Step into Jon Bill’s garage and you realize very quickly he loves cars.
But more importantly, he love cars of a certain age. The ’50s. A 1962 graduate of South Side High School, Bill has a tendency to collect car from that era. One of his favorites is a 1931 Ford Model A that has been turned into a 50’s- style hot rod.
Bill believes when you put together a car like that you should keep the parts to one era, and so he did. The car is period correct. When he bought the car 20 years ago, the previous owner had done most of the body work. Bill has repainted it, switched engines and given the car a theme. The engine is a ’56 Plymouth V-8 with four two-barrel carburetors and he also added some vintage speed equipment, with a four-speed transmission. The wheel covers are vintage and were used to enhance the streamlining of the car so it might have a higher top speed.
“Everybody who builds a car has their own ideas. If I sold this car to somebody else they would probably change it too to make it their car.” Bill said.
Bill has used the car in sanctioned drag racing. It’s not built to be competitive against today’s cars but it can hold its own against cars of 50 years ago. The modifications on the car include a chopped top to lower the roof 4 inches. To make it even lower to the ground the body of the car has been dropped over the frame rails about 6 inches.
“This is called channeling. It’s an old hot-rod trick to get the car down with a lower center of gravity so they handle better and have less wind resistance,” Bill said.
The car is painted in a flat black with a checkerboard pattern on the engine firewall. The interior sports scarlet leather upholstery and the dashboard was taken from a vintage Diamond pickup.
Bill loves cars; he has since he was a kid. Born in 1944, new cars were not available during World War II. After the war his parents were very anxious to buy a new car. They couldn’t get one until 1948.
“There I was, 4 years old, an impressionable little kid, and they made the purchase of this car one of the biggest events of their lives, and therefore it became a huge event in my life. I think it was just imprinted on me that cars are the coolest thing,” Bill said.
Bill said he thinks he also got some car genes from his grandfather, who used to buy old cars, fix them up and drive them.
A former metal shop instructor at North Side High School, some of the parts on the car were projects in his class. The aluminum skull that sits on the front grill was designed and made there.
“It’s a great hobby; there are many wonderful people involved in it,” Bill said.
And really, he said, he just loves to work on cars, doing almost all his own work. For a car lover he now has the perfect job. He is the education and archives director at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum.