When Gordy Peters' '35 Ford roadster won a Pro's Pick trophy at the NSRA Street Rod Nationals last summer, it sent a message to the hot rodding hobby. The message was that sometimes you can accomplish more with some well-done, mild modifications than you can with a lot of radical, over-the-top changes.
Gordy has been into hot rods his whole life and has wanted a '35 roadster since he was a kid. "My dentist drove one," he tells us, "and every time my mother dragged me to the dentist, we'd walk past that car in the parking lot. I loved it."
Many years and many specialty cars later, Gordy was playing golf in Myrtle Beach when he spotted a familiar shape underneath a canvas tarp at a house near the golf course. When the rest of the foursome headed off to the 19th hole for "another round," he went to meet the owner of the covered-up car. As he suspected, it was indeed a '35 roadster--minus the drivetrain, interior, windshield, top, and wheels. The fenders were tossed inside the car and the frame was twisted. Gordy offered the guy cash on the spot, and the owner agreed.
The '35 was transported 1,400 miles to Bloomington, Minnesota, where Gordy spent a year straightening and stiffening the stock 'rails, setting up the chassis, building up a Chevy small-block and Muncie transmission, and getting the plumbing and wiring done. It was a running, driveable car when he sent it 1,200 miles south to Rods & Restos in Centre, Alabama, for metalwork, plating, paint, and finishing. Shop owner Neil Lea and his crew were already working on a '56 Chevy delivery with C5 driveline for Gordy when the roadster showed up. The '56 was moving in a radical direction, but the '35 had to have a mild resto rod theme.
The most radical modification made was the chopped top, handled by Neil and Paul Atkins. The chop improves the look dramatically and emphasizes the original bodylines that Gordy has always loved. Gordy's original vision called for lots of red paint, but ultimately agreed with Neil that the finish should be a color used in 1935. Washington Blue does the job. Paul Atkins stitched up an interior that works perfectly with Neil Lea's exterior.
Neil drove the '35 for several hundred miles to shake out any quirks before sending it back to Minnesota. Gordy has since boosted the mileage a lot since continuing to make the case for mild mods.
'35 Ford Roadster
The 350 small-block that powers Gordy's hot rod originally ran in a '70 Camaro. Randy Quam at Competition Engines machined the block and handled the assembly, loading the cylinders with 10.25:1 KB pistons and Pink rods spun by a Scat crank. Heads, intake manifold, and dual 500-cfm four-barrel carburetors dressed up with Mooneyes valve covers and air cleaner provide visual excitement. Sanderson headers and Dynaflow mufflers manage exhaust chores, and a Walker radiator keeps things cool. A '69 Muncie M22 transmission with a Hays clutch spins a rebalanced junkyard driveshaft, attached to a Ford 9-inch limited slip rearend with 3.50:1 gears.
The original 'rails aren't radically modified, just boxed and reinforced for safety. The split wishbone and Durant mono leaf with a straight axle are old-style front suspension parts. Upgrades include Pete & Jake's shocks, Panhard bar, and master cylinder, as well as SO-CAL Speed Shop Buick drum-style discs, and a Flaming River steering box. The rear rides on POSIES springs and Monroe shocks. Ford drums feature finned covers.
Wheels & Tires
In keeping the overall low-key look, 15x6 and 15x8 Wheel Vintiques steelies got a subtle shot of tan paint, made even more subtle by polished caps and rings. Most subtle of all is the little bit of body color paint on the wheel edges, outside the beauty rings. The 195/75R15 and 235/75R15 wide white radials came from Coker.
Body & Paint
What Henry created was left well enough alone. The crew at Rods & Restos kept the lines and much of the trim intact, making well-planned and executed mods to the original steel body. Neil and Paul Atkins modified the windshield and roofline, chopping 2 3/4 inches from the top and adding glass from Cherokee Glass. Headlight and taillight stands were shortened, and Briz front and rear bumpers were attached with custom brackets to fit the contour of the body. Bradley Holcomb at Rods & Restos did a great job shooting the DuPont paint, mixed to match Ford's Washington Blue.
A custom bench and door panels covered in tan leather upholstery is up to the quality we expect from Paul Atkins in Cullman, Alabama. The stock dash is home to a Haneline speedo and gauges with custom fabricated bezels. The '40 Ford wheel from LeCarra, tilt column, and custom Hurst shifter knob from Bruce Roosa at Kool Knobs have all been painted body color. Chris Lindsay installed the Pioneer stereo system. Even the below-the-dash Flex-a-lite Mojave heater looks old-timey thanks to a little paint and some deco-style trim.