When it comes to building painstakingly perfect, trophy-winning street rods, Craig Townsend couldn't care less. "I didn't want my car to be perfect or look like a show car," he told us. "I wanted it to look like most of them really did in the '50s-half finished, all your money in the engine, take off those big stock headlights, and the paint and interior have to wait."
Craig's perception on the '50s comes from having lived through them. He bought his first car, a full custom '41 Merc, in 1953 when he was a teenager. Five years later, he picked up a '32 sedan for $500, and stuffed it with a '57 Olds J2 engine with an Engle cam and six carburetors. He drove that car until 1961, when he got drafted.
Several decades and a bunch of cars later, Craig wanted to get back into a Deuce sedan. He bought the best rust-free car he could find, a real '32 still with the original engine, mechanical brakes, wire wheels, and fender spare. "I saved it from the restorers," he says.
Craig took a slight departure from the '50s with the chassis, a TCI unit with an independent frontend assembled by Ron Bolton from Lake Elsinore, California. The Flathead was replaced with a 392 Hemi from a '57 Chrysler, stroked 1/2 inch to move 450 ci. After a couple years and a cross-country tour, Craig's son-in-law Kevin Cox went through the whole car, replacing the wiring, adding springs, and building a shroud for the custom fan setup. He added 2 1/2 inches to the brake pedal to compensate for the setback of the firewall. When the car was finally done to Craig's satisfaction, a friend suggested stainless buttonhead bolts...so everything was taken apart and redone with new fasteners.
Although he's not into the car show scene, Craig likes driving the sedan as often as he can. He's had it to Muroc and Bonneville and has participated in a couple of Americruise tours, which is how we met him.
There is still work to be done, particularly inside the car, but for the time being, Craig is keeping it the way it is. "Some of my friends don't understand why I haven't finished this car. This is what was important to me: the perfect body, the right rake, and the Hemi engine. The rest will have to wait."