We kind of feel like we watched these sister '32 Fords grow up right before our eyes. We remember seeing them when they were just getting started at Hollywood Hot Rods in Burbank, California. Maybe you do too. We gave you a glimpse of these roadsters in previous R&C tech stories on the custom-fabricated radiator hoses and on the black car's unique knockoff hubs.
You may also have seen them on television, when the buildup was filmed for the "Rides" TV program. It was the "Rides" crew that gave Jon Riddle's black and blue highboys their nicknames, Big Sister and Little Sister, making them the sexiest set of TV siblings since "Petticoat Junction."
Thanks to the "Rides" show, the '32s were celebrities even before their first public appearance at the 2005 Grand National Roadster Show (where they finished third and fourth in their class). Since then, they have been covering ground and making appearances at big West Coast car shows. They've been driven to the Hot Rod Reunion, the Run to the Sun, the Primer Nationals, Goodguys Del Mar, twice to the March Meet, and returned to the GNRS in 2006 (where the black roadster took a class award). With only some rare exceptions, Big Sister and Little Sister have always arrived under their own power, typically with Jon behind the wheel of one of the cars and builder Troy Ladd from Hollywood Hot Rods behind the wheel of the other.
The success of these two cars is the result of a hot rodding collaboration between Jon and Troy, a collaboration that began around the buildup of a musclecar. After building a '67 GTO for Jon, Troy helped gather ideas for a '40 Ford project car. The search led them to the March Meet in Bakersfield. As they watched the nostalgia drag racing, Jon got hooked on the looks of the traditional roadsters running down the strip.
Troy had been pushing Jon to build a traditional hot rod based around a vintage-looking 400ci stroker Pontiac mill, like the one powering his GTO. As it turned out, Jon just happened to have a second Poncho stroker at home in his garage, waiting for a worthy engine compartment to fill. The day after they got back to Burbank, Jon was on the phone to Troy asking him to start getting parts together. "Let's build a roadster," he said.
Work had just begun on the roadster that would become known as Big Sister, when Jon asked Troy to build a second '32 highboy for a friend. When the friend decided to back out of the project, Jon took ownership of that second roadster and Troy continued to build both hot rods as fraternal twins.
At first glance, the similarities are obvious. So are the differences. Both roadsters are built on SO-CAL Speed Shop Deuce 'rails, sealed with powdercoating, and sanded, blocked, and finished with paint. Both bodies are all steel from Brookville, modified only slightly for the DuVal windshields and other details, such as additional sheetmetal fabricated to fill the gaps around the fuel tanks fit between the framerails. Both engines-the black car's Pontiac and the blue car's mostly stock Chevy small-block-run Tri-power setups. In addition to the engines and wheels, Rick Maes' paint jobs provide the third obvious distinction between black Big Sister and blue Little Sister.
"The blue roadster is the hop-in-and-don't-worry-about-it car," says Troy. "It's comfortable and quiet and friendly. You could drive it around the world and nothing would break. The black car is a little meaner, a little more on the edge. That 500hp Pontiac engine is pretty burly."
When the five-month buildup on both cars was almost complete, they were trailered out to the dry lake at El Mirage for some aggressive test-driving. It was the first run for both roadsters, and the first time firing the Chevy-powered blue car, which had plug wires installed at the lake. It's been an almost nonstop test-drive ever since. Despite all the awards and attention the sibling roadsters have received, success hasn't spoiled these famous sister '32s, and Jon intends to continue driving both of them every chance he gets.
Rod & Custom Feature CarJon Riddle Burbank, CaliforniaBig Sister '32 Ford Roadster
DrivetrainBig Sister is powered by a Pontiac 400 engine, well souped-up by builder Bob Lambeck. The bored and stroked Poncho mill now displaces 467 ci, and runs Edelbrock aluminum cylinder heads under Offenhauser valve covers. Induction is provided by a Rochester Tri-power system with progressive linkage on a one-off custom cast aluminum manifold. Troy Ladd at Hollywood Hot Rods built the lakes-style headers leading into mandrel-bent polished stainless exhaust pipes. The combination makes 500 hp and 560 lb-ft of torque. Not bad for a lightweight rod. Art Carr at California Performance Transmission provided the Turbo 200-4R automatic transmission, operated via custom cable linkage by the '40 Ford column shifter. The aluminum Ford 9-inch runs 3.73 gears and Positraction.
ChassisSO-CAL Speed Shop reproduced the '32 framerails under the roadsters. Custom crossmembers and motor mounts were fabricated at Hollywood Hot Rods to handle the Pontiac. The front axle was drilled and chromed and a cross-steer setup was built using an aluminum Vega box. The ride is smoothed out by Pete & Jake's shocks at all corners, with chromed transverse leaves in the front and '40 Ford springs in the back. Front brakes are SO-CAL Buick-style hidden discs with drilled aluminum backing plates from HHR. Drums were added to the rear.
Wheels & TiresBig Sister looks dressed up for a night under the lights at the local dirt oval track thanks to custom-machined one-piece knockoff hubs that set off the 16x5 1/2 and 16x6 PS Engineering rims wrapped in 5.00x16 and 7.50x16 rubber.
Body & PaintCalifornia Roadsters in Paso Robles provided both Brookville roadster bodies. Once at Hollywood Hot Rods, the windshield beads were removed and DuVal windshields were added to each roadster. Troy recessed the Pontiac taillights into the sheetmetal, and dropped the fuel tanks between the 'rails. He used sheetmetal filler pieces from Steve's Auto Restorations to fill in the open corners around the tanks, and left seams in place to maintain a factory-like appearance. The headlights are stainless King Bee-style lamps. Both roadsters were sent to Santini Paint & Body (Westminster, California), where Rick Maes shot the PPG black basecoat and clear on Big Sister.
InteriorEddie Martinez's upholstery work has been showing up in these pages for decades, which is one of the reasons why he was commissioned to work on Riddle's pair of Deuces. Mark Lopez at Elegance Auto Interiors also had a large role in the interior work. On the black car, the custom bench was covered in beige leather, which continues onto the side panels and into the trunk. The beige carpet is German square weave. The '40 Ford dash and gauges are original parts, with the instruments restored by Redline Gauge Works. The black and beige '40 wheel is from Juliano's, paired with a '40-style column.
Rod & Custom Feature CarJon Riddle Burbank, CaliforniaLittle Sister '32 Ford Roadster
DrivetrainLittle Sister is the less muscular of the siblings, which actually gives it an advantage when it comes to long-term reliability and drivability. This is the mellow cruiser in the family, running a stock displacement Chevy 350 with aluminum Edelbrock heads with finned Edelbrock signature valve covers. The Tri-power Rochester carbs feed into an aluminum intake. Patriot lakes-style headers match the appearance of the exhaust on the black Deuce. The automatic transmission is a 700-R4 built by Art Carr, and shifted by a Lokar stick. This rearend is also a 9-inch with Posi and 3.73 gears.
ChassisThere is a bit less show-car finish underneath Jon's blue Deuce, but many of the components are the same as on the black car: SO-CAL frame, Pete & Jake's shocks, drilled chrome axle, SO-CAL discs and rear drums, and transverse front and rear springs. The frames of both cars were powdercoated and painted, but this car may be more likely to be driven long distances, and less likely to get parked over mirrors.
Wheels & TiresFirestone blackwall bias-ply tires-5.50x16 front and 7.20x16 rear-are perfect for the postwar look of the blue roadster. Five- and 6-inch steelies from Wheel Vintique are painted cream to match the firewall and the interior, and brightened with center caps.
Body & PaintThe story is the same on Little Sister, except it was squirted with PPG Washington Blue.
InteriorIvory leather with contrasting blue piping covers the seat in Little Sister. The German square weave carpet is a darker gray tone. Pedals, brake, and shifter are Lokar parts. Redline modified the faces of the Stewart Warners Wings gauges with screen-printed Hollywood Hot Rods logos. The machined gauge panel from Knecht Equipment looks great in the center of the dash. The four-spoke wheel is right out of the old days, via the Budnik catalog.