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Story by Ray Digby and Terry Denomme

Photos by Terry Denomme

 

It takes a lot of passion, skill and hard work to build a street rod from the ground up. It takes even more to do it twice to the same car. A few years ago, Nanaimo, BC’s Ray Digby was travelling back from the Puyallup, WA Goodguys car show in his freshly built 1929 Model A Sport Coupe when a highway speed crash severely damaged the car. He and  his passenger were fine but the car was a write off. Digby couldn’t wait to start over.

Ray Digby will tell you his car is just a driver but what he means by a driver and what we often envision when somebody calls a car a “driver” are perhaps two different things.

His 1929 Model A Sport Coupe turned convertible is driven a lot and it was built to be a reliable, long distance hauler but the concept and quality of the build surpasses what most street rodders would call a driver. The main reason for that is Digby is pretty good at building a street rod. He’s had a lot of practice.

Digby figures he was about 12 years old when he first became interested in tinkering with cars. “My older brother got his first vehicle and he wasn’t all that mechanically inclined and I ended up tinkering on it. That was the start of it. But my first car was a 1935 Ford Sedan when I was 15 that I tinkered with a bunch and drove a little bit but not much,” he says, remembering a family move meant he had to sell the car. A 1953 Olds hardtop followed and of course there was always something to do with it. “My mother said I was always the curious type, instead of looking at a clock to find out what time it was she said she would find me tearing it apart to see how it worked. I did the same thing with my bicycles. I was always doing something to make it better or keep it going.”

Marriage, family and career interrupted his interest in hot rods for a few years but when his son Rick turned 15 in the early 1980s, Digby decided to a 1948 Chevy pickup would make a nice father/son project. They built the pickup in the family garage and painted it there as well using lacquer paint applied with an electric, airless spray gun. “We learned all about colour sanding and polishing and it turned out to be a pretty neat truck.”

As he did when he was a kid, Digby was constantly tearing the pickup apart to change or improve something. One day his wife Lorraine suggested that maybe it was time to start another car. So he built a 1932 Ford roadster that was driven a lot, so much so that Lorraine eventually got tired of driving in a car with no side windows.  “I ran up 50,000 km on each of my last two hot rods before selling them. I always said if you aren’t driving them, you can’t be having any fun, so you might as well take a picture of the car and then sell it.”

The second hot rod he mentioned was a 1928  Model A sedan delivery (Dad’s Delivery, which we featured in Volume 1, Issue 6) that he eventually sold to finance the Model A Sport Coupe project. Digby loved the Delivery and initially he didn’t plan to sell it even after the purchase of the 1929 Model A Sport Coupe. “The idea was I could also use up all my spare Model A parts,” he says. “The I was going to sell it. But then I as I started to get a little more creative I realized I had the opportunity to make something kind of neat that would have all of the good things out of my other hot rods all rolled into one.”

The project started in 2004 with the frame and chassis, which is the stock frame fully boxed with a K-member and multiple crossmembers. The rear of the frame is kicked up and then kicked down with frame extentions to allow for a ‘32 Ford style gas tank. The front suspension is a TCI custom stainless IFS unit with Shockwave shocks. Out back is a 3-link setup with a Ford 8” on Firestone air bags. To make sure it would be a reliable driver a GM Ram Jet 350 crate motor was used and bolted to a 700R transmission.

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