If you follow the rodding scene even casually, it’s likely you’ve already seen the Goodguys 2018 Classic Instruments Street Rod of the Year, crowned this past weekend at the PPG Nationals in Columbus, Ohio. Mark and Dennis Mariani’s radical ’29 Model A, built by Troy Trepanier’s Rad Rides team in Illinois, has been making a splash for a couple of years now. It debuted at the 2016 SEMA Show in bare metal, flooring everyone who saw it with a combination of amazing craftsmanship, refined details, and lots of hot rod attitude. It was no less impressive at SEMA a year later in “full dress” with paint and upholstery. It not only took home a Goodguys Gold Award, but also went on to win the coveted SEMA Battle of the Builders award.
Making the rounds in 2018, the low-slung sedan continues to amaze and inspire, combining elements that attract anyone who likes prewar rods. The radically low height, tall wheels, and vintage-style elements appeal to traditional hot rodders and even rat rod fans. The precise construction, hand-fabricated pieces, and countless details wow those who favor refined street rods. And competition elements – from the Halibrand quick-change to the all-aluminum small-block Chevy – engage the racers and land-speed crowd. The latter is no surprise, as the Mariani brothers dabble in salt-flat racing themselves, most recently in a Rad Rides-built ’34 Ford roadster and a streamliner.
Rad Rides is typically more associated with builds of ’50s and ’60s cars but has certainly crafted its share of trendsetting street rods. Troy is quick to credit Adam Banks for taking the lead on this sedan. Calling it a Model A is almost a misnomer, as the body is mostly hand fabricated. The ’29 Tudor shape is enhanced with a chopped top that incorporates leaned A-pillars, soft-lip drip rails, and a distinctive metal insert with raised bow-style beads. The custom-formed visor fits flush and has a detailed center peak to match the split windshield.
For many, the car’s defining element is the wrap-under grille, which borrows styling cues from ’32-’35-era Fords. It leads into a custom hood top and sides that in turn flow into a smooth ’29-style cowl with a distinctive top vent. Flush-fit doors and custom quarters lead back to the rear, where the Model A taillights and license plate are mounted high, while a custom lower insert panel incorporates cutouts for the exhaust and Halibrand quick-change rearend. The body is finished in a custom-mixed Glasurit bronze paint, with satin finishes on chassis components and select body panels providing definition and detail.
The car’s hand-crafted chassis is based on highly modified American Stamping ’32 frame rails and uses adjustable front and rear torsion bar suspensions in conjunction with aluminum wishbone-style radius rods. It’s the steering that gets most people talking, though. A KSE dirt track steering box is mounted behind the dash, with an intricate bell crank and drag link assembly protruding through the cowl. Lincoln brakes and RideTech shocks round out the suspension, with custom-machined 19- and 20-inch wheels wrapped in Excelsior rubber from Coker.
The small-block Chevy nestled in the chassis is no run-of-the-mill crate engine. It’s a rowdy all-aluminum 377c.i. mill based on a Dart block and prepped by Bob Panella Motorsports. The Rad Rides team made it a pretty beast, aided by custom valve covers, a Billet Specialties TruTrac system, and a trio of Auto Trend EFI throttle bodies sitting on an Offy intake and breathing through a custom air cleaner. Smooth ram’s horn manifolds from Speedway Motors exhale into a custom exhaust with Flowmaster Hushpower mufflers. For extra hot rod flavor, the Marianis select their own gears using a Legends five-speed transmission from Bowler Performance Transmissions.
The combination of race influence and refinement carries through inside, where square weave carpet covers the floor and rear cargo area, complemented by hand-tipped tobacco brown Italian leather stitched over the custom seat and side panels. The simple-appearing dash incorporates a center-mounted ’49 Packard gauge cluster with gauges by Classic Instruments and there’s a Vintage Air unit tucked in behind the dash. The tilt column is topped with a leather-wrapped, custom-designed four-spoke wheel, while the headliner was designed with bows coinciding with the raised beads on the top insert.
The more you study this amazing sedan, the more details, clever ideas, and simply cool elements you discover. It’s that sort of innovation and quality that make the Mariani Model A so spectacular, and a very fitting Goodguys 2018 Classic Instruments Street Rod of the Year.