Some of the greatest hot rods come, not from people with years of experience, but from passionate young hobbyists who are chasing a dream. These are cars built with an intense love for the hobby, its history and culture. It takes true dedication to see an immense project through to the end, especially when jumping in headfirst with nothing but an image in your mind and a rusty shell in front of you.
When Matthew Bange attended car shows with his family as a young boy, he had no idea what those experiences would lead to. “I loved how people expressed themselves through their rides, and of course all of the different paintjobs, stances and sounds of those big engines caught my attention,” he said.
As years passed, Matt’s dreams about building his very own hot rod became more vivid. At age 19, he found the rusted shell of a 1929 Model A Tudor sedan in a field in Conroe, Texas, and it was love at first sight. “It broke my heart to see it rotting away like that,” he said. While everyone else told him that the car was “too far gone” and that he “was crazy for thinking he could put it back on the road,” Matt knew that he had to save it, despite his lack of experience, and so he pursued his visions of the hot rod that shell was destined to become.
The body was rusted through in several areas, so for safety’s sake, Matt replaced the majority of the body panels and used a shiny new chassis. “People honestly thought it was junk that couldn't be saved, but that didn't stop me one bit,” he said, “Through the build process I taught myself how to weld and fabricate small structural parts from scratch, and I also created my own wiring diagram, learned how to use body filler affiliated with mild body work, and learned how to tune a small-block Chevy engine.”
With his car buddies’ help, reading blogs and forums and watching endless YouTube videos, Matt put his childhood dream together piece-by-piece. After one year, eight months and two days, he proved all of the doubters wrong.
Of course, as with any other build there were a few challenges. “I've always been a mechanically-inclined and self-taught individual, but I had no formal training and hardly any experience working around cars in general,” Matt said, “I literally just jumped in blind and hoped for the best, and that was a challenge in itself.” At the build’s most overwhelming moments, Matt simply would step back and rethink his plan of action, whether that was calling up a friend or doing more research at home before jumping back into the build.
“A lot of positive commentary helped push me through the hard times,” he said, “I am grateful to have met so many people and I made some great friends through this entire build and beyond.” When it came to lifting the body onto the frame and rocking the engine down onto its mounts, he needed some extra hands, but other than that he physically built the car on his own.
Charlotte, the Tudor, is very eye-catching with her whitewall tires, gloss-black double-Z’d box frame that gives her a low stature, and her “Come and take it” 1835 Texas flag paint scheme on the roof. When you look closer, details like the vintage USAF aircraft lap belts and shoulder harnesses tucked away into vintage gas mask bags pull you in. To solidify the theme, she has two 50-caliber ammo boxes used for storage, 20mm dummy rounds for interior door handles and meticulous body stitching along a rusted cut in the bodyline.
A small-block Chevy 350 from Boss Hoss V-8 Cycles was converted into a roller motor. And other goodies include roller rockers, lifters, a nice mild cam, a pro-street crankshaft, an Edelbrock 650-cfm. four-barrel carb, a Hilborn-style carb scoop, unique valve cover engravings, a big ol' HEI distributor and she sports some killer Lake headers made by Gear Drive Speed & Custom.
Matt will never forget Charlotte’s first shakedown run, “I felt so happy and excited, it was almost overwhelming. It was acknowledgement that all of my hard work finally paid off.”
Shortly after he finishing he moved from Houston, Tex. to Kalamazoo, Mich., and it was there where Matt’s favorite driving memories with Charlotte were made. “Barnstorming through the back roads nearby the Gilmore Car Museum all the way to Western's campus at dusk was a blast,” he said, “My best drives by far where in the state of Michigan; the cool air flowing through the radiator was making that engine purr down the road like never before.”
With every life experience come important lessons, and through Charlotte’s progress, he learned that even if you are only accomplishing a small task, that one task is still a step closer to your final goal. “Patience is key when building these machines,” he said “Hard work, determination, and following my dreams is what gave Charlotte a new life.”
Matt recently moved to Southern California to be closer to family and to finish his education. In order to make that move, he had to let Charlotte go. “It's always hard selling your first car, especially if you built it from ground up and know every square inch of it,” he said, “but my thought is that it's never really ‘your’ car; you are just its caretaker and it will always be passed down to someone else who will love and enjoy it.”
Since selling Charlotte, Matt spent another year building a 1928 Model A Pickup, and he is already planning a third project: a late 1920s or early ‘30s roadster or coupe on a Deuce frame. No matter what life brings, he will forever be chasing the hot rods in his dreams.