In the race to build "something different," it's interesting how many rodders end up in the same place. Consider the '37 Ford. Building one 20 years ago set you apart from the crowd. Building one 10 years ago made you just another follower of the '37 fad that swept through street rodding in the '90s. It seems the quest for something different led everyone to this former ugly duckling.
Consequently, many rodders reached '37 burnout, including this Club Cabriolet's previous owner. He lost interest and put the partially finished rod project up for sale. Dick Long was fortunate enough to come along at the right time to snatch it up.
For Dick, choosing the car had nothing to do with its being trendy. He didn't want to make a statement by building a '37; he wanted to make a statement by how he built a '37. His goal was to reinterpret the car's design-to exaggerate and enhance its lines while retaining the distinctive '37 flavor. With help from his friend and employee John Chamberlin, as well as metalman Bruce Terry, Dick devised a design plan, and construction soon commenced. Eventually the car made its way to Creative Concepts in Santa Rosa, California, where much of the construction and all of the painting and assembly took place.
The finished product reflects Dick's initial objective-a longer, lower, sleeker '37. The angular profile was achieved by stretching the car's nose 5 inches, wedge-sectioning the body (3.5 inches in front, tapering to 1.5 inches in the rear), and reshaping or custom-crafting just about everything else. The windshield and convertible top are actually much-modified Chrysler LeBaron items. Many of the finishing touches are hand-crafted, scratch-built parts, including the bumpers (which are chrome-plated bronze castings) and the one-off grille built with help from Carlson Sculpture Designs. The stunning finish consists of DuPont black contrasted with House of Kolor True Blue Pearl.
It's not just a pretty skin, either. The rest of this drop-top is equally dazzling. You'll find Kugel stainless independent suspensions and Budnik wheels on both ends of the custom chassis and a highly detailed LS1 under the hood. If you really want to be blown away, just pop the doors and step inside the cockpit. There you'll discover yards of supple, saddle-colored, Sid Chavers-stitched leather accented by, of all things, wood. That's right, wood. Mike Cooper (you might remember his Tubester pickup) designed and crafted the dash and console using Fiddleback Maple and African Wenge lumber, adding yet another unique element to this custom-crafted cruiser.
Following a last-minute thrash to completion, the car debuted at this year's Grand National Roadster Show, where Creative Concepts was Builder of the Year. Then the Ford went on to win the Dick Bertolucci Award at the Sacramento Autorama and the Silver Cup at the Seattle Roadster Show. Such recognition lends credence to the notion that Dick's cabriolet is far more than just a "me too" '37 Ford smoothie. Rather, it's a hand-crafted design exercise showcasing outstanding craftsmanship and attention to detail. And there's nothing trendy about that.
Dick & Cindy Long
'37 Ford Club Cabriolet
Chassis: Built by John Chamberlin at Dick's Rod Shop (which is basically the garage behind Dick Long's house), the frame is based on modified SAC rails with a custom X-member, relocated front crossmember, and raised rear crossmember. Stainless Kugel independent suspensions are found both fore and aft, fitted with Wilwood (front) and Corvette-style (rear) disc brakes. Everything is detailed with enough shiny paint and polished stainless to blind roadkill.
Wheels & Tires: The cabriolet rolls on 16x7- and 17x9.5-inch Budnik Gassers. The dished rears are one-offs. The BFG rubber specs out at 225/50ZR16 in front and 255/50ZR17 out back.
Drivetrain: The '98 Chevy LS1 and 4L60E transmission were disassembled for detailing, then reassembled by Jim Foley in Reno, Nevada. Both are internally stock, but the engine sports a Lingenfelter intake and custom aluminum coil pack and air filter covers by Creative Concepts. Reworked stock manifolds and a custom stainless exhaust expel gases. Driveline Service of Santa Rosa built the chrome driveshaft. Gilley at Custom Made Hoses (Ft. Worth, TX) crafted the stainless heat and A/C lines, while Michael Schultz at Modern Machine gets thanks for a lot of custom machine work and one-off parts.
Body & Paint: Bruce Terry did the initial metalwork before the car went to Creative Concepts for more metalwork, refinement, paint, and assembly. The nose is stretched 5 inches, and the body is channeled and wedge-sectioned (3.5 inches front, 1.5 inches rear). The doors are handbuilt, the front fenders and running boards reshaped, and the entire rear deck area re-formed. The convertible top and windshield are modified Chrysler LeBaron parts. Carlson Sculpture Designs helped craft the custom grille. The custom bumpers (with integral taillights in back) were cast in bronze, then plated. The black DuPont and House of Kolor True Blue Pearl two-tone is divided with a red pinstripe by Eric Sedletzky. All plating is by Sherm's Custom Plating and Santa Rosa Plating.
Interior: You can't miss the elaborate sculpted dash by Mike Cooper, built with Fiddleback Maple and African Wenge woods. It houses Classic Instruments gauges, Vintage Air climate controls, an Alpine stereo, and a Budnik wheel atop a Mullins steering column. The crew at the Sid Chavers Company (Santa Clara, CA) gets kudos for the saddle-colored leather upholstery, which covers Cerullo buckets and a custom rear seat.