Longtime NorCal rodder and drag racer Rich Guasco has been doing things his way with cars for six decades, and the best part is that, while he has always done what he enjoys, he's also made rodding history at the same time. Rich didn't know that when he first put together his '29 roadster while still in junior high that it would eventually take home the America's Most Beautiful Roadster award in 1961, and also be the beginning of a very successful career in drag racing.
But it all almost came to a premature end during those early days when one speed run and a loose brake pedal made Rich's father demand that he cut the roadster up. What his father didn't know was that after Rich disassembled the '29, he hid all the parts around the family wrecking yard and reassembled the pieces later after the heat cooled off. The hot little Flathead-powered A on '32 'rails found its way from street races to the dragstrip, and Rich was hooked.
While the '29 evolved into a chromed and polished showpiece, Rich also assembled his own Top Fuel dragster. After the Model A took the AMBR title, his front-engine rail took the Most Beautiful Competition Car portion of the AMBR trophy in 1962, making him the only person to ever win both titles.
Even a tragic Top Fuel accident later that year could not stop Rich-as he recuperated in the hospital he designed his historic Pure Hell Fuel Altered, which he campaigned throughout the remainder of the '60s. After setting many records and winning many titles, Rich moved on to his next challenge in the wild world of body flopping Funny Cars. Rich campaigned his own racers under the Pure Hell banner and then moved on as the crew chief for the Blue Max team.
Eventually Rich slowed down (only a little), and after collecting and restoring a fleet of early V-8 Ford cars, he dusted off his '29 roadster and restored it for the 50th anniversary Oakland Roadster Show for a gathering of all past winners.
Since the restoration, Rich has made a number of cross-country treks in his reliable old roadster, but the burning desire to build fresh cars has never left him. In recent years he has put together a stunning '40 Ford coupe and built and raced a replica of his Pure Hell Altered, as well as restoring the original Pure Hell car he still owns. He even took it to the Goodwood Festival in England in 2004 and showed them all what a good ol' American burnout looks like.
After owning a handful of '32 Fords through the years, Rich decided it was time to build one exactly as he wanted for himself. It all got started when his old friend Rich Cave, from Elite Street Rods in Oklahoma City, came across a super clean five-window coupe. The car's sheetmetal was flawless, but the owner of the car really wanted a roadster. A deal was arranged where Rich would swap him a brand-new roadster body for the gennie tin and then the new project was underway.
He needed a way to roll the car around, so Rich ordered up the best of what Elite Street Rods offers in a brand-new chassis. Since he prefers his hot rods sans fenders, a 4-inch stretch was selected for the frame and all the stainless steel pieces, like hairpins and four-links, that Elite makes were added to the list.
In the last 50 years, Rich has built engines for just about every kind of race car you can imagine (most recently assembling and tuning the big Hemi for Goodguys Vice President Marc Meadors' historic "Speed Sport" dragster), but for this ride he picked up a very low-mileage '96 Corvette LT4 engine and mated it to a bullet-proof 4L60E automatic transmission with the intent to put some serious long distance cruising miles on the Bow Tie combo.
With retirement keeping Rich busier than ever, he faced the dilemma of not having enough time to finish building the coupe right away (the first car ever he wouldn't build himself), so he asked his friend Randy Lackey if he could make it happen at his shop, Randy's Hot Rods in Williams, Oregon. Randy was more than willing to take on the task, and the '32 was hauled up the coast and the cutting and welding began.
The first to go under the knife was the mint original '40 Ford dash Rich had saved from the rebuild of his '40 coupe. The dash was trimmed to fit the Deuce and then things got really serious as the virgin body got scalped. Chopping the top was given a lot of thought and the final amount removed was 4 inches in the front and 3 inches from the rear. Since the remainder of the tin was in such good shape, it wasn't long before Randy was laying out the topcoat and bolting on the shiny pieces.
For a rodder who has never slowed down since his first "wide open" pass, we applaud Rich for his never-ending competitive spirit, but also for being a good friend to hot rodders around the world.
1932 Ford Coupe
After having built, driven, and raced just about every imaginable powerplant from full-race Flatties to 1,000hp Hemi's, Rich went with a factory mill for his latest ride. Pulled from a very low-mileage '96 Corvette, the fuel-injected LT4 is backed by a 4L60E automatic and has been fully detailed and paint-matched to the body color.
The fresh platform for the coupe is a brand-new complete chassis by Rich Cave from Elite Street Rods (Oklahoma City). The Deuce 'rails were first stretched 4 inches and then fitted with all new custom crossmembers before all stainless steel components were used front and rear to hang the 5-inch dropped Magnum axle and Halibrand Champ quick change rearend, respectively. Drum brakes are used on all four corners, with '40 Ford backing plates and Buick finned aluminum drums doing the stopping duties up front and a pair of 9-inch Ford units mounted on the rear.
Body & Paint
Is there such a thing as too nice to cut up? If there ever was such a car, Rich's '32 coupe was it. But Rich has always loved to do what other people say you can't, so he had Randy Lackey of Randy's Hot Rods (Williams, OR) lower the lid 4 inches up front and 3 inches in the back before spraying on the DuPont Passionate Purple. The lengthened chassis required an equally lengthened hood from Rootlieb that was also punched with a set of curved '33 Ford-style louvers in the sides. Lighting the way up front is a pair of '32 Ford headlights with a pair of '39 Chevy taillights tucked neatly under the rear corners.
Wheels & Tires
It was one-stop shopping for the wheels and tires when Rich hit Coker Tires up for one of their package deals on polished kidney bean-style wheels and Firestone dirt track rubber. The fronts are a 15-inch combination with a 4-inch-wide rim running a 5.60x15 ribbed tire, while the rears use a 16-inch wheel mounted to a pair of 8.20x16 grooved dirt track tires.
Rich always liked the cockpit combination his roadster sported back in the early days, so he returned to that theme with a full white interior for his coupe. Rick Santana stitched up a traditional hoops 'n' pleats interior in white leather with purple piping and carpeting just like the old days. A restored set of original Ford Deluxe gauges fill the reworked '40 dash. The '40 column is topped by a Juliano's '40-style steering wheel.