Sometimes Plan B turns out to be the way to go.
In the last couple of years, Doug and Florinda Hoppe's '37 Ford has been gobbling up show trophies like they were Cheetos. The prize-winning cabriolet won Outstanding Custom Rod at the World of Wheels, Boyd's Pick at the Goodguys Southwest Nats, a Goodguys Pick in Indy, and several First Place and Best In Show prizes at local shows. However, the car Doug was originally looking for, believe it or not, wasn't a '37 but a '55 Chevy convertible. He'd owned three '55s in his earlier hot rodding days-along with some pretty choice musclecars-and wanted to build a ragtopped version as a way of getting back into the hobby.
After his search for the right raw material for his Chevy project took him down a bunch of dead ends, Doug had to make a decision: continue to look for a decent Shoebox or go to Plan B and build something else he liked. He had always admired '37 Fords for their round lines and smooth curves (which is probably why he likes '55s), so he turned his attention that way. Instead of beginning another long search, he got on the phone to Downs Manufacturing and ordered one of its chassis and a chopped '37 cabrio fiberglass body.
Doug turned the car over to Roger Burman at Lakeside Rods & Rides in Rockwell City, Iowa, for a pro buildup. The vision was to create a distinctive, contemporary-looking street rod. The final touch, and the one which seems to draw the most attention, was a thorough dowsing in Twilight Fire ChromaLusion paint. It was a bold choice for that much sheetmetal, but it turned out great, and the color-shifting finish inspired the '37's nickname: Dusk To Dawn.
Roger Burman had the car done in nine months' time, and the Hoppes started hitting all the big shows-and little ones-in the Heartland, where the '37 was a hit from the get-go.
About two months before the '37 was completed, Doug got a call from Roger who reported, "I'm standing in front of a '55 convertible. Do you want it?" Long story short, Doug has another project underway. In fact, the "pretty well tricked out" Chevy is scheduled to debut at the Goodguys Des Moines show, which means that by time you read this you may have already seen it. Due to an initial bout of bad luck, Doug now has two of his favorite cars in the garage-and will probably soon have a bunch more trophies on the shelf.
Doug & Florinda HoppeSioux Center, Iowa'37 Ford Cabriolet
Drivetrain: The engine compartment is a sea of chrome. The 350 small-block is a Scoggin-Dickey-modified ZZ4 with aluminum heads, rated at 465 hp at 7,000 rpm. Induction comes from an Edelbrock Airgap intake manifold and single 600-cfm carburetor. HPC-coated Block Hugger headers handle the exhaust. Dress-up stuff includes the chrome valve covers from Yogi's and the billet air cleaner. The good-looking small-block is tied to a Lokar-shifted TH350 automatic with a 2,500-stall torque converter.
Chassis: Downs Manufacturing offers a selection of chassis including the Mustang II version with a tubular X-member that forms the platform for Doug's '37. In front, it's MII tubular A-arms and spindles, plus GM 11-inch disc brakes and Monroe shock absorbers. The rear features a '78 Ford 9-inch with 3.73:1 gears, Aldan coilover shocks, and Ford drum brakes.
Wheels & Tires: The overall style of the car called for a combination of plus-size rims and low-profile rubber. The rear fenders are packed with 20x8-inch Boyd Coddington Rodders model billet wheels with Michelin P245/40R20 tires. The front wheels measure 17x7 with P215/45R17 Michelins.
Body & Paint: Doug was happy the workmanship that went into the Downs Manufacturing fiberglass '37 cabriolet body, which features a 2-inch chop. The only body prep work required on the smooth '37 was a little bit of block-sanding and gap-filling once the car got to Roger Burman at Lakeside Rods. Chromed side louvers were added to continue the look of the grille. Doug and Florinda wanted the car finished in a rich shade and liked the idea of using color-shifting paint. They picked ChromaLusion's Twilight Fire, which goes from raspberry to copper. Chris Mernka at Lakeside Rods shot it.
Interior: Just a little bit of the body color continues in the interior, on the handbuilt dash and the steel face of the custom center console. Otherwise, practically everything else is covered in tan Ultraleather. Tracy Weaver at The Recovery Room in Omaha, Nebraska, did the upholstering. The custom bucket seats were built by Interior Supply Corporation. VDO gauges fill the instrument panel. The steering wheel is from the Billet Specialties catalog. The shifter and pedals came from Lokar. Doug added sound system components from Kenwood and Sony.