A pretty unlikely car drew a crowd all weekend long at this year's National Roadster Show. Though a '32 Ford, its sedan delivery body wasn't typical show-car fare. In fact, dressed in black and shod in brown artillery wheels, it was pretty sober looking. A resto-rod at heart, it led one to wonder if anything had been done to it. It just looked so ... simple.
Simple appearing, yes; however, two words on the placard indicated this was no simple car: George Poteet. If you're not really familiar with George, this much you should know about him: He's sort of a patron of the hot rod arts. He has this habit of choosing builders-often up-and-comers-based on their
specialties, working up an outline with them, and then leaving them alone to build the best possible example based on that outline. For this particular car, he chose Dave Lane, as in Fast Lane Rod Shop in Donahue, Indiana.
This isn't the duo's first collaboration. Already on the rise by the time he and George met nearly a decade ago, Dave is quick to point out that he owes a good deal of his favorable press to some of the cars upon which he and George collaborated.
One car Dave built for George about half a dozen years ago is particularly relevant to this sedan delivery. Like the delivery, it's a Deuce, it's black, and, above and beyond the fact that Dave removed its fenders, the car looks so incredibly simple. There was nothing necessarily groundbreaking about the Kelsey Hayes wheels, '40 dash, or yellow-and-white gut, but you just couldn't help but look at it. The five-window coupe appeared in our Jan. '04 issue.
"George had some really good ideas to start with," Dave began. Among them, "We put roadster quarters on that." As he pointed out, five-window quarters look almost like a Model A's, since they're flat around the fender. On a roadster, however, they flare out to meet the fender. "It's such a pretty thing," Dave mused.
In itself, there's nothing...
In itself, there's nothing exceptional about a Chevy Orange engine with tin valve covers, but there is when it's in a car of this caliber. Aside from manifolds, a whole bunch of detailing, and a few internal parts, this large-journal 327 looks as if it met this car the day it came out of its donor. In an era of whiz-bang stuff, stock pieces like old Packard 440 ignition wires, cloth loom, and ordinary 2G carburetors are refreshing.
"With that car, it was all about really subtle modifications-nothing a guy could tell," he continued. "There are guys who owned five-windows that couldn't figure out why their cars and George's car looked so different. They'd look at it and go, 'Well, mine isn't chopped either, so why does that one look
that way?' And, they never caught on that it was chopped just shy of an inch. The hood was pie-cut just a little bit, too-about 3/8-inch. That's the stuff I like to do; I like changing stuff to where the guy can't tell, but it just makes the car look better."
Now, stop right here and ponder that last sentence. Let it sink in. Dave proves he's willing to walk a mile just to trick your eye. Which brings us back to this stock-looking delivery. If you're starting to get the idea there's more to it than meets the eye, we've got some news for you: You don't know the half of it, Jack.
Though Dave committed to crafting...
Though Dave committed to crafting every interior panel to reflect the pickup door panels' pressed-rib patterns, there was one problem: "I didn't even have a bead roller when I started building the car," Dave admitted. And, although he bought one, he made his own flared-hole dies to dimple the screw holes. Rather than one firewall, this has two with insulation sandwiched between them. The clutch and brake pedal arms look convincingly Ford-like but are actually Pete & Jake's. "I just took a grinder to 'em until they got some nice shape," Dave revealed. The entire floor is steel, but Dave recessed it just enough so thepyramid-patterned rubber matting sits flush with the floor edges.
Delivering the Perfect Deuce
As Dave tells it, George doesn't so much present ideas as much as initiate bench-racing sessions. "We were walking around the basement in Detroit (Autorama) just throwing ideas around," Dave said. "We both like commercial vehicles, so we started talking about a sedan delivery. You can do something with those that hasn't been done before."
Yeah, no kidding you can forge new ground with a Deuce delivery; with merely 400 examples produced in 1932, it is by far the rarest car in a model year already exceptional just for the fact that it lasted only one season. In dreaming up something different, Dave and George basically hatched a plan that figuratively cut against the grain of the street rod philosophy: Instead of making a truck more car-like as everybody else does, they talked about making a car more truck-like. "A real commercial theme, you know?" Dave beckoned. Drawing on various influences like Jim "Jake" Jacobs' brown Model A panel, "We started talking about bare floors and rubber floor mats instead of carpet," Dave said. "You know, cargo areas that actually work, and so on. It's just trying to take a really basic vehicle and spit-shining it. Just shine everything up real nice, but don't throw a bunch of stuff at it."
But, there's something that differentiates bench-racing sessions with George Poteet: Whereas most of us bench race just to fulfill wishes that our pocketbooks can't grant us, "Bench-racing sessions with George often end up with a running car," Dave observed. "So, eventually he turns to me and said, 'Why don't you give (artist) Eric Brockmeyer a call and work out some drawings that we can bounce around a little bit?'"
The '32 Chrysler gauge panel...
The '32 Chrysler gauge panel is oval like the Deuce's original panel, "but I had to open (the dash) up quite a bit because it's quite a bit bigger," Dave noted. To be specific, it's 3 inches wider and about half that taller, and Dave removed the dash bottom, quartered the cluster hole, and reassembled the hole around the panel with fillers to make the larger panel fit. Classic Instruments fabricated the gauges themselves to resemble the Chrysler's.
The Kindest Cuts
"We started thinking about proportions, and a lot of commercial-type vehicles had shorter doors and a longer body for storage," Dave indicated. "So, we just thought, why don't we take that idea and build it into this body? After all, this is the way Ford should've done it." But, Dave didn't lengthen the entire car to achieve the more commercial profile. Instead, "I moved the B-pillar forward.
"I pasted a picture of the body in my photo program and started shortening the door just a little bit-about an inch and a half," he revealed. "Any more, and the door started looking a little too short; any less, and you couldn't really see the change. I wanted to lean on it just enough that you wouldn't quite know it, but if you were to stand back, the body would look just a little bit more commercial."
While Dave could've just lengthened the quarters, shortened the doors, and called it a day, that would've been too easy-not to mention too predictable. Following the commercial path forged earlier, he took a slightly different track. "If you've ever noticed a regular pickup's or panel's doors, they have this steel inner panel with this really cool triangular access hole and rib pattern," he noted.
"There were no inside door panels to those sedan doors when we got 'em, so I just found a set of pickup doors and cut 'em apart." He's being modest, but you'll have to see the construction photos to know why (check them out at www.rodandcustommagazine.com).
Kelly Page crafted the hard...
Kelly Page crafted the hard maple for this cargo area with furniture-grade joinery. Instead of cladding it in hardboard as Ford did, Dave created steel filler panels that fit behind the maple boards. The slatted roof hangs from the original top bows, and stainless strips sunk into rabbets in the floor prevent cargo from directly contacting the wood.
Since the floors and kick panels were intended to be left bare, they had to look somewhat like the doors. That meant two things: extensive ribbing for strength and dimpling for screw garnishes. "There are actually two firewalls in the car, but with insulation between them," Dave enthused. "I insulated everything with Dynamat, then put the two together. It's just made to look like you're seeing just a plain old firewall from the inside or the outside."
Because this is a work truck, Dave said he and George thought the interior should be as stripped-down as possible. "Other than the seats and the rubber mats, we both thought there should've been a little wood in there to protect the steel, and then the rest would be just steel," he surmised. "That was kind of the philosophy of it all."
Believe us or not, but this delivery-this ultra-subtle, traditional-looking resto-rod-is a billet wagon. That's right; under the modest brown paint, there's enough CNC-whittled metal to have made Lil' John Buttera beam with delight. "George sent me a wheel that was spoked like that and asked if we could have a set of wheels made," Dave recalled. "It just so happened that a friend of mine who owns a machine shop always wanted to make a set of wheels." Though two different diameters-16- and 18-inch-the wheels are actually proportional throughout their entire shape.
To make the real Ford fenders match the new wheels' diameters and position, much less match each other, Dave divorced the edges from each fender, reshaped the edges, and reunited them. Whereas the deliveries got the passenger-car grille, Dave replaced it with a pickup grille to emphasize the car's more utilitarian side. Aside from protruding into the grille opening to mimic the dam behind the passenger-car insert, its sides feature hammerformed inserts and panels that finish the gap between it and the framehorns.
When Hot Rod Works built this...
When Hot Rod Works built this axle around a Winters quick-change center, it swapped the bearing carriers in the early Ford bells for ones of the company's own design. Even though they accommodate stronger plug-in axles, they do it without sacrificing the early Ford backing-plate pattern-hence the '41 Lincoln-style, self-energizing brakes from Wilson Welding. Since the '35-36 radius rods no longer meet at the torque tube as they did on a closed-driveline car, Dave split and linked them to the center crossmember with tie-rod ends.
Not your average car; not your average builder.
Just as George Poteet's sedan delivery is an unlikely candidate for an indoor car show, Dave Lane isn't your average builder. In fact, like the car, he's rather modest. "Believe me, two weeks before the Grand National Roadster Show, I kept thinking we shouldn't even go," he confessed. "I just wanted to fit in. I just didn't want people asking, 'What are you guys doing here?'
"But, then this guy came over and grabbed my hand and shook it just as hard as you could imagine and said, 'I'm Tom Prufer, and that's the prettiest f----- '32 I've ever seen,'" Dave effused. "It just blew me away; I could've packed and gone home.
"This car was built because George and I just love the concept behind it, and, honestly, it was built for him and me," Dave emphasized. "But, when someone like Pete Eastwood or Jim (Jake) Jacobs or (Roy) Brizio-people I truly hold in the highest regard-come over and say something nice ... wow.
"When I got home, I just thanked George for the opportunity to do this car, and he said, 'No trophy can replace the respect of the people you've always respected. When they say something nice about it, you know you've done good.'"