"I was 10 years old and I found myself chasing a channeled '32 roadster down a gravel road in Boulder, Colorado, pedaling my bike as hard as I could. I never did catch it but have been in hot pursuit of '32s ever since."
Bill O'Rourke's words perfectly capture both the inspiration for his Deuce roadster and the impetus behind his Elgin, Illinois-based chassis and hot rod business, The Roadster Shop. It was a simple chance encounter, but that rural road adventure stuck in young Bill's mind, sparking a passion for cars that has led to a lifetime in rodding. Much of that time has been spent grinning behind the wheel of this very roadster.
Bill's journey with the car began in the early '80s, when he bought a Gibbon fiberglass body and "built it to '75 standards." The beam-axle roadster may not have been cutting edge in the high-tech '80s (it was red, though), but it served Bill well for two decades and more than 50,000 miles, shuttling him through 20 states en route to countless rod runs. It also helped launch The Roadster Shop in 1982 and has served as a calling card ever since.
By the turn of the century Bill felt the roadster could use a rebuild, or to put it in his own direct vernacular, it was time to fix "all the stuff I didn't know how to do the first time." A ground-up effort ensued. "It would have been better to start with all new parts," Bill admits, "but I wanted it to be the same car." Hey, this guy's more sentimental than you'd think.
Nailing the perfect stance-"that Thom Taylor look"-was Bill's primary objective, one accomplished using a new Roadster Shop frame with a flat front crossmember, mono-leaf spring, and dropped I-beam, along with a raised crossmember, C-notch, and triangulated four-link in back. Big 'n' little Torq-Thrusts wrapped in appropriately sized radials help enhance the effect. The roadster is still powered by the same small-block Chevy originally built by Larry Teter, but a fresh Erson cam, Dart heads, and Holley carb atop an Edelbrock intake give it new life. Another new addition-a T5 five-speed-makes it even more fun to drive. "It's probably the biggest single improvement," Bill says.
The vintage Gibbon body has aged well and looks more like Henry's tin thanks to the addition of a functional steel cowl vent. The Roadster Shop's Steve Vaughn sprayed it with a fresh coat of DuPont Guards Red, covering the Rootlieb hood and Wescott grille shell while he was at it. The Roadster Shop crew is also responsible for building and upholstering the custom seat that allows Bill's 6-foot, 3-inch frame to fit behind the chopped windshield and under the Sid Chavers Bop Top. That's a pretty significant feat in its own right.
The roadster's first buildup took just 92 days. Nine months were spent on the refined rebuild. Did he get it right this time? "The pictures tell the story," Bill says. "The car is now what I was looking for all along. It's like a dream come true." Sounds to us like you can stop pedaling now, Bill.
Bill O'RourkeElgin, Illinois'32 Ford Roadster
Drivetrain: Local engine builder Larry Teter assembled the '73 350 originally; The Roadster Shop's Craig Pfluger freshened it up using an Erson cam, Dart heads, an Edelbrock intake, and a Holley 750-cfm double-pumper. Sanderson headers exhale hydrocarbons via Stainless Specialties mufflers and a custom exhaust built by Doug Leetzow at the The Roadster Shop. A Hays clutch links the small-block to a Borg-Warner T5 transmission controlled by a custom shifter.
Chassis: Frames are a specialty at The Roadster Shop, so O'Rourke and his crew whipped together a new, pavement-hugging foundation using the company's boxed and C-notched rails and a tubular X-member. The flat front crossmember is pushed forward 2 inches, and the rear crossmember is raised a like amount. Rear suspension consists of a triangulated four-link with All-American coilovers. Up front, a mono-leaf spring, So-Cal hairpins, and Pete & Jake's shocks connect to a roadster's original Vintage Chassis I-beam (you may be more familiar with the Chassis Engineering name) that's now drilled and plated. A Deuce Factory sway bar and Mullins steering column attached to a Vega box are also part of the program. Functional Fakes disc brakes bring the front end to a halt, with stock drums attached to a 4.11:1-geared Ford 9-inch out back.
Wheels & Tires: Just like Deuce roadsters, American Torq-Thrusts never go out of style. The roadster wears 15x4- and 17x9.5-inch versions, with Kleber 145/SR15 and BFGoodrich 275/60R17 radials.
Body & Paint: The '81-vintage Gibbon body still looks great. It's fully reinforced with steel tubing and now wears an original Ford cowl vent. A Wescott grille shell with a Dale's insert leads the way up front, followed by a Rootlieb hood with a Dan Fink hinge system. The windshield and posts are chopped 3 inches. Around back, custom body corners surround the Rock Valley fuel tank, while a frenched license plate mounts above it. Lights are Arrow and '39 Ford, the former mounted on a modified '32 Ford headlight bar. The Roadster Shop's Steve Vaughn sprayed the DuPont Centari finish. Color is Porsche Guards Red.
Interior: The Roadster Shop's Craig Pfluger helped craft a custom seat to accommodate Bill's lanky frame, covering it and the rest of the soft parts with tan leather. Bill built the Auburn-style instrument panel way back in 1981; it's still filled with Steward-Warner dials. A Mullins column and wheel complete the Spartan cockpit. The trunk, like the cabin, wears tan leather and square-weave carpet.