I recall, quite a few moons ago, a particular closed-cab pickup in bare metal that was the talk of the town (this was well before the advent of social media, so people were actually talking …). This was back when that rodent rod infestation was in its infancy, and thus the chopped 1934 became both the antithesis for those who understood and the poster child for the misguided perception of those who didn’t, but latched onto a catch phrase and applied it to anything without shiny paint. It’s just a hot rod in the buff, folks, pure and simple.
This was also a turning point in time when so-called unfinished (but finished) hot rods became more socially acceptable within the hobby—especially when examples started appearing on the covers of magazines. Builders started taking advantage of the trend by having fresh projects photographed in the raw for a feature prior to paint and upholstery—and generally speaking, that transition from naked to clothed (finished) was usually swift in order to meet deadlines with paying customers, and that meant the average person would only get to see the bare version in print (or digital format in this day and age). But Troy Trepanier and his Rad Rides by Troy team apparently have a different approach to that transition process on certain builds, one that takes the interactive out of the virtual-reality world and puts it back where it belongs—in the real-reality world.
Rather than take the Mariani Bros.’ Tudor straight back to the shop in Illinois for its final build stages following the 2016 SEMA debut, Trepanier thought it might be a good idea for the shop to have it on display at some of the bigger national events, starting with the Grand National Roadster Show. This obviously gave spectators the opportunity to see the Model A in all its bare-metal glory—but it also allowed them to meet some of the build crew and find out all the particular hows, whys, and what fors they’d been dying to know. Rad Rides’ Adam Banks summarizes the process like so: “As a shop we get to take a car, still in construction, and discuss all the details pertaining to that aspect of the build. Then we get to take it around again once finished and discuss a whole new set of details. Whether someone likes it better before or after, or both, makes no difference to us … we just enjoy sharing the process with others.” Of course people want to learn about the fabrication, the mechanical aspects, and where they can buy those one-off wheels; they were also inquired about the manner in which the raw metal surface was being preserved, and if they were going to paint it at some point, just what would it take to prepare the bare metal, as more often than not a penetrating oil of sorts was introduced to the surface … the same types of questions every owner of bare metal hot rods can relate to.
After six months of show ’n’ tell, Rad Rides finally put the Mariani sedan back on build schedule, as the 2017 SEMA Show—its follow-up debut deadline—was just around the corner. That meant the shop had a short window of opportunity to blow the Tudor completely apart to begin the transition process of concealing/refinishing all the exposed metal, as well, simultaneously creating the entire interior to suit. Adam, our insider info provider, had this to say about that: “The interior for the Model A was all done in-house at Rad Rides by myself … I also did the majority of the fabrication on the car. I mention this only because doing both the fabrication and interior in the shop ensures components are in place that greatly improve the quality and ease of installation when it comes time to fabricate the interior—items such as headliner bow location, tack strip recesses for windlace, and tabs for interior panels are all integrated into the car during the fabrication stages.
“The dash, all interior panels, seat frame and foam, garnish moldings, and interior trim are all built from scratch. The dash features a 1949 Packard instrument cluster with custom machining by Lawrence Laughlin of Rad Rides and gauges by Classic Instruments. Laughlin also machined the air conditioning vents, finishing out the Vintage Air Gen II A/C system, and the unique crown-shaped knob on the top of the dash that controls the functional cowl vent. The steering wheel that Laughlin and I designed features hand-stitched leather grips and a four-spoke Indycar centersection. The steering wheel also features a unique quick-release hub and tilt roadster column, allowing for easier entry and exit of the car as well as improving driving position. The seat and all interior panels are covered with a hand-tipped tobacco brown Italian leather, with perforated inserts and cream-colored contrasting stitching. The floor, lower door panels, and package tray all use a brown German square-weave carpet bound with leather matching the interior. The headliner bows were custom made and the headliner patterned to align the seams with the roof insert’s raised beads. Doing so effectively gave the driver as much headroom as possible.”
Figured since he was on a roll, I’d see what Adam had to say regarding the exterior: “That too was all executed in-house at Rad Rides—the bodywork on the Model A was done by Warren Lewis and Gary Childers, while the painting was done by Lewis, as well as final wet sanding and buff with the help of Zach Ingram and Ed Robinson of Zrods in Knox, Indiana. The striping on the body, wheels, air cleaner, and dash were done by local sign painter Tom Evans, who has done all of our striping for years. The paint is a custom mix Glasurit Bronze Metallic on the main portion of the body and a modified version of the same base with satin clear on the accent pieces and roof insert. The drivetrain components were all deburred and prepped for paint by Rad Rides’ Brian Ferguson. The engine, transmission, and rear axle were also painted with a custom mix dark gold Glasurit satin. Many suspension components were blasted heavy with steel shot and powdercoated with a gold-bronze texture to give them a cast look. Other steering, suspension, and drivetrain components were also powdercoated with a darker soft bronze metallic for durability. Plating on the car is all bright nickel, done by Sherm’s Custom Chrome Plating in Sacramento, California. All the sound deadening and carpet underlayment are products from Dynamat, keeping heat and unwanted sound to a minimum, while the windows in the car are bronze acrylic from AM Hot Rod Glass. Final assembly of our cars is a group effort led by Troy; Alex Marion did all the wiring and much of the mechanical assembly on the car, with help from Dale Cherry from Injection Connection for tuning; Casey Modert, Ian Walton, Brian Ferguson, and Gary Childers are all involved in various aspects of final construction as well.”
It’s now 2018. The Mariani Bros.’ Tudor sedan has made its SEMA debut in full dress, with a following appearance in Pomona, where I finally see it in finished form for the first time. My initial thoughts? I’m not sure which version I like better. Without having a chance to express my views, Adam had one last thing to say: “What we hear quite often about the car at this point are not always questions but comments about the finished car versus bare metal; because it was featured in print unfinished, as well as the Velocity Channel’s hour-long special about it winning SEMA’s Battle of the Builders—which was quite an honor to win and humbling that our peers choose us out of so many amazing vehicles—people are familiar with it both before and after. We get comments about how much they liked it raw, or how they were nervous about seeing it finished, concerned we would make some ‘bad’ choices on color. That’s actually a very enjoyable part of doing a car this way.” Constructive criticism is one thing I can truly relate to—not that I ever get much. But I do get what Rad Rides by Troy is doing, and like or not, hope you do too.