Roy Brizio Street Rods: Modern Hot Rods Defined
by Bo Bertilsson
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Motorbooks; July 10, 2009
Retail: $35.00 US
Fans of Roy Brizio’s gorgeous, high-quality street rods probably won’t need a review of this book to know that they want it; they just need to know that it exists. For those people, consider this your notice. If there was any doubt as to Brizio’s skill, the glowing foreward by hot rod legend Vic Edelbrock should put it to rest. Brizio’s work is spectacular, and Roy Brizio Street Rods highlights a wide range of projects, from Model T’s to mid-century Mercuries. While many of these cars could easily fill an entire book individually, this survey of Brizio’s work provides more of an overview. That’s not to say that it’s lacking specific, detailed information, though. The introductory chapters on Brizio’s early life and shop provide background on the man behind the cars, and each car featured includes background on the build, including the owner and the modifications.
The glossy, high-color hardback looks like a coffee table book, and the photos are plentiful. The photo quality, however, is uneven. While some images are absolutely gorgeous, there are others that are grainy, or that have a bizarrely dark, apocalyptic fade added to the sky. While I appreciate the author’s attempt to include as many of Brizio’s creations as possible, I did find the quality of some of the photos to be distracting. Their inclusion did add to the overall view of Brizio’s body of work, but I would have preferred that some of them were omitted to make room for more of the higher-quality images.
Overall, I found that this book did a thorough job of profiling Roy Brizio, both through his history and his creations. His work quality and attention to detail are absolutely stunning, and it was good to see the breadth of material covered here. He is a master of his craft, and this book serves as an in-depth introduction to his work, though the broad overview of his many projects will still be of interest to those already familiar with him as a builder. I did find myself wishing for more information on some of the cars, but that’s more of a credit to his skill as a builder than it is a criticism of the book.
Brizio is most famous for his 1932 Fords, but, spanning 33 pages of the book, the chapter focused on his ’32s was a bit too robust for our limited excerpt. Instead, we’ll take a look at his work on Model A’s and T’s, including both a very special restoration and a couple of Brizio’s original creations. If you take the time to familiarize yourself with Roy Brizio’s work, you definitely won’t be disappointed. However, a word of warning: with workmanship of this quality, you just might want to order a car of your own.
Model A’s and T’s
Even though Roy Brizio Street Rods is best-known for its ’32 and ’34 Fords, the shop has also built plenty of other beautiful machines over the years, including models that predated the Deuce. One of Brizio’s finest achievements was a restoration of the famous Ala Kart that George Barris built for Richard Peters in 1958.
Hershel “Junior” Conway did the finish work on the original car and painted it in white pearl. George Barris topped Junior’s paint job with purple and gold scallops. Ala Kart won the prestigious America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award at the Grand National Roadster Show in 1958 and 1959, prompting toy model kit company AMT to lease the car from Peters and eventually buy it to use at car shows. However, in 1963, the car had an electric short that resulted in a fuel line fire. The damaged icon seemed to disappear for a long time . . .
Then, in 2001, one of Junior Conway’s customers turned up at his shop with the old Ala Kart and asked him to restore it. Junior started by stripping the sheetmetal down to bare metal and finishing it with new lead. After Conway had finished the pickup bed and some of the body pieces, the owner decided to sell the car. Roy Brizio and Steve Coonan convinced John Mumford to buy it. The car was eventually delivered to Brizio’s shop, and Roy put one of his guys, Bill Ganahl, in charge of the project. Bill invested countless hours in research and physical work to prepare the Ala Kart for the Grand National Roadster Show and consideration for the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award.
The Ala Kart was based on a stock ’29 roadster pickup. Peters modified the frame with chrome brackets for coil springs in all four corners. He had the chassis, body, pickup bed, and fenders delivered to the Barris shop in Lynnwood. Peters had removed a ’54 Dodge Red Ram Hemi from his race boat and bolted it to a ’39 Ford transmission with Lincoln gears. The rearend came from a ’32 Ford with bolted-on ’40 Ford hydraulic brakes. Peters installed a dropped I-beam axle on the front with ’39 Ford spindles and ’40 Ford brakes. At the Barris shop, the crew modified the body with a ’27 Model T back panel, shortened and modified the pickup bed, bobbed the fenders, and made a new front end with a round grille and dual headlights. A new aluminum hood was fashioned with a sunken hood scoop. Conway, who was working for Barris at the time, finished the paint job, and Roy Gilbert crafted the upholstery and special seats.
For the restoration, Roy’s crew repeated the original buildup bolt for bolt. Mickey Galloway did the metalwork, Darryl Hollenbeck painted the car, and Howdy Ledbetter re-created the interior perfectly. The restored Ala Kart debuted at the 2008 Grand National Roadster Show in a display just like that used in 1958. George Barris and the car’s original owner, Richard Peters, attended the show to commemorate the car’s return.
Cliff Hanson’s ’31 Roadster Pickup
Cliff Hanson of Zephyr Cove, Nevada, wanted a fenderless roadster pickup and sat down with Roy Brizio to get his ideas on paper. They put together plans for a ’31 Model A Ford roadster pickup.
Brookville Roadsters makes an open steel-body replica of the Model A for half the price of a similar ’32, so Cliff’s project began with an order for a pickup body and shortened bed from Brookville. Roy and Jack Stratton used a set of American Stamping ’32 frame rails to build the chassis. New tubular crossmembers were made for the transmission bracket, and the front of the frame was pinched to fit behind the ’32 grille shell. The front crossmember was also flattened to get maximum front-end drop.
The front end has a 5-inch dropped Super Bell mono-spring axle held in place with a set of Pete & Jake’s hairpins. The Dutchman quick-change rearend has an early Ford axle with hairpins and a set of coil-over shocks. The wheelbase was stretched to 110 inches—4 inches longer than a stock ’32 Ford.
With the basic chassis complete, a Mullins Vega steering box was paired with Pete & Jake’s shocks and Panhard bars. Late-model Ford rear drum brakes work in combination with a set of So-Cal Speed Shop disc brakes hidden in finned, Buick-style drums. The roadster is powered by a 350 Edelbrock crate small-block connected to a five-speed Tremec transmission with overdrive and a 4.11:1 gear ratio. The Edelbrock engine was delivered with 10.5:1 compression; Edelbrock aluminum heads, cam, and intake manifold; and dual Edelbrock four-barrel carburetors under a Moon air cleaner. With 410 horsepower, Cliff has all the hot rod power he could want.
Even a brand-new steel body needs finish work before it can be painted. Mickey Galloway took care of the body and pickup bed, and the aluminum hood was then crafted. In Concord, Darryl Hollenbeck painted the bodywork in House of Kolor blue candy. With the car bolted together, the chassis parts were chromed and painted, and the wiring was installed. The car was then trailered to Sid Chavers—Brizio’s main man for interiors—in Santa Clara. Sid stitched a 1950s-style interior in red-and-white Naugahyde, and local pinstriper Rory Pentecost pinstriped the exterior. Cliff showed off his hot little pickup at the L.A. Roadster Show, and among the 900 roadsters at the show, Cliff’s was a crowd favorite.
Carlos Lara’s ’29 Lakester
Hot rodder Carlos Lara moved from Mexico to Alberta, Canada, just before he contacted Roy Brizio Street Rods about building a roadster with set a Deuce frame rails and a replica Brookville 1929 roadster pickup body. Carlos delivered a Jaguar six-cylinder engine to power the hot rod.
Classic lakesters were built on Model A or ’32 chassis with Model T bodies—just a basic ’29 roadster pickup body (without the pickup bed) with a tank in back on top of the frame. Roy Brizio and his crew formed the ’32 frame rails after the body, and the rails were cut in the front and rear for a bobbed style. While the shop was working on the chassis, Jag specialist Jim Griffin took apart the 1968 4.2-liter XKE engine and put it back together with a high-lift cam, a ported and polished head, and Isky valve springs. Three chromed 40-millimeter DCOE side-draft Weber carburetors from Inglese were mounted on a Jaguars Unlimited intake manifold. A Mallory Unilite distributor was selected for ignition, and a Tremec five-speed transmission was installed with a Brizio-made bell housing. Power is fed to a Dutchman quick-change rearend with 3.50:1 gears and a high Model A–type leaf spring from Betts Spring Company in Oakland. The front end was built on a 5-inch dropped Super Bell tube axle with Pete & Jake’s radius rods and a monoleaf front spring. For an old-style racing look, Brizio selected a set of Wilson Welding finned backing plates and Buick aluminum drums with Ford hydraulic brakes all around.
To give Carlos some extra leg room in the little ’29 Ford roadster body, the Brizio boys dropped the floor in front of the seats and used a slim backrest. Kustom Classics painted the body in DuPont British Racing Green, and Jim Vickery wired the car. The ’32-style dash has Classic Instrument Hot Rod Series gauges, and the three-spoke Bell-style steering wheel was wrapped in tan Jaguar leather by Sid Chavers. Sid stitched the entire interior, including the carpet, with matching leather edges. The lakester rides on American Racing 17- and 20-inch wheels with low-profile 205 and 295 BF Goodrich tires. The Model A has six short straight pipes, making for a very short exhaust system—great for shows, but not so great for the street.
Like most of Roy Brizio’s work, the Carlos Lara Model A roadster is not a show piece—it is very much a driver and has a lot of unusual parts, including a Jag motor with Weber carburetors. Steve Coonan
The Ala Kart was a big success as soon as it was shown at the 1958 Grand National Roadster Show. Richard Peters toured with it, and the model company AMT showed it for some years in the 1960s. More than one million model copies were sold.
Richard Peters took the Dodge Red Ram engine out of his race boat for the Ala Kart. The car was featured on the cover of Hot Rod magazine in 1958 with a Hilborn fuel injection system. The restored 266-cubic-inch Hemi motor was finished the same way.
It was a great moment at the Grand National Roadster Show when the fully restored Ala Kart was uncovered in 2008. It was accompanied by a complete replica of the display from the 1958 show, including the car’s setup with foil-covered stands and a mirror under the car.
The original Ala Kart was shown at the 1958 show on a white carpet, with a big mirror under the chassis and foil-covered stands. The car’s original owner, Richard Peters, was at the 2008 show to see the restored car.
It was a big moment when Roy Brizio took the Ala Kart out for a spin; few people have seen this famous old show car on the road.
The swing pedals came from a ’54 Ford, and the dash panel has a set of ’57 Corvette gauges, just like when it was first built. The steering wheel, with a gold bullet in the center, came out of a ’57 Lincoln.
Darryl Hollenbeck copied the original Junior Conway Barris paint job down to the smallest detail, and Art Himsl matched the purple and gold candy colors. The same scallops are painted on the underside of the fenders.
After a wiring and fuel fire, the Ala Kart was parked in a garage until 2001, when Junior Conway began its restoration.
A ’32 Ford rear end was chromed, along with many of the other chassis parts. The coil springs and air bags were new ideas in 1958, and the four pipes sticking out under the Frenched license plate added to the custom style.
In this prerestoration picture of the Ala Kart, some of the upholstery is still intact, which made it easier for Howdy Ledbetter to replicate the original upholstery.
Junior Conway had started to restore the Ala Kart for one of his customers before it was sold to John Mumford. This photo shows how the car looked when the Brizio team took over and completed the restoration. Steve Coonan
The Ala Kart was nearly all intact, parked in a garage for more than 30 years before it was sold and Junior Conway was hired to restore it. This street rod gave George Barris notable publicity; it won the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award in 1958 and 1959.
Two very famous Sam and George Barris–built cars are back together after all these years. The Ala Kart Model A roadster pickup appears with the Sam Barris ’49 Mercury, which also can be seen in Chapter 6. Steve Coonan
With the new hood a little longer than stock and the 1932 frame pinched in to be cut and hidden behind the grille shell, the front end gets a very clean look. The grille and grille shell are new replicas in steel.
The stance of the car, with its front-end drop, screams “hot rod.” With the blue candy paint, red and white accents, and the wide whitewalls, it’s easy to see why people love this car.
More and more hot rod builders do what Cliff did for his car: order a brand-new crate motor to get some fresh horsepower. Cliff selected an Edelbrock-built, 410-horsepower 350 Chevy with plenty of goodies, including aluminum Edelbrock heads and cam, a polished intake manifold with dual four-barrel 500-cfm carburetors, and a Moon air cleaner.
Roy Brizio is one of the best in the business at building good-looking drivers, and most of them have a Sid Chavers stitched interior like this one in red-and-white, 1950s-style tuck and roll. The 1932-style dash has a Brizio insert and a set of Classic Instrument gauges. Because a hot rod should be driven like a sports car, owner Cliff Hanson wanted a five-speed manual with a Hurst shifter.
The deeply dropped front end has a 5-inch dropped Super Bell tube axle with Pete & Jake’s spindles, hairpins, and shocks. The Buick-style So-Cal Speed Shop brakes have hidden disc brakes inside.
The car was based on the old lakester style with some modern touches, including a Jaguar engine and a set of big American Racing 17x20-inch wheels with low-profile BF Goodrich tires.
To keep a clean look, everything possible on the 1968 Jaguar XKE engine was polished or painted silver. Jim Griffin completely rebuilt the 4.2-liter engine. With 9:1 compression, high-lift cams, and a ported head, the engine was topped off with three Weber carburetors on Jaguars Unlimited manifolds. The straight-pipe exhaust was installed for show, and it looks very good with the rest of the polished valve covers and carburetors.
The lakester has a quickchange rear end built by Dutchman, with 3.50:1 gears. The aluminum pieces were polished before the rear end was assembled, and it is held in place by a set of Pete & Jake’s ladder bars, plus a Model A leaf spring.
The Sid Chavers interior was stitched in tan Jaguar leather, and the seats were kept slim to give owner Carlos Lara some extra leg room in the car. The 1932-style dash is filled with Classic Instrument Hot Rod Series gauges, and the Hurst shifter is hooked up to a Tremec five-speed transmission.
The old race car–style look included a set of Speedway Motors friction shocks in the front and 1929 Model A headlights with modern halogen inserts. The headlights were mounted extra low and out in front of the Model A grille shell.
Jim Stroupe owns this little ’27 T original-bodied roadster with a narrowed body, 1960s Alfa Romeo engine, four-speed transmission, Halibrand quick-change rear end, and rare Kinmont brakes all around. The owner had the parts and the ideas, and he then hired Brizio’s to build his dream car.
Brizio’s built the little T with a square tubing chassis and a Wescott ’27 T fiberglass body. Under the body were a Halibrand quick-change rear end, a 302-cubic-inch Ford engine with dual Edelbrock four-barrels, and a T five-speed transmission. The tube front axle had coil-over shocks fitted inside the track-nose front end.
Chip Foose came up with the idea to build a clone of the first Hot Rod magazine cover car to celebrate 50 years of the magazine. Foose also made the rendering of the updated version of Regg Schlemmer’s ’27 T roadster, which Brizio built in 1998.