Martin Oja's 1931 Ford
1931 Ford Model A coupe owned and restyled by Martin Oja of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. In 1960, after finishing high school, Martin decided to build a Model A coupe. He was working fulltime at the time. He had always admired the style, and he actually set out wanting to rebuild one to original specs but a suitable candidate couldn’t be located so he then switched plans to build a hot rod Model A.
- 1 A Fifteen Dollar Heap of a Body
- 2 Engine Rebuild
- 3 Toploader
- 4 6 Inch Channel
- 5 Custom Upholstery
- 6 First Version Completed in 1962
- 7 Sold to Bob Orazetti
- 8 Matti and Outi Petainen
- 9 Jeremy Callahan
- 10 Destiny Knocks on Jeremy's Door
- 11 Getting the Car Back on the Road
- 12 Not Like it Was in 1962 - It is 1962
- 13 Magazine Features and Appearances
- 14 Further Reading
- 15 References
A Fifteen Dollar Heap of a Body
Martin told later owner Jeremy Callahan that he was the original owner, but the majority of the build credit should go to his neighborhood friend Bob Campbell, as he was responsible for the fabrication, welding and more. A fifteen dollar “heap” of a body was located in Iron Bridge, Ontario. Martin had seen many others have issues with suspension and drivability when making modifications, so he planned on using the complete suspension from one car & leave it stock. A 1947 Mercury Four Door Sedan was located in the local paper, and it ended up donating the front cross member which was welded on top of the Model A rails. This modification was easier to do than step the frame. Then the front suspension including the sway bar was connected to the cross member. The steering box from the 47 Merc was added to a boxed portion of the frame before the X-Member from the Merc was modified to fit the frame rails. The rear frame was stepped and boxed connected to the rear frame sections from the Merc. The rear suspension was mounted along with the sway bar. The torque tube driveshaft was shortened at a local machine shop.
The Tech High school that Bob Campbell attended would rebuild and sell motors as shop projects. A request for a good flathead was placed and the shop teacher, Mr. Sucksmith, located a good donor from Ivan Wrights Auto Wreckers on Case Road in Sault Ste. Marie from an early 50’s Ford Truck. Eric Ussila, a student from the shop class that rebuilt the motor, recalls that no speed parts were used, however it was bored 60 over and many hours were spend porting & polishing with the hopes to get the most possible out of a stock motor. Mr. Sucksmith was quite knowledgeable with motors and when the time came to run the car on the rear wheel dyno in the shop Eric and a couple other students were called upon as “ballast” to keep the light back end from breaking loose and burning up the tires! Eric recalled that flathead just “singing” as it was wound up, no one can recall what the horsepower was but they do recall it being a strong improvement over the stock numbers.
Because the Merc had a column shift 3 speed, and an aftermarket floor shifter would have been to tight in the cramped space of a channeled coupe, Martin located a 3 speed “toploader” from the auto wreckers, apparently out of an early 30’s Pickup. The transmission was mated to a 8BA Flathead and fitted to the Merc X-Member. The torque tube driveshaft was shortened at a local machine shop. The motor was mounted up front to some homemade mounts which were basically an extension of the Merc cross member that had been welded atop the frame rails.
6 Inch Channel
A 1932 Ford grill shell was located from a backyard on Peoples Road in Sault Ste. Marie for the sum of 10 dollars. It came without a grill insert, so Martin had a shop bend strips of galvanized metal & then he hand fit each & every strip into the shell, which he also had the rad filler “shaved” with lead body work. A radiator from a Henry J was stuffed into the shell after adding an extra port on the top and bottom for the Flathead connections. Headlights were salvaged off a 1930’s GM car. However they were popular universal fit aftermarket 7inch sealed beam conversion units “Guide BJC”. The front “cycle fenders” were salvaged from a spare tire ring, which appears to be from a 1934 Ford. These were mounted directly to the backing plates with a flatbar. The Model A body was channeled 6 inches over the frame, and the floor from the Mercury was cut and fit to provide a new floor for the coupe. The original cowl gas tank was cut out and the front face was retained to mount the electrical equipment out of sight keeping the firewall clean. The gas tank was salvaged from the Mercury and mounted in the trunk on an angle iron frame with a relocated filler neck. The tank was then smashed in on the front edge to allow a spare tire to be fit between the front trunk edge and gas tank. The rear fenders were “bobbed” with a hacksaw front and back, before Martin mounted them about 4 inches higher up. The quarter panels and the rear fender mounting edge was also modified with a hacksaw to adapt to the new contour higher up on the quarters. The right quarter panel was replaced with a used section as the original was in poor condition. The coupe was originally a rumble seat but after a 6 inch channel and a new gas tank location it was switch to a regular trunk with a handle from a storage cabinet. The rear nerf bar was a salvaged boiler tube that was fit abd then sent out for chroming. The rear taillights were typical accessory units from Canadian Tire. The rims from the Mercury were wrapped in 6.70 x 15 1" whitewall tires from Canadian Tire. They were dressed up with aftermarket Baby Moon hubcaps.
Cars featured in Hot Rod magazines had inspired Martin for the interior design, and seats from an early Morris Minor were installed in the car. Everything was upholstered in “mottled” red & white Naugahyde. The work was done by Martin’s then girlfriend, and later wife, on a foot treadle sewing machine over a winter. The dash was homemade, and gauges from a 1953 Buick Special were carefully fit into the wood grain Formica. An ignition switch from 1950’s AMC Nash Rambler was also fit along with a momentary toggle switch for cranking. A steering wheel and turn signal switch from a mid 1950’s Volkswagen Canadian Standard were fit to the Mercury steering shaft. Window crank handles, interior lights and a rear view mirror from the Mercury were also repurposed into the Model A.
First Version Completed in 1962
The body channeling, floor replacement, fender modifications, minor rust repair was done by Martin and Bob. The quarter panel replacement, leading and paint was completed by Ed Luck in a small single car garage. Ed was a well known local paint and bodyman. In 2016 it was not known what the actual color was, but considering the era the GM color, “Inca Silver” is assumed to be a close match. The exhaust was done at a local muffler shop, and the removable roof cover was made at Soo Tent & Awning. The car was completed in 1962, and Martin recalls being pulled over by the local cops at least 3 times his first time out. Not for any infractions, but to look the car over and let him know “they would be keeping a watch out for him.” Martin and Bob entered the car in the 1962 Community Day Parade, and that was the only time Martin recalls the car running a bit hot. One time Martin was giving someone a ride and came into the turn at the end of Bay Street a little “hot” popping the rear tire off the bead, fortunately no damage occurred. Also more than one person recollects seeing the speedometer needle wrapped back around to the start position while heading up the north highway. Considering the rear axle gearing is 3.78 the flathead would have been turning some ungodly rpm’s to achieve that status!
Sold to Bob Orazetti
In 1965 Martin found himself married and looking for a down payment for his first home. The same year he also found himself standing in his parent’s driveway with a $1000 in his hand watching Bob Orazetti drive the coupe down the road. While he owned the car, Bob added a different shifter boot, radio and chrome engine accessories. Sault Ste. Marie is a hockey town, and Bob was a very well known hockey player, so after putting the car in several shows, the car became known as the "Orazetti Coupe."
Matti and Outi Petainen
In 1967 Bob found himself in a similar situation that Martin had a couple years earlier, and the car was brought to a local car dealer Fred Moynan. Bob told Fred to get what he could for it. Don Robertson recalls the asking price was $2100 because he begged and borrowed from family and friends, and his offer of $1800 was turned down. Outi Petainen recalls her boyfriend Matti Petainen picking her up in the coupe at nursing college in 1967 so Matti obviously worked out an acceptable deal. Shortly after Matti bought the coupe, it was nicknamed "Snoopy." Outi had a favorite t-shirt with the Peanuts character Snoopy on, and Matti started calling the car Snoopy. Matti added a clear plastic fan shroud and by 1969 the transmission was acting up. It was still drivable, but difficult. In 1970 Outi & Matti were married, and they used the coupe in their wedding photos. After that the car was parked in Matti’s parents garage on Salisbury Ave. 13 years later Matti sadly passed away suddenly, and Outi with 2 young children to raise kept the car in her in laws garage until the house was sold a few years later in the late 1980’s. Once the house was sold, Outi had the car moved to her garage on Bishops Court on a flat deck hauler. Dish soap was used for the seized tires to slide. Understandably she had a strong sentimental attachment to the car, and over the years, the list of people that knew of the car added their names to the list of “if you ever want to sell the car someday...” Some people Outi turned off right away as they started hounding her about the car shortly after her husband had passes away. Others would ask her what she wanted for the car without making her an offer, and others would make a low offer and act like they were doing her a favor. Even an appraiser told her he had nothing to compare against and that the car was worth “what felt right to her.” This went on for over 30 years, since her husband had passed away. The car had already been parked for 13 years before that. All this time the car sat, untouched, complete, basically as built in 1962 with the minor changes mentioned above. Still wearing the same bias ply tires that were installed in 1962 and with 1970 license plates attached. The only part missing was the master cylinder, assuming this might have been removed to investigate the removal of the failed transmission Even the battery cables were hanging in the trunk with a wrench beside.
In the early 1990's Jeremy Callahan was a teenager working part time at Frank’s Body Shop. During a break he started talking with the other body guys about “dream cars.” For Jeremy a 1950’s/1960’s period correct 5 window Ford coupe with open engine, cycle fenders, tuck n’ roll and more was as good as it got. In 2016 Jeremy told Kustomrama that he heard one bodyman mention to the other; “We should tell him about the Orazetti coupe!” The other guy laughs and says “ Ya how many people have tried to buy that car?” They went on to tell me about an early hot rod that got parked in the garage for repairs, nothing was done, the owner passed away and his widow refuses to sell it. All the time it just sits in the garage frozen in time. There was some dispute over why it was parked. They thought it was a Model A, some thought it might be a 32, some thought someone had started to modify the rear fenders and that was the only part touched etc. I thought the story was too good to be true, but shortly after at a cruise night I overheard another two car guys talking, and one says to the other “Hey I hear such and such tried to buy the Orazietti Coupe, and she turned him down eh ?”, I thought to myself, this car is real? of course I had no idea where the car was or who actually owned it etc. A few years pass, and in a conversation with my good friends Dad he confirms the story of the car, as it was prowling the streets in the 60’s when he was driving his own hot rod. Life goes on. I graduate high school, college, start a career and I could never get the story out of my head, wondering what ever happened to this car! Surely it had been bought up and converted to a street rod, or now sitting as someone else’s “Someday I’m going to fix it up” project sitting under a tarp."
Destiny Knocks on Jeremy's Door
Fast forward, almost 20 years since Jeremy first heard mention of the Orazetti Coupe, in the fall of 2010 he was on a double date with his girlfriend Paula and her best friend Liisa and her boyfriend; "On the way to dinner Liisa says " I hear you like cars and like working on them ?" I replied "Sure do, I have teo MG Midget's on the road and more projects waiting." She replies "My mom still has my dad's old car in her garage, it's an old Ford." I didn't think much about it and asked if it was a Thunderbird or a Mustang, she replied "No, I can't remember what it's called, the back end is original but the front end isn't" As I repeated her answer in my head over and over a light bulb went off and I asked her if the motor was out in the open or was it covered up? She replied "No you can see the engine, that's why the front end isn't original" I was then very interested and asked if anyone had ever called it a "Hot Rod?" She replied "Ya that's it! Some of the guy's who have tried to buy it from my mom have said that word before" I asked if could see the car and she said that she would talk to her mom and was sure she would let me see it. During dinner that evening I was thinking to myself "I wonder if this is the same car I heard about years ago, this isn't that big of a city..." A couple days later Liisa says her Mom will let me see the car once she has a chance to tidy the garage up. Days turn into weeks and weeks into months. In the winter of 2011 I’m shown a picture of the car taken on their wedding day in 1970. It’s a front right side shot. I can tell it’s a 30/31 Model A, 32 grill shell, Flathead, cycle fenders, channelled body, bobbed rear fenders. It’s important to note that this is the first time I knew what it looked like. What color. What engine etc. until seeing this picture I just knew it was a period built hot rod that had been sitting for over 40 years. I ask every few months to see the car, every time I’m told that I can, soon. Months turn to years, in the summer of 2014 I change my plan and stop at her house to ask to see the car. No answer. I return home to find the phone ringing. It’s her daughter asking if I had just been at her mothers. I confirm. She says I told her that was your Blue Honda! I’m told to return in 2 hours, she will have the garage tidy by then.Finally after fist hearing about this car over 20 years earlier, and then waiting patiently for almost 4 years to see the car I was only 2 hours away from meeting this local “legend”. It was a typical July summer evening. Sun is just getting lower in the sky. I pull into the driveway with my wife and a 8 month old daughter, and there is the humble single door garage with door opened. Front and center looking straight at me is a 32 grill shell, cycle fenders and Guide headlights with the faint outline of the Model A windshield in the unlit garage. My stomach turns into knots instantly. I take a breath and ask permission to enter the garage. I step onto the plank floor and gaze upon this time capsule. The hairs stand up on the back of my neck, seeing I was having trouble formulating words I walk silently around the car. It’s sitting on blocks. The motor is full of oil. The coolant drain plug is removed, sitting on the intake. The removable top is neatly folded sitting on the parcel shelf behind the seats. The exhaust pipes and old glass packs are a crunchy mess. The underbody is solid. Flakes of undercoating are peeling back. It's dusty and dirty as one would expect, and it still has the 1970 license plates attached, the last year it was plated. My eyes are welled up with tears. My wife looks at me like I have lost any sense I might have had. I turn to Outi and inform her that I cannot express how thankful I am to have seen the car and if she is ever considering its sale I would sincerely appreciate the opportunity to make her a serious offer. This is the exact car I had dreamed of since a young boy. She replies that she thinks she has the ownership and to come see her in a week. A week later I return with information on some different model A’s that were for sale on the internet, stripped rusty shells, catalog built street rod, all original restored etc. I begin by showing her the Matchbox 32 Ford coupe I had since I was a kid, and then show her the different range of values a Model A could be worth. I look over the ownership before I make my offer. She nods her head and says she will need some time to consider. I confirm that I can see her in another week’s time and wait another week. I arrive at her house and she informs me that in over 30 years not a single person has showed her what the car might be worth. She didn’t even know what an original Model A looked like until I had shown her. She tells me that she always had a number that seemed “right” to her and I was the only one to come close to it. She had called her son and daughter to ask their approval of her selling the car to me, then she smiles and says she will accept my offer, but I can’t have the car until she vacuums it out! I tell her I understand that she wants me to have the car “clean”, but I really want it exactly the ways it sits as it’s my journey to clean it up to its former state. I tell her there is only one thing left to do and she cuts me off to say “sign the ownership ?” I smile and agree. That night I handed over a cheque and drove home with a signed ownership. Two days later, on a Saturday morning, I arrived with my nephew and friend to extract the car from the garage and haul it home. The front wheels were totally locked up and dollies had to be used under the tires. The rear wheels were a bit stubborn but started turning once we started pulling with a come a long. The tires would only hold air for minutes and I was constantly filling the rear tires as it went up the ramp. The process from start to finish took about 2 hours, and then we were on our way to St.Joseph Island where I would begin the rejuvenation and preservation later that fall."
Getting the Car Back on the Road
The very first task Jeremy did was to remove the tires and apply tire slime. The lug nuts came off like they were put on the day before. Next was to remove the spark plugs, which were just carbon fouled, no rust and oiled the cylinders; "I then worked on getting the front wheels free. I sprayed penetrating oil between the backing plates and drums, then tapped with a plastic hammer. The front drums began to turn. At least enough to push around the shop. I set up a large table and removed all the loose interior panels. They had originally been glued in and the glue had let go. Also, the removable vinyl top was folded up & on the parcel shelf. This was removed as well. I then cleared the trunk as there was a multi wrench & screwdriver laying near where the battery would have been placed. Then I began vacuuming all the black walnut hulls that had been stored by rodents in every nook & cranny over its long slumber. Then a quick wipe down of the interior and glass followed by its first wash since 1970. I emptied the wash water bucket 3 times, and then rewashed the entire car again right after. It was that dirty!"
After the motor had been oiled up for a week or so Jeremy put the car in gear and rocked it back and forth by pushing on the front tires with a friends help; "After our 2nd or 3rd push the motor easily broke free. I immediately oiled the cylinders and let it sit for another week. Then I removed the plugs, disconnected the fuel pump inlet line. The fuel in the gas tank was an orange/yellow color, with a foul smell. I also disconnected the wiring from the generator, coil etc as the original wiring harness was cloth covered and in a poor condition. Then I jumped the starter with a 12 volt battery and the motor spun over! I then cleaned the original plugs with a wire brush, filed the points, filled the carb with gas via the fuel bowl vent, then placed a jumper wire from the battery to the coil. I applied the jumper to the starter and it fired instantly. I wasn’t expecting this and I dropped the jumper to the coil in surprise! I then took a deep breath, applied the coil jumper again and the motor fired and actually idled!"
Next Jeremy removed the fuel tank & used the POR-15 cleaning and etch kit; "I then applied the protective coating. The tank wasn’t leaking but I figured properly cleaning and sealing would be good insurance. Then I scoured the internet to determine what type of ignition switch the car had. The owner couldn’t find the key, and after a Google image search of 1950’s ignition switch’s I determined that a switch from a late 50’s AMC Nash Rambler had been used. I sourced a NOS unit on eBay. It was installed before I flushed the copper fuel line, replaced the rubber ends, installed a fuel pump rebuild kit & replaced the glass bowl filter. I inspected the original wiring harness. Checked for shorts. Connected a 6 volt battery in the trunk and started the car using the ignition switch for energizing the points and the momentary toggle switch for turning over just as it would have been done when built. Once I proved that the car could be started basically “as parked” I then drove the car on the hoist under its own power. It was a clumsy drive as it was missing original plug wires etc. and the front wheels were locking up. The gearbox was also very stubborn to operate. Never the less, I drove it on the hoist doing only what is mentioned above!"
"Once on the hoist I started at the back and drained the rear axle oil. There was no evidence of water or debris, just nasty thick black “600W” oil. I replaced with fresh gear oil and moved to the gearbox. When the drain plug was removed very little oil came out. I placed my finger into the drain hole & scooped parts of the synchronizer out, then the oil started to flow! Until this moment I had speculated that it was parked in 1970 because of gearbox issues... this was now confirmed! I proceeded to the engine oil and drained the old oil which was full, surprisingly it had sat for so long the dirt had settled to the bottom and the oil actually looked clean. I removed the cleanout plate from the oil pan to better clean the pan, this is where I discovered a small fine thread bolt laying in the bottom after a quick inspection I had determined the bolt was from the oil pump pick up! The entire pickup was swinging back & forth! The motor had to be removed for the gearbox repair, so the oil pump pickup was added to the repair list. I then decided to grease the car to see if the fittings would take grease, every fitting took grease & the tie rods & kingpins were not replaced, they were still tight & in good condition."
"The radiator was removed for cleaning and pressure testing at a local shop. New tires were ordered from Coker Tire, 6.70 x 15 Bias Ply with 1” white walls. The exact same as what was on the car except the new tires have a pie crust edge as I couldn’t locate that size/whitewall combination with a smooth side wall. Fortunately the rims were not rotted inside, they were in surprisingly good condition. I then removed the front brake drums with much difficulty. Once the drums were removed the shoe linings fell to the floor. They had delaminated from the metal shoe during storage which explained why the front wheels were so stubborn to turn! New brake shoes and wheel cylinders were installed. The drums were saved as they were still within spec after being turned. New wheel bearings and seals were also installed, and the same treatment was done to the rear hubs. Now that I had a car that would roll freely I called on the assistance of some friends and the flathead was removed from the frame for the first time since it was built in the early 1960’s. Then the gearbox was removed. This by far the most difficult job to perform on this car. When originally built the motor and gear box were already in the frame when the body was bolted down, with no concern to make the gearbox removable. Therefore the rear mount bolts were not even accessible, we gained access by drilling two holes in the floor to pass a socket with extension to reach the mounting bolts, and then I had to open the shifter opening by about 2” at the rear to reach the upper 2 bolts on the torque tube clamshell. Then with many skinned knuckles the gearbox was on the workbench and disassembled. When the synchro let go, the main gear shaft picked up the shrapnel that was passed thru the gear box, basically destroying the entire gear set. Also because this gear box was an early 1932 – 1934 style, the larger 10” clutch on the 8BA would hit on the gearbox bell, the bell was ground out and the flyweights on the clutch were also ground down to gain clearance. With some research I discovered a later style 10” diaphragm pressure plate from a 1980’s Ford Truck is a direct swap, with no need for modifications. This is the type of pressure plate that was installed as grinding the weight down on a new old style pressure plate didn’t seem to make much sense, while I searched for gear box parts I installed a new 6 volt wiring harness from Rebel wiring. The solenoid, horn relay and voltage regulator were all replaced but mounted to the same mounting holes behind the dash along the remains of the old cowl gas tank. A spare gear box from a 1934 Ford Vicky was sourced locally. The gear set was in good condition, along with the syncro, so the bearings were replaced and installed at Rector’s a local machine shop. Then the good gear set was installed in the original gear box. The best parts from both shifter assembly’s were used and new heavy duty universal joint installed. A new gearbox mount was installed along with a new custom speedometer cable as the original had broken apart previously. The installation of the rebuilt gearbox was almost as miserable of a job, however this time we expected it to be a miserable job!"
"The oil pan was removed and the oil pump pick up mounting holes were chased with a tap. New gasket and bolts were installed to correct the oil pump pick up. The oil pan gasket was also replaced before the new clutch disc and pressure plate was installed on the resurfaced flywheel. The motor was reinstalled and connected and the car was started on new wiring harness and driven forward and back to verify basic operation. Then the carburetor was removed and rebuilt. New spark plugs, wires and ignition components were replaced. Brake lines and flex lines were plumbed to a new master cylinder. Also the stock cast iron manifolds were in a poor condition, so they were replaced with basic universal fit economy headers, which only required a small relief to clear the steering box. The interior was cleaned, treated and reinstalled. The removable roof insert was also cleaned and treated with a conditioner. With two people pulling and another on a heat gun the insert was reinstalled after more than 40 years! The car was then clay barred and Meguiars #7 paint conditioner worked into the paint for conditioning followed by Meguiars carnauba wax. 1 ¾ exhaust was installed at local shop by Jiggers Exhaust."
"The first evening out in the car I immediately drove over to the previous owners house and took Outi for a ride. She was beaming from ear to ear clapping her hands saying “I’m riding in Snoopy, I’m riding in Snoopy!” We found her daughter out for a walk and surprised her by driving right up to her. She was next for a ride and was shocked as she had never rode in the car before. A few weeks later her son got to see and drive the car as well. Shortly after that the car was driven to the original owner’s house for a visit, and he took the wheel for the first time since 1965! A couple of weeks later the original owner and myself headed out to find the original builder. When he saw us driving up he was just staring in disbelief saying “Marty I know this is the car we built when we were teenagers, but there is no way this is the car we built when we were teenagers!” Martin replied “It is the very same car and this is Jeremy the current owner” A few days later the original builder had his turn at the wheel beaming from ear to ear. There are plans to have the original builder remove the broken exhaust stud on the right rear as he has much experience and it will be fun to have him work on the car again."
Not Like it Was in 1962 - It is 1962
Jeremy told Kustomrama that he intends to keep the car exactly how it sits; "This car shows how a hot rod that was built by two teenagers in the early 1960’s... not how it would have been built – rather how it was built. To me that subtle difference between would and was is all the justification I need to preserve this car. There are very few examples like this. Yes there are many that are built of vintage parts, or salvaged carcasses or made to look like it was built back in the day and I enjoy them all, but this car WAS built back in the day and still wears the same paint, interior, drive train etc. It has not been repainted and upholstered with similar products. To look at this car today is the same as looking at it back in 1962, it’s not “like” it was in 1962, it “is” 1962!"
Magazine Features and Appearances
The HAMB: "Snoopy" Model A Hot Rod Survivor
Ontario: Discover more Ontario built Hot Rods on Kustomrama
Canada: Discover more Canada built Hot Rods on Kustomrama
1960s: Discover more 1960s Hot Rods on Kustomrama
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