Y'know, I can't help but think that hot rodding had to be easier a few decades ago. Sure, the aftermarket was small or nonexistent, but it was pretty easy to turn an early '30s Ford into a hot rod with a few simple upgrades and the removal of some sheetmetal. Take a look at Larry Roller's gorgeous three-window, which appears to be a stripped-down, stock-bodied '32 with a chop and drilled front axle. The truth is somewhat different. The body was actually found in a creek bed in Arkansas, so you know it took a lot of work to get it not just to this state, but good enough to paint black. And, that's a long way from just unbolting the fenders from a clean stocker and adding a dropped axle and hop-up goodies to the motor.
There was a whole lot more work put into the chassis than just lopping off the horns and painting it black, too. In fact, it's the chassis work that gives this coupe such a great stance. And, while the project was brought to fruition by a number of skilled Oklahoma craftsmen, the chassis work was entrusted to the Rolling Bones crew in Greenfield Center, New York, who bobbed, pinched, and Z'd it before adding Model A crossmembers. A Model A spring keeps the chassis off the Winters quick-change axle, and, yes, Larry does have more than one set of gears for it!
But, why farm out the chassis work to Rolling Bones Hot Rod Shop? "Have you seen their cars? As soon as I first saw Ken Schmidt's rod in 2002, I wanted to build one just like it, so I immediately made the call when I purchased this coupe body," Larry said. "Ken usually won't touch anything but a complete build but agreed to build me a chassis, using a perfect original Deuce frame from his stockpile. I sent 'em the wishbone, axle, and other parts, and they worked their magic, though I had to wait in line until Dennis Varni's sedan was finished." Ken even delivered the rolling frame to Larry's Oklahoma home while on his way to California, and what should also be in the trailer but his roadster. It was January, and 30 degrees outside, but Ken and Larry went to breakfast in the roadster, which was when Larry became hooked on the sound of open exhausts, and indeed you'll find no mufflers on his coupe. In fact, punch "larry roller" into YouTube, and you'll be able to hear it rumble by at our photo shoot.
While Larry's owned more than 50 modified cars, his last rod being Tom Prufer's old red '32, this is the first ground-up build he's undertaken. "I'd grown tired of owning other people's cars; it was time to build my own," was how he put it. Of course, his budget was blown halfway through the project, but he set out to build a driver-and drive it he has, racking up just shy of 5,000 miles last season, including a solo 1,500-mile trip to the Street Rod Nationals, where the coupe took a Pro's Pick award, bug guts, rain spots, an' all!
That trip revealed the shortcomings of the minimal padding in the seat cushions, but it didn't deter Larry. And, while we're on the subject, after an outlandish quote to trim the entire interior in leather, Larry hit on the idea of combining another of his hobbies-namely collecting WWII aircraft parts-with his passion for hot rods, which is why you'll find the seat cushions, floor mats, and rear firewall trimmed in canvas to complement the aircraft cockpit light, fuel shutoffs, and circuit breakers. Oh, and the pice de rsistance: the shifter pistol grip from a P-51 Mustang, the buttons of which now operate the horn and ignition.
Of course, the budget for the interior was blown anyway when Larry sourced a pair of rare stainless steel seats from a Navy F-6 Hellcat, and then had 'em polished. Ah well, the end justifies the means.
And the end it is, at least for Larry, since renowned collector Bruce Meyer had just added this coupe to his collection when we called. Seems the building bug has bitten Larry now, though, as he has plans for a '32 Tudor sedan, but he's keeping the details to himself. If it's anything like this coupe, we can't wait to see it.