Michael Lamm's 1930 Ford
1930 Ford Model A roadster owned by Michael Lamm of La Feria, Texas. In 1951, when he was 15 years old, Mike came across what was left of a hot rod that somebody had started to build a few years earlier. In 2018 Mike told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama that it was essentially a roller, "no engine, no transmission—but I could see great potential in it. So, with stars in my eyes and very little cash in my pocket, I bought the roller for $20—a lot of money back then, especially for a kid making 35 cents an hour working after school, weekends and summers."
Mike had two jobs, "actually, one at Miller’s Garage and the other at Joe Machner’s Humble filling station. This was in my hometown, La Feria, in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. The weather in South Texas is a lot like Southern California’s, warm and sunny, so we could work outside on cars year around. The hot rod, such as it was, had a 1930 Ford Model A roadster body on 1932 Ford frame rails. The rear frame kickup had been Z'ed, which gave the car quite a nice stance. Other modifications included a 1940 Ford pickup instrument panel, steering column from a 1949 Nash, and a special pitman arm that was stouter and longer than normal, giving the car quicker steering than was usual in 1950s American cars." The windshield came from a motorboat.
A 1948 Mercury 59-AB V8 was soon bought from a local wrecking yard, "and also a 1939 Ford three-speed transmission. The fellow who ran the yard threw in a Columbia two-speed rear axle plus a radiator," Mike told Kustomrama. "I think the whole ensemble cost me less than $60. Before I put the thing together, I sanded the body and had it painted a Hudson color called Texas Tan. I brush-painted the 17-inch wire wheels a complementary Hudson hue, Boston Ivory. The frame and chassis got a coat of gloss black. The car had no seat when I got it, so I bought one out of a Ford Anglia and had it upholstered in a plaid nylon weave, with green diamond-tufted door and kick panels, which I made myself. But keep in mind, I was only a callow teenager, so my tastes ran to the bizarre. To my mind, here was a car that embodied total coolness and style." Mike also added Pontiac tail lights and twin exhausts.
The Only Hot Rod Roadster in Town
Mike had the hot rod up and running within a couple of months, and he owned the only hot rod roadster in La Feria, "There were no clubs, of course, and the enthusiasm for hot rods and collectible cars hadn't really taken off in 1951, not in South Texas. There were a few kids in other towns who had hot rods and modified production cars, but it was all very grass roots and disorganized. Occasionally we'd get together at a drive-in in Harlingen or at the drag strip near Port Isabel, but mostly we were lone wolves. What brought us together, I think and inspired us was Hot Rod Magazine. I joined NHRA fairly early, but for several years it was only a sticker."
School and Racing
The heads were shaved before Mike added a Thickstun intake manifold with two Stromberg 97s. He could never afford aluminum heads nor headers. "Meanwhile I was also buying and selling other cars on the side, sometimes making a dollar or two but mostly not. I drove the hot rod to school, did a lot of stop-light dragging and occasionally entered formal drag races which, at that time, were held at a decommissioned submarine base near Port Isabel, on the gulf coast. I didn’t do particularly well as a drag racer, but the car was great fun to drive and had lots of personality. I’ve owned dozens of open cars since then, and I think that in each one I’ve been trying to find and duplicate that wonderful combination of sophistication and crudeness that formed the hallmark of my hot rod."
Replaced With a Cadillac
"After driving the hot rod for about 18 months, I stumbled onto a 1932 Cadillac V-16 sedan that I simply had to have. I bought the Cadillac for $90 and sold the hot rod for $450. Some kid in the next town bought it. From then until I went away to college in late 1954, the V-16 served as my daily driver. I have no idea what became of the hot rod and, as I say, I’ve been searching for a replacement ever since. Never really found one," Mike told Sondre 67 years later.
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