By Brian Earnest
Brian Brill wasn’t about to ask his wife for another actual kid.
But the longtime car lover was definitely up for adding another four-wheeled member to the family.
“It’s like having another child,” laughs Brill, a resident of Seldon on New York’s Long Island. “I’ve got two grown kids already, so this was like my third child. I’m quite proud of it, because it’s a project. You can’t go to a dealer and buy it off the floor. You’ve got to do it yourself. People don’t realize what it takes to do something like this. I do take a lot or pride in it.”
The baby of the family Brill is referring to is his 1933 Ford street rod, which he took from a shell to a beautiful finished product. It took planning, perseverance and plenty of help from other folks, but Brill scored a rousing triumph in his quest to build the hot rod of his dreams. He wanted something both dazzling and driveable that would never lack for attention. The end result wasn’t cheap, but it more that met his expectations.
“You have this vision in your head of what you want,” he says. “You see other cars, and you think, ‘this looks nice,’ ‘this looks nice,’ ‘no, I don’t like that’ … and you sort of build it in your mind. The plan is in your head when you start.”
Brill had built one car a few years back, learned a few things, sold it, and was ready to start over on a new project about eight years ago. The ball officially got rolling when he picked up a chassis and fiberglass body from a now-defunct hot rod shop in Pennsylvania.
“I had to put the engine and transmission in; paint, seats, the whole process … The parts that I could do, I did, and certain things I farmed out to friends and other guys. Having a little bit of money helps, too [laughs]. It’s not a cheap hobby. Putting together a hot rod is like a jigsaw puzzle. People will say it’s like a ‘kit car’, but really it’s not a kit car. Nothing fits. Nothing goes together right. It takes a lot of elbow grease and a lot of thinking and planning. And once in a while you get a friend to come and help you.”
The ’33 Ford chassis/body was chopped and channeled to get the car to the desired height and profile. For motivation, Brill went with a built "Shafiroff" small-block fuel-injected V-8 backed up by "Gearstar" 4L60E automatic transmission. “It has close to 500 hp from the Chevy small-block,” he says. “It’s got electronic ignition, overdrive… The tires are Hoosier and it’s got the billet wheels. The front and rear suspension are all independent, and everything underneath is all powder coated. We ran all stainless steel brake lines. The fuel tank I had gotten with the kit had to be relocated in the trunk with all the plumbing and proper lines for the fuel injection.”
All components front and rear are from Heidts . Performance Plating finished off the custom exhaust. “The body was fairly straight when we started out,” Brill says. “A friend of mine has his own shop and he laid down the paint. Jags Plus is the name of the shop. The blue paint is out of the BMW catalog. It was just a color we liked. It was something we discussed with my wife [Ellen]. We wanted something to look classy. It’s kind of a deep blue metallic. The interior is a cream color with blue trim. The guy who did the interior is called Top Stitch.”
The steering wheel and column are a chromed out unit from Ididit. The interior components are from Stewart Warner. “It’s got air conditioning, which is nice. The pulleys in the engine are from March ... In front it’s got Headwinds headlights. They are like motorcycle lights. The tail lights in back are all sequential. They look pretty nice,” Brill notes.
Brill credits his brother Eddie for helping with a lot of the engine work work. His friend Ed Wood helped out with all the electric stuff.
“One of the biggest [challenges] was the ground clearance. I wanted things to be fairly low, but it had to have the right stance,” he adds. “But you don’t want to worry about going over every little bump either. The other thing was the position of the exhaust, because it’s hot when you get out. You don’t want to burn your thing every time you try to get out of the car.”
Brill chuckles when he considers how his financial budget for the car seemed to change over time. Rare do such elaborate and long-awaited “dream car” projects come in under budget, and his beautiful Ford was no exception. “I definitely went over [budget],” he laughs. “You don’t’ realize how quickly things add up — a piece here, a piece there. The brake lines are something that took me a lot longer than I expected. They are all stainless steel and you have to bend them all correctly and flair them …That all took some time.
“And the chassis — you want to do things right. You only have access to everything when it’s all apart like that, so you want to make sure you do everything the right way.”
Brill doesn’t second-guess his decisions when he’s out for a Sunday drive or showing up at a cruise-in, however. He got the car he was hoping for, and all the expense, planning and countless hours in the shop just make the end result all the sweeter.
“The ’33 Ford, I just love the lines. They have that gradual slope and the ‘33s have a laid-back look to them,” he says. “To me, it’s a piece of art.
“This project took me 5 or 6 years to do. There are always a lot of problems that come up, but in the end this is what I wanted. I had a vision in my mind, and this is the result.”
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