When I first met Tom Branch about seven years ago, he had just restored an old Model A hot rod that had the doors welded shut. Tom didn't know it at the time, but the car had a genuine history and a wealthy collector was willing to make an offer to which Tom couldn't say no. Tom took the offer as a chance to buy himself a '32 roadster.
Tom already knew where a '32 roadster body was, but the owner was reluctant to sell it. The body was in pieces and needed some repair. After some thought and convincing from Tom, the owner finally realized his project would get on the road quicker if he sold the pieces to Tom and bought a 'glass body.
A few months earlier, while still searching for a roadster, Tom and his wife, Diana, found and bought a '32 Tudor from a young hot rodder in El Monte, California. With the purchase of the roadster, the Tudor would be Diana's. Tom now had his hands and garage full of two projects that needed building.
Tom knew he'd have to turn to someone for some help. Fabian Valdez of Vintage Hammer Garage in Yucaipa, California, a very good metal shaper and hot rodder, came to the rescue and helped Tom with straightening out the panels and putting the roadster body together. In the meantime, Tom chased down another '32 frame for a foundation for the roadster. He also got hold of two early Studebaker V-8s, two Chevy five-speed transmissions, and two '57 Chevy rearends. Tom thought it might be smart to build the two cars with nearly the same components.
There are more similarities in the buildups. Both bodies came sans floors, which made it easier to channel them over the frames. Both are chopped, although the roadster was quite a bit easier than the sedan. The Tudor had previously been chopped by an amateur and not done well, so Tom and Fabian had to cut it one more time to get the 4 1/2-inch chop right.
Both Tom's and Diana's hot rods have been driven to plenty of different events on the West Coast. I caught up with them at Bonneville, where Tom was working on a couple of race cars with the boys in the Inmortals club.
How about their son, Thomas-is he going to be a hot rodder too? You bet! He may only be 11 years old, but he has a chopped and channeled '32 five-window waiting in the garage. The car is far from done, but Thomas and Tom have five years to finish it before he gets his license.
Having this many '32 Fords in one family is not only a good monetary investment, but also an even better investment in time spent together building these homebuilt beauties.