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Nuthin’ Fancy

One of NASCAR’s Brightest Stars Keeps His Hot Rod Simple!


Picture of Garry McWhirter

Garry McWhirter

Photography by Garry McWhirter & Gerry Burger

Ryan Newman displays a serious look when at the track preparing to climb into his Alltel Dodge. His relaxation comes when he gets to drive his roadster or any other of his stable of classic cars.

Ryan Newman grew up with a steering wheel in his hands. From the age of five, he has been behind the wheel of a racecar. Now, almost 20 years later, Ryan drives for Penske Racing South on the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series. In 2003, Ryan won eight races, 11 poles and was named Speed Channel’s Driver of the Year. In 2004, he will be driving a Dodge sponsored by primary sponsor Alltel with associate sponsorship form Mobil 1 and Sony Electronics on 38 weekends.

He will also be competing in the Crown Royal IROC series. Throw in countless test sessions at various tracks and needless to say, most of Ryan’s time is spent behind the steering wheel going in circles. But when he is not driving a racecar, just what does he do? That commercial that says Ryan is ALWAYS thinking about his racecar is not exactly correct. Sometimes he is thinking about his old cars.

Ryan has a varied collection of vehicles in his garage. They include a Triumph TR-6 roadster, a beautifully restored red ’57 Thunderbird, a ’39 Hudson with original paint and a Chevy V-8, and two ’53 Plymouths. One of the ’53s was Ryan daily transportation, while he attended Purdue University. He also has a few old racecars, including one of his original quarter midgets, a USAC Silver Crown sprint and an antique midget. But the one car he enjoys more than any other in his collection is a bona fide ’50s style traditional ’28 Ford Model A roadster highboy.

When Ryan decided he wanted a hot rod, only one style held his interest. He didn’t want some modernized version of a street rod that was watered down to a luxury ride. He wanted the real thing, a basic hot rod that was simple, cool looking, had loud exhaust and was a kick in the butt to drive. It took quite a while, but he finally located and purchased just the right car.

Ryan’s Model A roadster sits on boxed ’32 rails from Just-A-Hobby. The front suspension consists of a Model A crossmember with leaf springs, Super Bell 4-inch dropped axle with split wishbones, F-1 (’49 Ford truck) brakes, tube shocks, ’39 Ford spindles and ’49 Ford F-1 steering box. The brakes are controlled with a ’59 Chevy truck master cylinder. The rear setup includes a ’49 Ford rearend with 3.50 ratio gears, ’37 Ford rear spring, tube shocks and split wishbones form a ’36 Ford. Most of the components of the chassis could easily have been gathered together 50 years ago. The engine is a ’49 Ford Flathead bored 0.125, ported and relieved block. It has Speedway Motors 3-ring pistons, Johnson lifters, Isky 101-B cam and Offenhauser aluminum intake with dual Ford No. 94 2-bbl carbs and finned heads. The headers are “homebuilt” with lake plugs. The Flathead is painted yellow with red and polished highlights, and the transmission is a ’57 Ford 3-speed.

The all-steel rumble seat body is painted tuxedo black with a set of classic yellow and red flames. The radiator and grill shell is a ’32 Ford chopped 2 1/2 inches. The red steel wheels come from a ’52 Ford and have ’50 Mercury hubcaps and the customary wide whitewall tires.

The interior, including the dash, is covered with red rolled and pleated Naugahyde. The gauges come from a ’51 Ford F-1 truck. The steering column and Banjo steering wheel is from a ’37 Ford. Ryan has added one modern convenience, the Sony AM/FM/CD stereo. Gotta keep those sponsors happy and listen to tunes of the rumble of a built Flathead.

The roadster fits Ryan’s personality. It’s to the point, and it means business. There really is only one reason to own it, and that is to drive it. Most of the time, the headers on the Flathead engine remain uncapped, providing music to the ears of any hot rodder. Ryan drives the car on a regular basis. He drives it to the race shop, to the store, over to a friend’s house, just about anywhere. It is a form of relaxation for him and wife Krissie. And after all, how could you not enjoy tooling down the road with wind blowing your hair and the sound of a Flathead echoing through your ears?

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