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."
Tustin Ranch, California
'32 Ford Sedan
Drivetrain: Craig wanted a '50s-era engine that would wake up the sedan. Reath Automotive in Signal Hill, California, built the stroked '57 392 Hemi, running Ross 10:1 forged pistons, Engle cam, and dual Edelbrock 600-cfm carbs. The Hemi is fired by a Vertex magneto and cooled by a Walker radiator and the stock fan plus two 5-inch electric fans. Headers are from Sanderson. Ron at Transmission Masters in Santa Ana, California, built the 727 Torqueflite transmission.
Chassis: The Tudor body rides on powdercoated rails from TCI Engineering, assembled and finished by Ron Bolton. The independent front suspension includes Aldan coilover shocks. The Ford 9-inch rearend houses 3.01:1 gears.
Wheels & Tires: The old-timey skinny tires on painted wire rims with center caps were more resto rod than hot rod and were replaced with period-perfect 15-inch Halibrand Sprints with three-wing knock-offs. BFGoodrich Radial T/A tires are P235/70R15s in back and P195/60R15s in the front.
Body & Paint: Craig bypassed most of the bodywork and paint by purchasing an original steel Tudor body in near-perfect condition, complete with stock bumpers and taillights. The maroon and black paint was on the car when he bought it, and Craig hasn't had to redo it. He added a Vintique billet aluminum LED third brake light and '50s-style Arrow aftermarket headlights on a headlight bar dropped by Pete Eastwood. Window glass came from Street Rod Glass in Riverside, California.
Interior: The interior is a work in progress and out-and-out hot rod, featuring '95 Pontiac Trans Am bucket seats done in tan leather and rear seats and door panels finished in vintage mohair. The aluminum center console was fabricated by Ron Bolton, who also built the custom dash and insert filled with VDO instruments. Air vents channel cool air from a Vintage Air A/C system. An Auto Meter Pro-Comp Memory Tach is mounted on the steering column behind the three-spoke Sprint Car-style steering wheel.