Nothing sends us into a state of nostalgic bliss faster than the sight of a lakes-style roadster kicking up dirt with its driver grinning ear to ear. Leigh Dunks has never experienced the hot-rodding lifestyle in the US but that didn’t matter. He was so inspired by his love of pre-war American hot rods and all of the racing that took place during the golden age of hot rodding that he styled his 1929 Model A Roadster build in a way that would make Vic Edelbrock Sr. proud.
Leigh, a resident of Rugby, England, told us that he bought the ’29 about five years ago from a guy in Hereford, a city located about two hours from his hometown. It was a solid driver with a decent boxed frame. It had good bones but was a bit anemic with a 2,000cc Pinto four-banger for power. But Leigh saw a good foundation in the Roadster that would allow him to have plenty of fun while pursuing his dream of building a true 1940s-era American-styled hot rod.
As it turned out, the Pinto four provided just enough punch for Leigh to have plenty of fun while he spent the cold winter months of England perusing the parts catalogs and updating the body and frame to where he wanted it to be.
“Hot rods from that time often had the names of performance parts painted on the body work. Since the engine isn’t exposed, I wanted to give people an idea of what was under the hood. I wanted to capture a little of the spirit of the golden age in the look of this Roadster.” – UK hot rodder Leigh Dunks
Leigh originally wanted to run an Edelbrock Flathead in the Roadster but the cost of purchasing and shipping the engine and all of the special parts that he would need made it economically unfeasible. At today’s rate of exchange, Leigh would’ve had to dish out about $6,500 for a decent Flathead along with another 12 grand or more in hop-up parts that would allow him to get the kind of speeds needed. “I was planning to compete in the Vintage Hot Rod Association’s Hot Rod Races at Pendine Sands,” explained Leigh, “and I was keen to get into their 100-MPH club.”
The cost factor of assembling a competitive “Flattie” added with the fact that many of his friends were running later musclecar-era small-blocks and getting good top speeds for way cheaper made the decision to swap in a 302 for power a no-brainer. Period correctness was the trade off for more power and less cash outlay. Leigh’s only requirement was that his Roadster had to be all Ford.
One thing that Leigh has in common with his American counterparts is that he loves both pre-war hot rods and the hot-rodding lifestyle of those golden years when racing on dry lake beds set the tone for generations to come. “The name ‘Edelbrock’ is synonymous with that era whether you’re a racer or a builder using those iconic performance parts,” said Leigh.
The ’29 might have a later OHV 302 V8 but Leigh stayed true to the Edelbrock signage that he had hand-painted on the sides of the three-piece Rootlieb hood. The 302-cubic-inch small-block Ford is bolstered by an Edelbrock Performer Intake Manifold, a 750 CFM Performer Carb, and a polished 14-inch Classic Series Air Cleaner to match the finned valve covers.
Keeping the drivetrain all Blue Oval is a three-speed manual Toploader transmission shifting power back to a Ford nine-inch rearend. A new radiator is hidden by a Brookville ’32 Ford grille shell with other mods that include a 1940 Ford steering wheel on a new column, leather interior by Chris Vinning of Custom Coachtrimming, additional chassis work by Buckland Automotive, and paint work by Andy Walker at Automaniacs. Leigh sends out extra thanks to Buckland and Automaniacs for their help in getting the Roadster where it is today.
So was all this enough to get Leigh into that 100 MPH Club at Pendine? Just take a look at the accompanying photo and see! “The first run was scary as hell,” said Leigh. “It was like driving on marbles! It wanted to go sideways every time I gave it power. I had three runs during a two-day event and hit a top speed of 104.8 MPH!” We asked Leigh if he has any future plans for his Model A and in true hot rodder fashion, his answer was: “More power with a set of aluminum cylinder heads…Edelbrock of course.”
Brian Hatano is a veteran automotive journalist and former editor of Car Craft, Petersen’s Drag Racing, Sport Compact Car and Motorcyclist magazines.