-ADVERTISEMENT-

Larry Strawn’s 800-hp Diesel Creation

A locomotive, Model A, and diesel drag car all rolled all into one, Larry Strawn’s ’31 Ford Model A is like nothing else out there. Nicknamed “The Fodge,” the Model A had innocent enough beginnings when Larry purchased it way back in 1970. “When I first bought it, we basically restored it to stock,” noted Larry. “It was fun to drive, and people liked it, but eventually it got in the way around the shop,” Larry continued. With a busy logging business, the Ford was moved outside, where it sat for another 25 years.

“A locomotive, Model A, and diesel drag car all rolled all into one”

“We eventually started thinking we should do something with the Model A for when I retired,” said Larry. The first idea was to hot-rod it with a traditional small block, but as Larry pointed out “..there’s about a million of those.” A second idea centered around making it a four-wheel drive, with big-block Chevy power providing the grunt. After a bit of searching, Larry found a well-used ’97 Dodge. “I knew then, I had my big-block torque and four-wheel drive all in one package,” he stated.

The Swap

The first stage of the build centered around swapping the Ford body onto the Dodge frame. “Most of the work was done by myself or my employees, especially Frank Harder, who was a big help,” said Larry. To get the dimensions right, 32 inches was chopped from the Dodge frame, giving the ride a match to the Model A wheelbase. The entire drivetrain was retained, with the engine, transmission, transfer case, and front and rear axles all surviving the changeover. Without much wiring to do, the 12-valve diesel was fired up, and slightly modified with basic upgrades. “We were only at about 300 hp, but I attended the 1/16th of a mile parking lot drags at Hot August Nights in Reno, Nevada,” recalled Larry. “With the 4×4 launch we could beat nearly everyone, even cars that were a lot faster in the quarter mile…I was hooked,” said Larry.

“With 10-second timeslips and crowds of people following it, Larry has already hinted that a “Fodge 2” is in the works”

Faster and Faster

As Larry started drag racing his newly built Fodge in his hometown of Redding, California, the itch to go even faster became unbearable. For relief, he started talking to Jefferson State Diesel, which agreed to help him turn his mild engine into a monster. The Cummins engine was completely rebuilt, with all the goodies, including head studs, a set of compound turbos, and a heavily modified injection pump. The drivetrain was also beefed up, as a Jefferson State-built manual valvebody Dodge transmission was fitted with a Spec-Rite triple-disc converter and 29-spline output shaft for ultimate strength. The final step was revising the rear suspension, with a switch from a four-link to a Hot Rods to Hell truck-arm setup, which worked wonders.

“With the 4×4 launch we could beat nearly everyone, even cars that were a lot faster in the quarter mile…I was hooked,” –Larry Strawn

Larry has constantly experimented with numerous sets of injectors, compound turbos, and strengthening the big Cummins. Before long, Larry stepped up to compete in the NHRDA’s 11.90 index class, and he finished in Second Place in his very first race in Bakersfield California. After a number of wins, Larry moved up again in 2015 to the 10.90 index, where he could run the 700-rwhp Fodge all-out. Larry’s also a regular in the burnout contests, where his crowd-favorite Model A has shredded tires to the delight of thousands of spectators.

The compound turbo setup on the Fodge pushes more than 85psi of boost, thanks to a 63mm/71mm/14cm^2 small turbo, and a forged-milled wheel 82mm/74mm/1.10 A/R large charger. A BD Diesel exhaust manifold mounts the small turbo, and the rest of the piping was constructed by Jefferson State Diesel.

On top of the trick powerplant is a Keating Machine valve cover that has been powdercoated and engraved, as a thank you to Jefferson State for all its hard work.

After the Fodge made an impressive 707 horsepower with a hopped-up Northeast Diesel 12mm pump (pictured), a 13mm version was installed (also from Northeast) the bumped up the power to an impressive 802 with no other changes. The 5,000-rpm capable pump was also only set at 550cc (out of 900cc) so plenty more is left on the table. Injectors are 175hp versions from Mass Flo Engineering, which are fed through 0.093 lines from Haisley Machine.

After years of work, car shows, dragstrip outings, and a 25-0 record at the last Hot August Nights drags, the Fodge has now become quite a name, and has been all over YouTube, Facebook, and in various magazines. “I’m really happy with how it turned out,” said Larry. “I think we’re about finished with this one.” With 10-second timeslips and crowds of people following it, Larry has already hinted that a “Fodge 2” is in the works. “You guys better be ready with the cameras,” smiled Larry, “The next one’s going to be even wilder.”

-ADVERTISEMENT-

Keeping the injection pump full of diesel is imperative, so a FASS fuel system was mounted under the body on the frame-rail. Since upgrading to the 13mm injection pump, Larry reported he will either have to upgrade to a larger version, or add a second pump.

Rod’s Radiators was a big help in getting the cooling and intercooler situation figured out in the constraints of the Model A grille. “They found us a radiator and intercooler, and we did the final piping,” stated Larry.

The interior of the Fodge is quite comfortable, and features a full back seat. Safety is also important though, so Hot Rods to Hell built a roll bar for the car, that was later converted to a full roll cage.

The rear suspension is a unique truck-arm design incorporating coil-over shocks that was built by Hot Rods to Hell. Especially with a short wheelbase, bouncing was a problem, but the truck-arm suspension lifts at the center of the vehicle, planting the rear tires cleanly. It must work, because Larry has cut 1.56-second 60-foot times!

The grille and radiator are also genuine Model A pieces, as are the lights and many of the emblems. Even after all the years, they’re still in very good shape, and add a certain amount of history to the build.

A 7 1/2 gallon spun aluminum fuel tank in the rear is street rod fare, and is filled with diesel instead of gasoline.

Larry had some Platinum Silver leftover from painting another truck, so he combined that with Hot Rod Black to create the paint job. Mike Strawhecker laid down the paint and custom flames with Larry’s help.

The many faces of the Fodge

We’ve known Larry for a while; ever since he showed up at Jefferson State’s event a few years ago. Since then, we’ve seen the Fodge with about 4 different wheel and tire combinations; that range from 38-inch Boggers to M&H slicks. Since installing the slicks, Larry has lowered the Model A, but it’s still been fun to see it at multiple events with completely different looks. From off-road driving to dragstrip launches, the Fodge can just about do it all.