nights in Reno. As they wandered through the huge variety of cars on display, Charlie fell in love with early Fords. He wanted one, but was convinced that a hot rod of his own would always just be a dream.
Here’s where we fast forward to 2011. Darin had left the nest and was running a fab shop making motorcycle parts. He had plenty of custom Harley builds under his belt and decided it was time to make dad’s hot rod dream come true. While at Darin's wedding in July, they approached a well-connected friend and asked him for help finding a car. By October, he had turned up a clean, stock Model A coupe. It had been with the original owner’s family in Oregon until the late 90’s, making Charlie only the fourth owner. It even ran and drove, so Charlie and Darin’s first order of business was to putter around the neighborhood in their new jalopy. The next day, it came apart.
Since the original frame was in good shape, Charlie and Darin chose to retain it. Remember, Darin's day job is running a fab shop, so he has the chops to build a great hot rod chassis. After having it blasted, he got busy boxing it in and building a new kickup in the rear. A ’32 front crossmember was fitted and a new rear crossmember was fabricated to mount the coilovers and clear the Currie 9-inch housing. Then, Darin got busy building his own triangulated 4-link to locate everything.
In 2012, it came time to pick an engine. If you recall, gas prices were soaring around that time, and Charlie was tempted to start hunting for a small 4-cylinder. Darin put his foot down, asking “Are we building a hot rod or not?” That was all it took for Charlie to order up a 347 Ford from BluePrint Engines. It inhales through an Edelbrock carb and is bolted to an AOD trans. There’s nothing exotic here, just a good reliable hot rod drivetrain made to put miles on. But there’s 330 horsepower and 380 ft. lbs. on tap when it’s needed.
As the car came together, Charlie and Darin worked hard to create a timeless hot rod that could be passed down through the generations, not one that would be out of style in a couple years. The full fenders, steelies, and ’32 grille all fit the subtle, timeless theme. The paint needed to do the same. Elite Auto Body in Campbell, CA helped them mix a custom color that started with a stock color from the swatch book that came close to Darin's vision, then tinkered with until everyone was happy. They call the resulting color “Royal Denim,” and we think it perfectly suits the car.
Inside, the timeless theme continues. The legendary Sid Chavers stitched the black leather. A ’32-style dash was filled with Classic Instruments gauges, and the Ididit tilt column hangs from a drop made from a top fuel connecting rod. The banjo wheel and chrome garnish moldings add more hot rod flair to the restrained interior.
When it was all done, Charlie and Darin took another drive. Charlie’s hands were shaking. Even talking about it now gives him goosebumps. He was driving his dream car. There were times when he thought that maybe they would never finish it. But, according to Charlie, “You know what, that would have been ok. I got to spend time with my son.” Charlie calls Darin a “visionary” and credits him with the eye that made this car such a knockout.
When we approached Charlie at the Goodguys Southwest Nationals to ask about his car, we were expecting to find a seasoned hot rodder with a binder full of past projects. Instead, we found a humble guy who finally has the car that he’s been dreaming about for years. (Check out our interview with Charlie in the video below.) And when we asked him to tell us about it, we didn’t get a rundown of cam specs, compression ratios, and trick body mods. Instead, we got stories about building a car with his son while the grandkids played with their Legos on the shop floor. This hot rod is more like a member of the family.
Charlie also told us about the drive to the show. Often cars like this come and go in trailers, but not this one. Charlie lives about an hour and a half away from Scottsdale, and he just hopped in the freshly finished coupe and drove it there. When the show was over and he had scooped up his Goodguys Builder’s Choice Top 10 Award, he hopped in and drove it home.
And he plans to keep driving it. “The rock chips hurt” he says, but Charlie and Darin never planned to drag their dream around behind them. Instead, this car will rack up the miles out on the road, with one happy guy behind the wheel of his amazing hot rod dream car.
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