The "lakes or dirt track?" debate concerning the origin of hot rod "nose art" could be compared to the eternal "chicken or the egg?" question. While an aerodynamic, wind-cheating, custom handformed nose makes total sense on a hot rod running for top speed on the lakebed, the same sleek and delicate nose doesn't make the same sense on a rough-and-tumble dirt track racer. So was it the lakes or the dirt oval that first saw use of the traditional "track nose"? We may never completely answer that question, but it's undeniable that one of the best ever track noses was worn by the Pierson Brothers' historic lakes racing coupe.
Dale Renner personally blurs the legend of the hot rod nose himself, as he used both his own influence as a former Sprint Car racer along with a deep fondness for the aforementioned Pierson Brothers' famous proboscis in the buildup of his '33 Ford roadster. Starting with the battered remains of a heavily modified dirt track jalopy racer, Dale bravely met the challenge head on. It helped greatly that Dale was also an accomplished rod builder and had, for many years, owned and operated his own body shop.
After getting over the initial shock of the actual body condition, Dale began the process of putting the roadster back on the right "track" with an owner-fabricated frame made from 2x2-inch steel square tubing. Following the lines of the body, the graceful frame was stretched to give the roadster an additional 2 inches of wheelbase. Dale created the look of a bellypan by cutting 8-inch tubing in quarters and added the pieces to the bottom edge of the frame. A Magnum 4-inch dropped I-beam mounts up front with the help of a spring from Eaton Detroit and a pair of split and chromed '37 Ford wishbones. A pair of Wilwood calipers handles braking duties and Granada rotors expertly hidden behind a pair of chromed '40 Ford backing plates and homemade scoops.
Under the rear is decidedly more vintage with an original Halibrand quick-change centersection mounted between a pair of '36 axle housings attached to '36 wishbones. Brakes out back are a pair of '40 Ford hydraulics mounted on each side of an Eaton Detroit Model A-style spring.
While just about any mill would fit in the engine compartment of his '33, only one would fit the bill for Dale, and that could only be a healthy Ford Flathead. Starting with a rebuildable '53 Ford block and 4-inch Mercury crank, Dale left the engine rebuilding chores to John's Automotive Machine. The JAM team used all fresh internal parts from Motor City Flathead and sealed it up with a pair of Offenhauser heads and a matching 3x2 intake mounted with a trio of rebuilt 97 carbs from Jerry Jobe. Behind the retro rev-maker is a Ford Top Loader manual trans fitted with a Jeep top-shifter conversion mated to a '36 Ford stick.
The body that got the whole project started almost ended it when the true condition of the ex-jalopy was fully realized. At one point the doors had been mercilessly welded shut with a gas welder as well as the many scars left from battle on dirt ovals. Lucky for this worn veteran, Dale's many years of owing his own body shop would mean he could not only save the sheetmetal, but his skills could in fact make the roadster a thing of incredible beauty. With the doors opened back up, the jambs were repaired with pieces from a sedan and then a clever 3 inches was removed from the total length of the body right behind the doors. This shortening of the body would allow for a lengthening of the nose without giving the car a stretched appearance. A reproduction hood from Rootlieb bridges the gap between the owner-build nose and the massaged '33 body. After the final nips and tweaks, like the owner-built hood splash panels and a 3 1/2-inch extended rear panel below the decklid, many coats of DuPont black paint were laid down by Dale. The scallops were sprayed in a rich red hue originally found in the Rolls Royce chip book. Finishing off the exterior and making it that much more unique is an owner-built one-off windshield frame and a set of 16-inch steelies, modified to use a set of '33 Ford hubcaps.
To match the black brilliance of the exterior, Tracy Weaver from The Recovery Room stitched up the pleated black vinyl that covers the fabricated seat and frames the widened Brookville '32 dash that's been fitted with Classic Instruments and hangs a '40 Ford-style steering wheel. The balance of the interior was decidedly kept very simple with no unnecessary creature comforts because Dale feels the sound of the roaring Flathead and the lack of a top are all the tunes and climate control he needs. Track nose or lake nose? The answer may never be known, but Dale Renner's "nose job" was definitely a huge success.
Dale RennerNorfolk, Nebraska1933 Ford Roadster
ChassisKnowing that he wanted the chassis to flow with the body lines of his '33 Ford, Dale crafted his own 'rails from 2x2 steel tubing to match the lower body line. Stretched an additional 2 inches to a 114-inch wheelbase, the sweeping chassis was also rolled along the bottom edge to create the look of a full bellypan. Mounted under the nose is a chromed Magnum 4-inch drop I-beam axle fitted with Chassis Engineering spindles and steering arms that connect directly to a rebuilt Vega steering box. Owner ingenuity put together a set of front brakes with a set of discs hidden behind a pair of '40 Ford backing plates to match original units on the rear. A '36 Ford rearend fitted with a Halibrand centersection has been upgraded as well with a Chrysler posi unit fitted by the Hot Rod Works.
DrivetrainInspired by roaring track roadsters of the past, Dale could only be happy with a Ford Flathead pulling the way in his '33. John's Automotive Machine in Norfolk, Nebraska, handled rebuilding chores using a full supply of pieces from Motor City Flathead. With the internals taken care of, an Offenhauser intake and heads dress up the exterior of the Flattie, along with a trio of rebuilt Stromberg 97 carbs and a pair of Fenton cast-iron headers. Mated to the '53 engine is a Ford Top Loader transmission that has been converted to appear as an early Ford trans with a combination of Jeep and '36 Ford shifter components. An auxiliary radiator was tucked up under the tail, along with a trio of electric fans, to keep the Flathead cool.
Wheels & TiresAs unique as the car is, the wheels are even more unique. Starting with a set of 16-inch (4 1/2- and 6-inch-wide) Ford repro steelies from Wheel Vintique, Denny had a set of centers formed and welded into the wheels so a set of '33 Ford caps could be mounted. With plans to really drive the roadster, Dale opted for a set of Firestone radials in 185/60R16 and 275/70R16 sizes.
Body & PaintIt's nearly impossible to believe that the body was once the remains of a badly battered jalopy racer when looking at the '33 roadster today in all its perfection. Dale put a good portion of the 12 years he spent building his hot rod into the massaging of the body and the building of the graceful track nose (actually the second one built for the car). Besides ironing out the lumps and bumps, Dale also shortened the body 3 inches behind the doors and extended the panel below the decklid another 3 1/2 inches. After filling the cowl vent and building a one-off windshield frame, Denny sprayed the smooth all-steel body with DuPont black paint and then laid out a set of scallops and filled them in with a coating of Rolls Royce red paint. Headlamps are a pair of Dietz units fitted with a pair of customized aftermarket motorcycle turn signals mounted in custom housings, and on the opposite end a pair of LED lit '39 Ford-style taillamps keep other motorists informed.
InteriorThe interior is reminiscent of his early Sprint Cars containing only what is absolutely necessary for the cars end purpose-in this case, cruising the open highway. Tracy Weaver at the Recover Room in Plattsmouth, Nebraska, stitched up the simple and attractive black vinyl interior. A Brookville '32 Ford dash was fitted with a set of gauges from Classic Instruments.