It's like we're living in a real-time repeat of history. A lot of the rodders who were building '40s- and early-'50s-style cars ten years ago are now getting into '60s-style rods. For anybody out there heading in that direction, look over here. Mike Griffith's jet-black Deuce coupe is a dead-on example of what early-'60s iron looks like.
Maybe you remember reading about Mike in the November '03 issue of R&C, when we took a tour of his backyard, which we called "the land of old-time tin." The guy is one of the most avid collectors of early-style '32 Fords, parts, and pieces, and this full-fendered coupe may be one of the best in his corral.
"The most amazing thing about this car," Mike revealed, "is that it was built more than 40 years ago. This is not a restoration of an old hot rod but an extremely well-preserved original hot rod." From the hopped-up nailhead to the button-tuck Naugahyde and the intact black enamel, every corner of the car looks like it was just recently finished, but with the exception of the steel wheels and a few microscopic details, it hasn't been touched since 1963.
By examining the many trophies, car show programs, and old photos that came with the car, Mike discovered that the '32 was originally built by Carl Praml, a member of the Torquers Car Club in Minneapolis. After a lot of phone-calling, Mike eventually reached Nora Praml, Carl's widow, and John Parnell, a long-time friend, who both gave him lots of history on the '60s-perfect coupe.
Praml started building the car in 1959, with help from Parnell. The project took two years and $7,000 to finish. When it was done, Carl (and soon Carl and Nora) drove it on the street and to various car shows, where it frequently won prizes (the trophies Mike would inherit four decades down the road) for Best Interior, Best Engine, and Best in Show.
In 1968, Carl Praml sold the car. During all the years it bounced from owner to owner and state to state, it miraculously never departed from its original rodded state. Now that the coupe is at Mike Griffith's we know it will be maintained in this condition. "As current owner," Mike assured us, "my goal is to preserve the integrity of the car and not make any changes to this beautiful piece of hot rod history."
Mike GriffithLa Canada, California'32 Ford Coupe
Drivetrain: The 322ci '56 Buick nailhead has not been torn apart since 1961, when it was built by Carl Praml and John Parnell using 10:1 high-dome pistons and an Isky hydraulic cam. Six Stromberg 97s are bolted to a Cragar log manifold. The headers were added in 1964 by Bob Wellings at American Hoist (where the Torquers had club meetings and did their wrenching). The '37 Buick three-speed transmission was rebuilt six years ago by Jack Heier.
Chassis: The original Deuce chassis has been kept mostly stock. Praml did some partial boxing on the rails and added a dropped front axle and '42-48 spindles, plus Ford juice brakes and steering from an International truck. The rearend is '32 Ford with 3.78:1 gears.
Wheels & Tires: The 15-inch steelies and wide whites are the only big departure from photos from 1963. Back then, '55 Chrysler Imperial wheels filled the fenders. When Mike bought the coupe, it was rolling on contemporary-style rubber and rims, which had to go. He mounted 8.20x15 and 5.60x15 Firestones on 15x5 and 15x6 steel wheels with caps and rings, painted '58 Chrysler Imperial Bimini Blue to match the firewall, engine block, and inside hood.
Body & Paint: The body was left uncut with trim pieces intact. In 1962, the all-original body was stripped to bare metal and treated to minor work by Praml and John Parnell. Roger Goss from St. Paul shot the black enamel in the same year. It still looks great.
Interior: Benny Store from St. Paul went crazy with the black and turquoise button-tuck Naugahyde, covering the door panels, headliner, and his own handbuilt bucket seats. The dash was slightly modified and equipped with '41 Buick instruments, which remain in excellent working condition. The steering wheel is from an International truck.