Sure, Tony Pidala can bend iron and steel at his will, but is he a superhero?
The soft-spoken man has the vision of an artist and the courage to do things his own way. In fact, his heavy-metal masterpiece—this 1928 Ford Model A truck—rolls on six wheels because, as Pidala puts it: “I thought it’d be cool.”
He’s also a charter member of a not-so secret group of misfit mechanics called the Sewer Rats.
“We get together on Friday night, have some refreshments, and work on our cars,” Pidala said. “We call it our male-bonding night. Our wives always know where we are, and it keeps us out of trouble…mostly.”
Pidala’s demented dually was born on one such Friday night.
“I bought a truck cab and my buddy had a dually axle,” he said. “We put the cab on my garage floor, lined up the axle behind the cab, and took some measurements for the frame.”
A skilled ornamental metal fabricator by trade, Pidala built the truck’s frame by hand in his workshop.
“After I finished the frame, I brought it home and we built the rest of the truck during our male-bonding nights,” Pidala said.
With a massive 15 foot, 7-inch wheelbase and the stock-height cab riding low in strategically placed frame notches, Pidala’s ’28 has a slammed, sinister look that just won’t quit. Up front, the truck sports an aftermarket leaf-spring suspension complete with a set of handmade hairpins, while a 4-link setup with Flaming River coil-over shocks carries the donated dually rear axle.
Speaking of donations, the vintage Ford gets plenty of go-power and torque from a 454 Chevy engine pulled out of a 1984 dump truck. Pidala gave the rat motor some extra muscle with an aftermarket cam, a Summit Stage 1 intake manifold, and a Quick Fuel 750 cfm carburetor.
The truck’s open engine bay is a testament to Pidala’s craftsmanship.
“I built the firewall out of 1/4-inch thick steel, so it won’t flex when I step on the brakes. Then I gave it a swirl finish with my angle grinder,” Pidala said.
An ornate, handcrafted support ties the pinstriped cab and radiator shell together, and a glass bottle in the shape of a human skull collects the lime-green coolant oozing from the coiled radiator overflow line.
Everywhere you look, you’ll find more skulls, some rats (of course), a spider or two, plus even more evidence of Pidala’s metalworking mastery. With inspiration from his wife Sandra, Pidala fabricated the truck’s mind-bending exhaust systems using a pair of Summit 3/8-inch header flanges and some very familiar material.
“The entire exhaust is built from schedule 40 handrail pipe,” Pidala said. “And it was Sandra’s idea to split the exhaust into four pipes at the back of the truck.”
Riding on steel truck wheels wrapped with rugged Hankook rubber, you might think the Model A was destined for some heavy-duty hauling. But you’d be wrong. To clear the rear running gear, Pidala removed most of the vintage tin from the truck bed, leaving just enough sheetmetal to carry an RCI fuel cell and a battery box made from an old circular saw case.
When it came time to outfit the cab, Pidala skipped the creature comforts like A/C, stereo, and for the most part…upholstery.
“I don’t like paying people to do things that I can’t do. So I covered the truck’s interior with thin, diamondplate aluminum. It’s easy to clean and this truck is always dirty,” Pidala explained.
Simple rubber matting covers the Ford’s floorboards, and the headliner is made from material picked up at a fabric store.
The truck’s spartan seating arrangement features just the bottom half of two PROCAR bucket seats, and two vinyl-covered backrest pads bolted to the cab wall. When Pidala rolls out, he navigates with one hand on a Grant GT steering wheel and changes gears with a Lokar shifter that’s tall enough to make Rat Fink jealous.
To shake things up, Pidala grabbed some Rust-Oleum rattle cans and laid down a Soft Iron Metallic paint job over the ’28’s exterior. The surprisingly superb matte finish is accented with custom pinstripes, and just enough chrome to give the truck some serious hot rod attitude.
“To tell the truth, the truck never should have gotten this nice,” Pidala said with a laugh.
That’s the irony for you. While Pidala and the Sewer Rats set out to build a down-and-dirty rat rod, they ended up with a heroic hand-built custom truck that simply defies definition.
Super work fellas, super work indeed!
Photography by: Todd Biss
Frame: Custom 2 x 4 mild steel frame by owner
Rear End: GM 14-bolt dually axle, 4.11:1 ring and pinion, limited slip differential
Suspension: Pete & Jakes front leaf spring suspension, 4-inch drop spindles and shock absorbers, custom hairpins by owner, 4-link rear suspension, Flaming River coil-over shock absorbers
Steering: Flaming River steering column and Vega steering box, Grant GT steering wheel
Brakes: Summit Racing front rotors and calipers, GM rear brake drums
Wheels and Tires: 16-inch GM truck wheels, Hankook DynaPro LT 225/75R16 front and LT 245/75 R16 rear tires, Summit dually simulators
Engine and Transmission
Engine: Chevy 454, aftermarket cam, Summit Racing chrome valve covers
Induction: Summit Racing Stage 1 intake manifold, Quick Fuel 750 cfm carburetor, Summit Racing air cleaner
Ignition and Electrical: Summit Racing HEI distributor, Summit Racing ignition coil, Summit Racing ignition control, MSD 8.5mm Super Conductor ignition wires, Hayward wiring harness
Exhaust: Summit Racing 3/8″ exhaust flanges, custom headers and exhaust system by owner,
Summit Racing mufflers
Transmission: GM 700-R4 transmission, Hughes Performance 2,500 rpm torque converter, Lokar 32″ shifter
Other Items: Superior aluminum radiator, Perma-Cool electric fan, RCI fuel cell
Body: 1928 Ford Model A truck
Paint: Rust-Oleum Flat Soft Iron Metallic
Bodywork and Paint By: Owner
Pinstripe By: Louis Gabriel
Other Items: Skulls, spiders, and rats
Upholstery: Diamondplate aluminum, diamondplate rubber floor matting, modified PROCAR seats
Upholstery By: Owner
Special Thanks To: My wife Sandra and the Sewer Rats