Ed 'Axle' Stewart roadster

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Ed 'Axle' Stewart roadster
« on: June 30, 2016, 11:07:18 PM »
ED "AXLE" STEWART ROADSTER
  The Stewart Roadster-The Story By Mike Bishop
The Stewart roadster is a classically definitive Southern California Deuce from the post-war era of hot rodding.With all the handles shaved and the door hinges faired into the cowl . it was a cut above the average nice Deuce in it's day. Making it extra special was it's front axle---not the only example on the streets and lakes to be sure, but one that signaled the start of a trend that would become an integral part of the classic form that was to emerge.

Ed Stewart had established himself as a serious hot rodder long before he built the Deuce, modifying a tidy '29 A-V8 first with a fettered four-bangerand then with a proper V8 in the '30s and on through the war years.

Ed sold the '29 after the war and bought his wife a fur coat. It was a diversion, son Bob says; Ed had been collecting parts for the roadster in the meantime, including a body he plucked from a field and then deposited at Johnny Vesco's shop for repairs and hole filling. It was doubtful that Mrs. Stewart would have been as excited about a new roadster as were her husband and son.

Bob saw the roadster on the street the first time on his way home from school while riding the school bus. It was also the occasion of his first ride in the Deuce. "I was nine or ten at the time", he says. "And I screamed at the bus driver to stop. He did and I jumped out of the bus and my dad picked me up!"

The roadster first ran at the lakes in 1946 and during that initial outing Ed let Bob drive it. "I was a pro after a few jack rabbit starts," Bob recalls. "The car turned 98 that day." For Bob, 11 at the time, the driving lesson and experience was a great confidence builder.

The roadster was driven on the streets in the early days as well as to the lakes, and around 1947 the Stewarts began flat-towing it out to the desert. It's best performance was recorded on June 12, 1949 when it ran 138.46 at El Mirage. Interestingly, the roadster was never raced at or even visited Bonneville until 1992.

Ed drag raced with the roadster, with a flathead in the early '50s and then with a Chevy V8 in the mid '50s, retiring it when it exploded its Ford transmission.

The roadster is registered in Bob's mother's name with the title dating back to 1945, making it one of the oldest continuous-ownership hot rods in existance. Since Bob's ressurection of the car, it's building a new reputation under his stewardship, and while Bob speaks of the 30-year hiatus almost apologetically, he's justifiably proud of how well it has turned out and how much its appearance is appreciated by those who knew it--and his father--way back when.

The roadster's engine is a classic Ford/Mercury 59A, bored and stroked to 296 cubic inches, fitted with the very best of hardware that was available in 1948--Forgedtrue pistons, a Potvin 3/8 camshaft, rare Evans heads and a three pot manifold with three Stromberg 48 carburetors ("We were an Evans dealer in the '50s," says Bob), and original Belond headers--modified to fit around the Vega steering--connected to 28 inch glass packs. The right look is abetted by the Harmon-Collins magneto, but Bob confesses he has converted it to a distributor, using a mid-'70s Delco electronic ignition stuffed inside. "It just wouldn't fire unless I was all by myself, if anyone else was standing around it wouldn't fire," he explains, tongue-in-cheek.

Bob gave hinself permission to spec a '41 Lincoln overdrive transmission for the build because the roadster had a column shift since 1949. And while it didn't have a quickchange rear end the first time around, a bargain price on a complete Halibrand-based assembly from a former show car was more than Bob could resist. The rear end has recently undergone conversion to later Ford 9-inch axles, but you'd never spot it.

Best-of-the-best for this roadster includes its 1940 Lincoln/Bendix brakes. "I'd put them up against any disk brakes made," says Bob.

The front suspension is based on the 3-1/2-inch-dropped Dago'd '32 Ford Axle that's been under the car since the beginning. Bob massaged it heavily to get rid of the drop-hammer marks before sending it off to the plater. He's quick to point out that the cherished Dago axles are more practical than pretty.

During the refurb process Bob opted for some simple changes to the wonderful old body. Most significant was the door hinge treatment, changing them from the faired hinges Johnny Vesco had done for Ed to hidden inside hinges. "I guess I should have bought some aftermarket hinges," Bob says, pointing out that he has some 280 hours in fabrication and fitting those he made for the changeover.

With the exception of a Cadillac electric trunk latch ("I didn't use it to be trick; I couldn't find a mechanical remote latch that would hold the trunk tight.") and the peaked shell, everything is pretty much as it was, including Cal Custom hood panels that were louvered when new, and '39 Chevy taillights that have been on the car since 1956.

Originally painted Seafoam Green, Bob's son Bobby shot it in Deltron Black eight years ago. The paint still looks great. Ron Mangus stitched the interior on Oxblood Naugahyde in Bob's design. "Oldtimers would go "WOW!" when they saw it says Bob, "....and young guys wondered why anyone would do an interior that way."

Over the years the instruments in the Stewart roadster have received several labels, each of them significant. They've been called "North Island gauges" because they were "sourced" from the U.S. Navy's facility in San Diego. They've also been dubbed "Lunch box gauges," with reference to the manner in which they were sourced, one at a time. Bob likes sobriquet "Old-man gauges" because of their size, easily read by old men with deteriorating eyesight. The large faced Stewart-Warner are handsome, and while there has been much speculation about their intended application, Bob offers it was probably something as mundane as a stationary engine, such as a gasoline powered generator.  Whatever the original intent, these instruments have doubtless a much better life than they would have otherwise had.

When Bob first put the Deuce back on the road in August 1989 he was a bit cautious about it's overall dependability, traveling with a small parts store in the trunk for several years. But as his confidence in the car grew the parts inventory has been reduced to just a handful of essential and old Ford-specific pieces. Each year now, Bob Stewart places about 10,000 miles worth of well-deserved trust in his 50-plus year old hot rod with which he's spent much of his life.
You Aren't Living If Your Windshield Isn't Dirty.