So you're high-tailing it down the highway toward your family reunion, fearing the wrath of mom if you're late, when your hot rod radar spies a cherry '32 Ford three-window by the roadside. What do you do? Assume it's a mirage and keep on driving? Talk yourself out of it, rationalizing "Who really wants a '32 three-window anyway?" Or flip a quick U-turn to check it out, leaving ma, pa, granny, and several unknown uncles eating cheese and crackers without you?
Jerry Johnson faced that very dilemma as a teenager back in 1952 while driving from Cordele to Fitzgerald, Georgia. Granted, '32 three-windows were in much greater supply back then, but Jerry still knew it was a step up from the '34 sedan he owned at the time. "Even then I recognized the '32 three-window as an ideal body style," Jerry says. Bright kid, wasn't he?
Turns out Jerry was also bright enough to approach his predicament in a way that appeased everyone-he had lunch with his family before rushing back to investigate the Deuce. Then he pulled off the ultimate coup and convinced the seller to trade him straight across for his sedan "I don't know why he swapped with me," Jerry says, "but he did."
What happened next is pure '50s hot rodding. "My best friend Bucky Slade and I immediately stripped the fenders off and removed the hood to expose its 65hp Flathead," Jerry recalls. "I later added two motorcycle-style front fenders and two straight exhausts that stopped under the driver and passenger doors. It was loud but a pleasure for me to listen to as I was driving down the road."
The coupe eventually ended up with dual carbs, Offy heads, and a '34 rearend before being stored on Bucky's farm in 1955 when Jerry went off to college. It was later moved to Jerry's uncle's farm and finally to a storage building on Jerry's property in the '70s. By then the Flathead had disappeared and the body deteriorated, but at least Jerry still had the car.
Like so many dreams that get put on hold, this one stayed squirreled away a lot longer than Jerry had planned. It was 1999 before the coupe again saw the light of day, and by then Jerry had concluded that he might need help in the car's resurrection. So he shipped it out to his son in San Diego, who did a little wrenching before seeking "professional help" from Randy Clark and his crew at Hot Rods & Custom Stuff (HR&CS) in Escondido.
Jerry told Randy that he basically wanted a stock-bodied car that felt at home on the freeway, and the HR&CS crew obliged by setting up a Total Cost Involved IFS chassis with a ZZ4/700-R4 combo. They also rounded up a set of fenders (Jerry says he's still kicking himself for not keeping the originals), re-did the filled top, and added a Rootlieb hood before spraying on the Ford Laser Red finish. Wheel Vintiques Gennie rims, '48 caps, and wide whites lend a proper period look, while a Glide seat, Vintage Air, and ididit column update the driving experience. It's a comfortable blend of old and new.
"I wanted something that would scoot," Jerry says, "and that would stand up to anything on the highway." A 17-year-old could've uttered those words 50 years ago after bringing home a Deuce coupe from a family reunion. Instead, Jerry used them in 2003 to describe his attitude toward the car's recent rebuild. Some things truly never change.