We like to see a nice paint job and shiny engine parts as much as the next hot rodder, but sometimes there’s more to the story than what meets the eye. A perfect example is this 1929 Ford Model A owned by Rick Kersh. Rick has spent his whole life as a self-employed sign maker but for the past seven years, he’s been welding and shaping metal at Cambra Speed Shop in Orange, CA. We spotted Rick’s ’29 parked unobtrusively behind the shop during Cambra’s open house car show recently, and while the outward appearance seemed to be a work in progress, there was something more to this hot rod that drew us in for a closer look.
The engine is not the typical small-block Chevy or Ford that we’ve come to expect from hot rods these days, and unless you’re a Flathead purist, you might be pleasantly surprised at Rick’s choice for power. The engine is a 324 CID Olds V8 with a vintage Edelbrock three-deuce intake that was made during the Vic Sr. era. This intake bears the “O-96” part number on the casting and was designed to fit Oldsmobile engines manufactured between 1949 and 1956.
We pulled Rick aside during the show to get the finer details of the build and engine. Rick, by the way, is a second-generation car builder whose dad, Dale Kersh, built the original “Piece of Pie” dragster for Creighton Hunter back in the mid-1950s. Rick says that “Piece of Pie” was the first sidewinder in the country and the only one with a front-engine configuration. To honor his father who passed away in 2001 and pay homage to one of the most unique dragsters in quarter-mile history, Rick built a faithful tribute dragster that was featured in the “Drag Racing Then and Now” exhibit at the 71st Grand National Roadster Show in 2020.
But getting back to the Model A, Rick said, “My Dad chopped the ’29 back in 1949. It had an Olds engine with a 1939 Ford transmission. He and my Mom had a sign shop during the late ‘40s and early ‘50s and this was his work truck. It even had ladder racks on it back in the day!”
It was right around 1957 when Rick’s Dad sold the Model A, but Rick managed to find it again more than 50 years later in 2008. “I found it out in the desert near Pioneertown, CA,” said Rick. “The guy who owned it at the time tried to un-channel it and it was a mess. He also pulled the Olds engine and tried unsuccessfully to swap a small-block Chevy in its place. It never saw the light of day with that owner! I had to completely gut the car and build a new frame for it. I put an Olds engine back in it just like Dad had it, then added the Edelbrock intake with three Stromberg 97s. If you look closely, you’ll see that it has the original top and headliner. The tuck-and-roll upholstery was stitched with an old-fashioned treadle sewing machine.”
Probably the coolest addition to the interior, though, are the family photographs that Rick has taped to the Model A dashboard, right above the steering column. The black-and-white snapshot with scalloped edges shows Rick’s Mom at 20 years old standing next to the Model A. Next to it is a color photo from 1951 with Rick’s Dad, Mom and sister in front of the family sign shop in Newport Beach. And the last one is of Rick’s Dad taken in ’51 when he was building the car. To many hot rodders, cars are built to be driven and enjoyed. And then there are hot rods like the Kersh family’s Model A. Rick says that this ’29 is like a member of the family. He smiles and says, “It’ll go to the grave with me.”