Vintage vehicles, Automotive history and stories from motoring's past. 

1930 Rod Riguez - From Japan to George Barris

The Rod Riguez, a heavily-modified 1930 Ford Model A Coupe. 

The Rod Riguez, a heavily-modified 1930 Ford Model A Coupe. 

When you visit enough car shows you often see the same friendly faces and the same great cars over and over, and one car in particular really caught my eye.  That car was one of the more unusual adaptations of a 1930 Model A Ford that I’d ever seen but its history is likely the explanation of the adaptation. That car was the Rod Riguez, a very unique interpretation of the Model A. 

Hello, World!

The Rod Riguez actually started its second life in Japan at a shop called Paradise Road, where the designer gets his inspiration from car customizers like George Barris and Eddie Roth. Taking this inspiration, the Model A was transformed from a popular two-door sedan into what it is today, an exceptional custom. 

Using a lot of custom fabrication the Rod Riguez has an entirely metal body - there are no fiberglass pieces whatsoever. Up front the headlights are actually formed from 1959 Cadillac bumper ends, and the tail lights are from a 1958 Chevrolet Grille. Motivating the car is a 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket V8 shifting through a hydramatic transmission. 

After creating the Rod Riguez and winning awards in Japan, the designers brought it to America and drove it around to car shows, logging hundreds of trouble-free miles despite the heavy customization and unique construction. It was at one of those shows in a place in Southern California called Ricky & Ronnie’s that Chuck Schauwekcer spotted the car and took a liking to it. 

It turns out that the visitors from Japan were close to heading back and so Chuck made an offer for the car. Even with their limited command of English “We kinda hee hawed around” said Chuck. Schauwecker left that day with no hint as to whether or not the Japanese were interested, but knew that they were leaving in a few days. 

Three days after that Chuck got a call telling him that they had accepted his offer and pointing out where he could pick up the car. It turns out that they just didn’t want to spend the $5,000 to ship the car back to its homeland. 

Schauwecker is really impressed with the incredible detail the creators put into the car, right down to the cactus key and big sombrero that go with the car. He also really loves driving and showing off the unique machine. 

At car shows, Chuck says, “My mission is to get as many people as possible to see it. Most people see it and get a smile on their face - it makes ‘em happy. People shake my hand and thank me for bringing it.” 

“If the children show an interest in the car I usually let them sit in the car and have their picture taken.” Some car show visitors are really surprised that Chuck lets people sit in the car.

Ford Model A History

By 1927, Ford sales were dropping severely. Competition from other car companies such as Dodge Bros, Chevrolet, and others were hurting the sale of the Model T. Edsel Ford, Henry's son, knew what had to be done, but he had to convince the venerable old man himself that the era of the Model T had come to an end. Around- the time that the 15 millionth Model T was being produced, in mid 1927, discussions and reality were setting in. Henry Ford made the decision that "we've got to do it". That meant design a new car. He also decided that this was a new beginning. Since his first automobile in 1903 was a Model A and subsequent models were B, C, etc, this new beginning would start with "A" again. So was born the Model A Ford. 

An original 1930 Ford Model A

An original 1930 Ford Model A

Without any plans for a new car, the Ford plants were closed, and design for the new car began. This in itself was unprecedented, for a company, especially one as large a Ford Motor Company to completely shut down without any plans, then completely redesign the factory, and start up again. Henry set a number of ground rules, but the overall development of the components were delegated to his associates. Edsel Ford was responsible for the overall design. Every one of the 5,500 parts were new. Official announcement of the new Ford came in May 1927. The announcement of the new car resulted in a drop in overall car sales and Ford dealers had a rush of orders on a car that had never been seen. 

Many advances were made on this car and some of which were unheard of for a car of this price range including a safety glass windshield, four wheel mechanical brakes, four shock absorbers and welded steel spoke wheels, to name a few. 

It is not uncommon to see Ford Model As modified heavily as hot rods. The popular vehicle is also a very popular choice among customizers for a variety of reasons, including the availability of Model As as well as the availability of parts to modify them. Combine that with the number of Model As that are modified and you have the inspiration. 

Chuck Schauwecker will continue to drive the car to shows all over Southern California and enjoy the fine craftsmanship of a car that started in the U.S., went to Japan and came home with one heck of a face lift.

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Tony Barthel

Tony Barthel has been writing articles and blogs since 1996 with reviews of new cars, stories about old cars and the people who love them and finding the best car shows around for the Curbside car show calendar. He is also author of a book on event planning and public speaker on business and tourism marketing plus a YouTube creator of travel videos. Tony loves RVing and is the co-publisher of the StressLess Camping blog.