You can't talk about the history of hot rodding without sliding over to the topic of World War II fighter planes. The guys who lit the fuse for the hot rod explosion in the late '40s were, in many cases, returning vets. Some of them came home to cars they'd left behind when they shipped overseas; others got their first taste of high performance during the war working on, or flying, P-51 Mustangs, F6F Hellcats, P-40 Warhawks, and other hot rods of the sky.
Don Bunch has always had a taste for old planes as well as for old cars, and got his son Mike hooked on hot rods at an early age by taking him to local shows, and, as Mike puts it today, "raising me in a '32 Ford." Mike still remembers their father-and-son trip across the country to the L.A. Roadsters Show in Pomona, California, in the late '80s.
"I decided then and there that one day I would build my dream car-obviously a '32-and take it to that show."
"One day" began in 2005, when Mike talked to Mike Rutter, owner of Rutterz Rodz in Bristol, Tennessee, about building the hot rod that he'd been thinking about for so long. For Rutter, the project was a perfect fit for his taste and talent. He told us, "We wanted to build a correct-looking '32 Ford that would concentrate on the styling characteristics that the owner was looking for, incorporating some modern conveniences in a car with a look that would withstand time."
The finished car features all top-shelf components, starting with a Dearborn Deuce convertible body with added steel fenders mounted on a '32 frame from Alloway's Hot Rod Shop in Louisville, Tennessee. The mill is an out-of-the-box 383 small-block with three twos, polished and dressed up and rated at 425 horses. Paul Atkins in Cullman, Alabama, designed and fabricated the custom interior. Inside and out, it's got the edgy attitude of a traditional rod along with the artful elegance of a vintage classic.
Mike nicknamed the car Warhawk, after the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, one of the toughest fighter planes of World War II, and the name choice pays tribute to his father's interest in aircraft. Clay Cook created some cool Warhawk medallions for the grille shell, seatback, and speedometer face. The state of Tennessee provided the appropriate plate.
Warhawk was finished 11 days before the 2006 L.A. Roadsters Show, leaving Mike just enough time to get the car to Pomona to carry out the decision he had made almost 20 years earlier. A month later, it was a Rod & Custom Top 10 pick at Goodguys in Indy, and a Street Rod of the Year finalist in Columbus. These photos were shot in its home state, hours after it won the Nashville Nationals award for exactly what it is: One Fine Deuce