ROLE MODEL
Hot Rod|March 2021
Dad’s 1931 Model A Coupe Inspires Son to Build His Dream Roadster
​​​​​​​Scotty Lachenauer
ROLE MODEL

Inspiration.

Or impact, encouragement, guidance—any way you define it, the lives we lead and the paths we take can be thoroughly directed by the people responsible for bringing us into this world.

Our parents are usually our first and foremost leaders in life, starting at birth and typically continuing even after they’ve leftus. They look over us and care for us, and it’s their daily directive that helps shape our lives. That’s why many of us follow our parents in so many ways, including our chosen careers and also our favorite daily diversions. Love of the automotive hobby is one of those qualities that’s commonly passed down from parent to child, and it’s typical to see sons and daughters follow their parents into the garage and learn from them what their parents taught them a generation earlier.

Nick Maneri Sr. and his son, Nick Jr., are from Mays Landing, New Jersey. Young Nick grew up under his father’s hot-rodding tutelage, learning the basics of auto mechanics by watching his dad wrench on one of the several hot rods he’s owned since his teens. “When I was little, I remember my dad’s Model A in my grandmother’s garage,” Nick Jr. says. “At that time, he also had a ’51 Victoria. I rode in that car and a ’35 cabriolet he still has. I was probably about 8 when he brought the Model A back home and pulled the body offto redo the car again. By that time, I was getting old enough to help out.”

A sporty ’67 Mustang would appear in Nick Jr.’s teenage years, and it’s a car he still uses on a daily basis. Later, it would be Nick Sr.’s ’86 Ford pickup that the young gun eventually honed his skills on, teaching him basic bodywork and engine rebuilding. However, when it comes to the ride that was the constant presence in the family garage, it has to be Nick Sr.’s built-up Model A coupe.

SENIOR’S YEAR

“I bought my ’31 Model A in 1963, the year after I graduated high school,” Nick Sr. says. “I got it for $75, and I paid for it in quarters because that’s how I got paid when I was selling pretzels.” The Model A was in the process of being turned into a hot rod at the time, and Nick continued that process. “The car was last owned by a guy named Billy Placek. He cut the bottom out of the car and started to channel it. A friend named Joe Fox welded the subrails back in, and I had the car back on the road the following year.”

Nick bought the car with a hopped-up banger in it, but that didn’t last long. “The first engine I put in it was from a ’48 Mercury, backed by a ’47 transmission with a Hurst shifter.” North Jersey racer and ace mechanic Pappy Hough cut down the ’37 banjo rear that went into the hot rod. A year later, Nick switched to a hot Ford small-block. He kept the Model A springs in the front and back and built the car on the original frame, splitting the wishbones up front. A Cragar dropped axle and reverse-eye spring up front brought the front end down and gave Nick the rake he desired.

A ’32 grille sits up front, the trunk handle was shaved to clean up the coupe’s skin, and a set of ’51 Pontiac taillights was mounted out back. Out on the corners, Nick installed 15-inch Mercury steel wheels that helped give the ride an understated look.

Over the years, the Model A went through some changes. The Ford was painted in a mid-’60s Ford truck yellow for a long period of time. Later on, Nick installed a T10 four-speed and a ’57 Olds rear, as well. It has been driven more than 100,000 miles under Nick’s ownership, including some passes at Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey, where it ran consistent 13s. It was also Nick’s wedding car in 1974.

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