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
Rod & Custom Feature CarMichael BunchMorristown, Tennessee'32 Ford roadster
DrivetrainIf you expected the engine to look as good as the rest of the car, your expectations would be met by a 425-horse, crate 383 Chevy dressed up with polished heads and matching custom Moon valve covers and air cleaner. A Barry Grant SixShooter triple-deuce setup handles the induction, and exhaust flows through Sanderson headers and Flowmaster mufflers. Lines are braided steel. The automatic is a TH350 with a B&M trans cooler and 3,000-rpm stall converter. A polished Currie 9-inch loaded with 3.50:1 gears completes the package.
ChassisThe chassis started with a reproduction '32 frame from Alloway's Hot Rod Shop. Pete & Jake's supplied the front shocks and springs along with the four-bar and Super Bell tube axle and spindles. A Mullins billet Vega box controls the steering. The front brakes are a Functional Fakes' setup consisting of Wilwood calipers and rotors inside Buick-style drums. Drums were retained in the rear, with Aldan shocks and springs.
Wheels & TiresThe big 'n' little tire and wheel combo is just enough to give Mike's Deuce the proper proportions and a perfect rake. The rear fenders are filled with P255/60R17 Goodyear Eagle bias-ply blackwalls on 17x9.5 Billet Specialties Legacy series five-spokes with three-wing spinners. The look is mirrored in the front with P185/60R15 Eagles on 15x6 rims.
Body & PaintMike Rutter, Greg Whitehead, Bobby Johnson, and Jeff Cross from Rutterz Rodz spent a lot of time working on the brand-new Dearborn Deuce convertible body to make sure all panels were straight and smooth and that all gaps were a uniform 3/16-inch. Steel fenders were cut apart and re-assembled for a perfect fit with the wheel arches in the correct position. The Rootlieb four-piece hood, splash apron, and framehorn covers were also modified to fit. The Moon tank is mounted in front of a one-off billet grille created by Jim Rench. The custom top header bows were modified to create the correct proportion between the windshield and top. The black finish is from DuPont's Hot Hues line, shot by Mike Rutter. Stan Tipton's beltline graphics picks up the look of original woodgrain.
InteriorPaul Atkins upholstered the custom-built bench and door panels with deep tan leather. The interior combines components from various cars and decades, including the '56 Chevy steering wheel (shrunk 1 inch at Quality Restorations), a '33 Dodge instrument cluster with gauges rejuvenated by Classic Instruments, and an early '30s Chevy heater box, which now houses the controls and vents for Vintage Air A/C and heat. Clay Cook made knobs to match the steering wheel center. The pedals are Lokar parts, along with the shifter with a custom knob from Quality Restorations.