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Pretty in Purple

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Bob Stern’s 1931 Ford Model A is just about the prettiest car on the block. Boasting a chameleon purple hue, the once-forgotten hot rod now takes front and center at parades, car shows and downtown city streets. Even Stern can’t suppress his admiration for the car’s distinctly unique color. “It’s a pretty good eye-looker,” he says. “The color is Chrome-Illusion paint that changes from red to blue to purple depending on how the light hits it.” Stern isn’t the truck’s only admirer: It’s won more than 15 trophies in rebuild competitions. Prompted by a dream long shared with his son Dave—to have a street rod—Stern, owner of Bob’s Country Body Shop in Storm Lake, Iowa, bought the rusty old bucket in 1998 after a friend in town scrapped plans to restore it.


The award-winning purplish hue gracing the car was introduced to Stern by his shop’s DuPont representative. The fancy color didn’t come cheap. “When it came out, it was $60 an ounce,” Stern says. He loved the incredible color but not the incredible price, so DuPont offered to pick up part of the tab if Stern helped introduce the color to the public. Introduce he did. Before long, the Model A was taking top honors for “Best Paint” on the auto show circuit.

The innards of this mobile are impressive, too. As part of the restoration process, Stern installed a new transmission, front-end axle, drag train, and 350 horsepower Chevy engine with programmable fuel injections. Like the paint, these additions didn’t come cheap: Stern spent tens of thousands of dollars fixing the car. “It cost [more than 30] thousand dollars between parts and paint,” he says. The only cheap part? “The labor,” Stern jokes, “was free.”


Working long into the evening, Stern spent painstaking hours fixing the car up just right. “It was really hard, timewise,” he says. “The hours varied, but typically I would spend three to four nights a week [working on the car] for three to four hours a night.” Eventually, the long days caught up to him. “There were a few times [my son and I] had to let it sit for awhile,” Stern says. “It was so time consuming; we needed to take a break.” But as they steadily continued their efforts, they picked up momentum again, inspired by the car’s emerging elegance.

The time commitment wasn’t the only drag; the process became more complicated when Stern encountered things he didn’t know how to do—like installing a Heidt front-end axle. A few instruction books and a shopping trip later, however, and Stern was back on track.
The dazzling Model A made her debut in the town’s Fourth of July parade in 1999. Complete with a rumble seat, the ’31 Ford rolled her way through the city, basking in thumbs up and open admiration. For Stern, this was the truest reward: driving the product of his heard-earned work in the parade.

Of course, the trophies didn’t hurt either. “At our first car show, we took first in our division and won Best Paint,” Stern says, boasting—rightfully so—just a little. “That really made it worthwhile.”

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