Weekend Wallpaper: 1929 Model A Speedster

By | April 21, 2013

1929 Model A Speedster

1929 Model A Speedster

Previous Daily Derbi Weekend Wallpaper submissions originating from my desk suggest a sense of wonder as dedicated drivers converge on America’s race tracks with their treasured 4 wheel family members to show how fast they can go driving equipment relatively new to American society of the time submitting a pull still irresistible in today’s society; “How far can I push this thing to make it go even faster?”

Among the showpieces of Racing Art at SVRA’s US Vintage Grand Prix in 2012 raced Bill Stelcher’s 1929 Model A Speedster.

From Car Guy Chronicles’ Martyn Schorr we learn, “In 1929 you could buy a brand new Ford Model A roadster for just $385.00. Powered by a 200-cubic inch Flathead four-cylinder engine rated at 40 horsepower at 2,200 rpm, it had a top speed of 65 mph. Back in the day, select Ford dealers and speed shops offered Model T and A owners who wanted more performance two-place Speedster bodies as well as OHV and OHC conversions for their Flathead Fours.”

He goes on to describe the modern version. “Bill Stelcher’s #29 Riley Special, had been fitted with a two-place Rootleib Speedster body and in 1999 was re-bodied with an updated version. Sitting on a modified ’29 Model A chassis that’s been lowered four-inches for better handling on road-racing tracks, it is capable of topping out at 100 mph. A vintage ’33 Riley four-port head fitted with dual Stomberg 81 carburetors tops off the Speedster’s ’32 Ford (B) four-banger that’s rated at 100 horsepower!”

Always attempting to satisfy my curiosity determining why racing diehards subject their classic cars and themselves to racing’s rigors, Bill provides some interesting insight. As do many Vintage Auto race drivers, Mr. Stelcher of Florida happily responded to my list of questions regarding his carefully kept car.

Me: Your Speedster is what Vintage Racing is all about. From what racing heritage did your Speedster descend to make its appearance at the US Vintage Grand Prix?

Bill: It is very hard to determine the origins of most Speedsters as they were created for local dirt and board track racing in the 30’s.  When they were damaged or the owners lost interest they were mostly abandoned.

Me: Do you know the chassis number of your Speedster and, if so, what is it?

Bill: A4523609

Me: How long have you owned it?

Bill: Over ten years.

Me: What restorative work have you done to your Speedster?

Bill: Pretty much completely rebuilt the mechanics of the car.  To start with, the addition of the shock absorbers with spring over in the rear, then reworked the engine because it continually blew head gaskets.  The head was made in 1936 and had been shaved many times which had increased the compression ratio beyond what the gasket could take.  I had a .125 thick copper shim made to take some of the pressure off and it has helped keep the car reliable.  I also try to never rev beyond 4000 rpm’s.   It reduced the power but the tradeoff was well worth it.  I installed new master cylinders for the clutch and brakes.  I installed a transmission with better gearing for road courses.  The original Model A transmission has a large gap between 2nd and 3rd when going up a hill to a long straight, like Road America, second would be at 4000 and the engine would lug in third.  Many other small improvements like adjustable jets for the carburetors and steel braided fuel lines.

Me: Who does the work required to keep the Speedster on the track? (I think the following answer means Bill does the work himself).

Bill: The car is now very reliable.  The amount of vibration is the biggest problem with welds and things loosening up. 

I think Bill and other Vintage drivers’ satisfaction racing Vintage vehicles lies in loving a car whose original builders and designers never thought of their work remaining on the tracks of America and the world in the succeeding century. Their mentality rested on the next race.

Take some time to go see a Vintage race. The Sportscar Vintage Racing Association web site lists Vintage Auto racing action in your neighborhood. The newly formed SVRA West as well as the older more established SVRA East provide plenty of action throughout the year. Not only is it worth the effort, you’ll feel as Bill does when you watch the race. Take a close look at the smile painted on his helmet’s face guard. You’ll smile too.

See you at the track.

Download the full resolution version here.*

Weekend Wallpaper is a weekly series featuring the automotive photography of the Daily Derbi crew.  This week’s photo is by Neil Eschenfelder

*Weekend Wallpapers are provided for personal / non-commercial use only. No commercial usage is allowed. By downloading the Weekend Wallpaper, you agree to these terms.


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