Ron Cherry: Stroker McGurk-style ’30 Model A Tudor Sedan
January 26, 2018
From 1948 until 1955 and from 1964 until 1965, the late Tom Medley drew a comic strip for Hot Rod magazine featuring a character named Stroker McGurk.
Stroker was an innovative hot rodder and came up with ideas like multi-engined dragsters and drag chutes before they were ever used on actual cars. When he was very young, Mike Butler enjoyed the comic and the cars that came from Medley's wild and crazy imagination.
When a friend of Mike's sent him a photo of a Model A hot rod in Idaho about seven years ago, Mike wanted it.
"It had a raked top like a Stroker McGurk comic," he said. "I tried to buy that car and tried to buy that car, but the owner wouldn't sell it. Finally, he had another project and sold it to me." That was five years ago.
From the comic strip to the road
The '30 Ford Model A was two-door sedan with a '32 Ford radiator shell and was in great shape. The key sales point for Mike was that the car's top had 2 inches chopped out in the back and 4 inches in the front, giving it a definite rake to the top.
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"I'm six foot and it's hard for me to see. My wife is shorter than me and has to watch the signals," he said, referring to traffic lights. "She tells me when to go."
Combined with the rake of the top, the front end was dropped as well to give the Ford even more of a raked look. Mike referred to it as "Mickey Mouse job," with a '46 Ford front axle that was bent to lower the frame and wishbone suspension, bent to fit.
Quarter elliptical front springs were tied into the frame and the car had old-fashioned lever shocks.
"It sits low and rides accordingly," he said. "It's a bit bouncy, but I've driven it some distances without a problem."
It had very tight, vintage sprint car steering that Mike said made steering a bit of a challenge. The Ford had a highway-geared 3.25:1 9 inch Ford rearend with coil-over-shock suspension. Braking was done with front discs and rear drums.
The drive train also piqued Mike's interest. It had a 348 cubic inch Chevy engine. The 348 came out in 1958 as Chevy's first torquing big block and was the big kid on the Chevy block until 1961. That was the year Chevy bored it out to be the legendary 409 of the Beach Boys' song.
Both the 348 and the 409 had distinctive "scalloped" valve covers that made the engine instantly recognizable.
"I like oddball engines," he said.
The engine was mildly cammed and dressed up with Offenhauser aluminum valve covers and a '50s Cadillac air cleaner.
"The pipes were wide open," he said. "I had to shove 15 inch motorcycle mufflers in them to quiet that baby down a bit."
The trans was a Chevy Turbo 350 auto.
Inside, the Model A was nothing fancy. It only had one piece of window glass, a windshield. That can make it a little breezy for driving.
"It's always air conditioned," Mike said. "It's strictly a summer car."
Although it was open on top as well when he bought it, he did have Roman's Upholstery in Auburn cover the top to cut out the UV rays.
For seating, Mike said, "I had some buckets seats around that I dropped to the floor in order to see out the windshield."
Always working on something
For Mike, buying a finished car is not the norm.
"I was a hot rod lover with no money as a kid," he said. "Everything I had broke down. I could afford to get into them about 10 years ago and I'm going nuts now. I don't do body work, paint or upholstery, but I do all the mechanics. I enjoy chasing down parts and meeting people."
As well as his familiar '26 Dodge Chicago Park Taxi, he is currently working on a '33 Ford with a Cadillac engine.
"That's what I like to do," he said. "I don't want to go out and buy some fancy car. I want to work in my garage on my car."
However, for a Stroker McGurk car, he was willing to make an exception.
Since buying the Model A, Mike has made a lot of trips around NorCal.
"I drive the heck out of it," he said. "My longest trip was to Santa Maria. It's quite a drive, taking it that far on the freeway."
He enjoyed cruising the car show in Quincy.
"I like it because I can drive one route out there and another one back," he said.
As a member of the Roadents car club, he also goes on many other local runs. Sometimes, he can be found at Cars and Coffee, which happens every Saturday from 8-10 a.m. at the K-mart parking lot off McKnight, checking out cool cars with fellow car nuts and telling tall tales of "back in the day."
No doubt, he'll also talk about the late, great cartoonist, Tom Medley, and his greatest creation, Stroker McGurk.
Ron Cherry's books, including the Morg Mahoney detective series, are available on Kindle and in print copy at Amazon. His new book, "The St. Nicholas Murders," is a Christmas mystery that takes place in a small town in the Sierra Foothills that is remarkably similar to Nevada City and is now out in paperback and Kindle on Amazon. Check out his website at http://www.rlcherry.com.
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