B-17 Bomber – Inspired Build Evokes Images of the Greatest Generation
Peter Lepore had a vision of a hot rod built especially for him. After years of driving a stock 1930 Model A Town Car to the local cruise-ins, the Wayne, New Jersey, resident decided it was time for a little bit more; more power, more style … more hot rod. He had an idea brewing in his head, and now after years of thinking it out, he decided it was time to take control and put his concept into action.
After procuring a rusty Model A donor car, it soon came down to whom was going to put Peter’s vision into metal, he sought out well-known East Coast hot rod master fabricator Joe Sulpy. However, Joe had since retired and closed his shop, but luckily his son Joe Jr. was now out on his own building hot rods in the Sulpy tradition. Along with input and artistry from his dad, the two Sulpys would take this humble Model A-body and turn it into the hellacious, jaw-dropping hot rod. Game on!
A meeting of the minds took place and Joe Sr. sketched out a quick working outline of Peter’s new whip. The simple line drawing on a napkin was enough to sell Peter on Senior’s cutting-edge design. So over the next few months the threesome worked together to get the now-labeled “A-17” project out of their heads, onto the drawing board, and then finally into metal.
Fabrication started out with Junior constructing a one-off custom frame, Z’d front and back, made to cradle the Model A body. The hand-fabricated piece was built out of 2×3-inch square tubing at 0.150-inch thick, and sports a 108-inch wheelbase. From there, a Heidts Super Ride independent front suspension along with stainless control arms were installed to handle the suspension duties up front. A chromed-out four-link with aluminum coilovers controls the ride out back. A Flaming River manual rack-and-pinion system was then mounted up to keep this hot rod aimed in the right direction.
Braking duties are handled by a set of Wilwood four-piston aluminum calipers and 11-inch Ford Grenada rotors up front, and a pair of GM calipers pinching 12-inch Speedway rotors out back. A forward mounted (in front of differential) Sprint Car–styled rear sway bar helps keep the car on track at high speeds and improve overall handling. A Ford 9-inch rear stuffed with 4.11 gears puts the power to the pavement. Weld Racing wheels, 18×8 up front and 20×10 out back, shod in Toyo tires, 245/45/18 and 295/45/20 respectively, firmly grip the road and add a little bling out at the corners.
As far as motorvation for this ride, a center bolt valve cover Chevy 350 crate motor was used as the basis of the build. Precision Race Cars out of Newton, New Jersey, did all the assembly work using the stock heads and crank. The one-off fabricated valve covers and air intake system were executed by Junior himself. Shifting is done through a Chevy Turbo 350, which was rebuilt by local transmission guru John Kramer.
From here we get into the myriad of unique body modifications and fabrication done by Junior. The body started as a 1930 Model A five-window coupe but soon became an amalgamation of parts from period Ford rides, and the multitude of custom-fabricated pieces built by the hands of Junior himself. Junior used 18-gauge steel to form the A-17’s body panels. The only other snippet of original Blue Oval steel is the 1933 grille. Junior encased it in all-new steel and blended the classic styling piece into this futuristic “blast from the past” hot rod.
Next, Junior decided to take this build a step further and automate all the movable panels. The hood, trunk, and doors can be opened at a flick of a switch from the cockpit of the A-17. Another crafty trick, mounting the headlights along with the steering components so that the lights turn in sync with the direction the hot rod is headed. Both headlights and taillights are Headwinds flush-mounted LED motorcycle lights.
The interior starts off with a Sulpy-designed custom dash filled with Dakota Digital gauges. The steering column, wheel, and seat were also made from scratch at the shop. Distressed brown leather was the perfect material for the seat covers, and invokes the World War II era. And check out the overhead control panel. It’s another period-perfect design that houses the controls for the automated panels. The windshield is another Sulpy design; a two-piece creation made to mimic the front glass found on the great Flying Fortresses.
The amazing paint and graphics only add the wow factor of this build. First off, Junior laid down House of Kolor Orion Silver. He then fogged the top with Kandy Blue and added root beer to the bottom to mimic natural reflections in polished aluminum bomber body panels. Next up on the list are the numerous custom air brushings by the Sulpys that cover this brazen hot rod. B-17 accents were added throughout the ride, including stenciling (placards in Air Force terminology) that were taken from actual World War II aircraft. The nose work, “Six Hits and a Miss,” is authentic art lifted from a B-17 bomber, and beautifully re-created by Senior. And check out the artwork on the dash; that’s a re-creation of a photo of Peter’s actual parents, complete with faux yellowed transparent tape. Shane Syx of Fairborne, Ohio, also pitched in with his brush, creating the intense bomb art underhood.
oe Jr. would like to thank Rebecca Sulpy for her support and assistance during the three-year A-17 build. The shop has since moved to a new location, not only to be closer to family on the East Coast, but also for a chance to work in conjunction with Rob Iulo and his shop, Land Speed Automotive, situated in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Another shoutout goes to Howie Bott in Mt. Olive, New Jersey, for his precision machine work. Last but not least none of this was possible without the mind and brush of Joe Sulpy Sr. The result of the input and hard work of this team is a dream ride of a lifetime. It may be called “Six Hits and a Miss,” but I don’t see any shots outside the strike zone here.