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|Ford Model A Custom Pick-Up|
Coys of Kensington
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|Larry and Mike Alexander were Detroit natives who started out modifying their own cars in Larry's two-car garage. Their handiwork was much admired at shows leading to enough commissions for the Alexander Brothers to give up their day jobs and move into their own workshop on Detroit's Northwestern Highway.|
The brothers' first big commission was to turn a brand new Studebaker into a custom convertible with further work coming in thick and fast. Nationwide fame soon followed thanks to magazine coverage and acclaim at car shows, although the “A's” were never self promoters on the scale of Barris, Bailon and Jeffries, the self-proclaimed “Kings” of the custom world, preferring to let the quality of their paint and metalwork do the talking for them.
Other well-known Alexander Brothers creations include 'Chili' Catello's 1932 Ford Three-Window 'Silver Sapphire' which graced the cover of Hot Rod Magazine but which is better known as The Beach Boys' 'Little Deuce Coupe', the 'Alexa', built to Harry Bradley's design for the Ford Custom Car Caravan in 1964, and the 'Victorian', a 1955 Ford Crown Victoria which made Car Craft Magazine's top 10 in 1960.
The last official joint effort of Mike and Larry was to build the 'Top Banana', a Detroit Autorama Don Ridler Award-winning Ford Model T roadster pickup, the third of their cars to win this prestigious prize. With the decline of the custom car craze in the late 1960's the Alexanders closed their workshop and went their separate ways, Larry building prototypes and show cars for Ford and Mike building show cars for Ford, Chrysler and General Motors before moving to Car Craft Engineering.
In 1958, the year after moving in to their Northwestern Highway premises, the brothers had bought a 1931 Ford Model A pickup to use as their 'shop truck'. Naturally it was no ordinary Model A, with the body shell fitted with 1929 Model A wings and with the top peaked and chopped by 2½ inches. Painted Glade Green Metallic, the 'Grasshopper' won the trophy for best paint at the 1958 Detroit Autorama. The truck was used as a rolling advertisement and show car by the brothers and a sometime parts hauler until it was sold in the early '60s to a man in Ohio, who showed it before selling it to Don Boecke in Dayton, Ohio.
With the fiftieth anniversary of the Detroit Autorama in mind, Mike Alexander discovered that Boake still owned the 'Grasshopper' and enquired whether it might be for sale. Boake's response was that he would only sell the truck to one of the Alexander Brothers and so a deal was done. The Model A was worn but fortunately pretty much complete having been stored in Boeke's garage for around 32 years.
Remarkably well preserved, the bodywork was restored by Metalcrafters in Fountain Valley California, the proprietors the Gaffoglio family being long time friends of Mike Alexander. The original chassis was unfortunately beyond recovery so it was rebuilt using new custom Model A frame rails.
The front suspension retains the original genuine dropped Bell axle, now rechromed and updated with coil springs, disk brakes and a Vega steering box in place of the venerable Ford original. The rear axle has been updated with a more modern 8 inch Ford differential, also mounted on coil springs.
The engine is a bored-out 1948 Ford flathead V8 by Motor City Flatheads with Offenhauser finned high-compression heads, a high-rise intake manifold fitted with a pair of Stromberg 97 carburettors and, for reliability, a modern alternator and electronic ignition. The original 1939 Ford transmission has been replaced with a Ford C4 automatic.
Gleaming in Sikkens Emerald Green enamel paint, the 'Grasshopper' is pretty much the same as when it was finished in 1959. The paintwork is complemented by numerous bespoke details such as the Dodge Truck headlights, chromed 15 inch wheels and hand pinstriped and lettered tailgate on the exterior and the 1950's Chrysler gauges, 'banjo style' steering wheel and colour keyed vinyl upholstery on the interior. A particularly delightful feature is the beautifully polished oak floor in the pick-up bed beneath the white hard tonneau cover.
The restored Alexander Brothers '31 Model A pickup truck was as big a sensation at the 50th Anniversary of the Detroit Autorama as it was back in the late 1950s.
The opportunity to acquire any creation from the Alexander Brothers is a rare event, let alone the shop truck that put their name on the map. Instantly recognisable and an iconic example of the very best of the customisers' art, the 'Grasshopper' would be the highlight of any significant collection.
This car is going under the hammer at Coys forthcoming auction at the Techno Classica Show, Essen, Germany, on 13th April 2013. For further information please go to www.coys.co.uk or contact Coys on +44 (0) 208 6147 888.
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