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.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1932 Ford coupe
Starting with a cherry original chassis, the Rolling Bones team removed the framehorns, Z'd the rear to bring it down so the rear tires perfectly filled the wheelwells, and pinched the 'rails just ahead of the firewall to tuck 'em behind the grille shell, before adding Model A crossmembers-all subtle stuff that gives the coupe its unmistakable stance. The drilled I-beam is an original Model B item, with '46 Ford spindles, Wilson Welding brakes with Lincoln drums, Houdaille shocks, and a POSIES spring completing the frontend specifics. The Hot Rod Garage supplied the pedal assembly, hooking up to a Mustang dual master cylinder with no power assist. The lack of power also features in the steering, with a cowl-mounted Schroeder Sprint Car 'box taking care of business, which is hung from some great drilled I-beam mounts.
Asked about his choice of motor, Larry told us, "If you didn't have a 327 and four-speed back in the day, you weren't anyone." Well, they weren't his exact words, but it means the same thing. He built up the motor to look like a 327/350-horse clone, all decked out in Chevy Orange like a Vette motor, but received such a ribbing from fellow HAMB members about its '60s appearance that he re-detailed it in Ford Flathead Green using a Powermaster alternator and cloth-wrapped HT leads. The last motor built by Carbone Racing in Tulsa before the owner's death, it runs a COMP cam, double-hump heads, TRW pistons, and sounds just fine, thank you, through that open exhaust system. A Hays flywheel and hydraulically operated 11-inch clutch hook the motor to a Richmond T10 four-speed, before transmitting the power back to a Winters quick-change. "I wanted a quick-change," Larry told us, "but didn't want to be breaking those old parts, so I opted for the Winters with custom Dutchman axles." Pete & Jake's ladder bars locate the axle, with a Model A spring taking care of the bumps.
Wheels & Tires
Early Ford rims and 'caps suit this coupe perfectly, with '40 Ford 16x4s wrapped in 4.50 rubber up front and 7.50-clad F-100 16x5s out back. The blackwall tire, black rim, and black body choice look way better than any other combo could in this instance.
Body & Paint
Skalnik Hot Rods out of Skiatook, Oklahoma, laid on the PPG Vivid Black and clearcoat, but not before tackling a little bodywork. The body was found on its side in a creek, so there was the small job of repairing some damage before filling the roof insert hole or the 5-inch chop with leaned-back A-pillars could be tackled. This called for replacing the driver-side half of the roof and a section of the left fenderwell. Original Ford sections were sourced on eBay, meaning the car is still all Ford-well, with the exception of the Brookville floor and dash. For a creek find, it was in remarkably good condition. Guide 682-C headlights and '37 Ford taillights illuminate all four corners, while all the exposed steel inside the car and in the trunk was painted in speckled trunk paint to complement the military aviation theme.
The Zero Bomb Company from Sand Springs wired the coupe, which features no fuses but employs aircraft circuit breakers instead. There are all sorts of cool aircraft switches used throughout the interior, all of which serve a purpose but don't necessarily do what they're labeled to do. For instance, there are no bomb bay doors, but there's a switch for 'em! Scott's Auto Trim in Tulsa took care of the canvas-trimmed rear firewall, seat cushions, and pop-off floor mats. The drilled and nickel-plated pedals (there's no chrome on the car at all, just tarnished nickel plate) are bell-flanged just like the seat risers, tying in nicely with the drilled three-spoke steering wheel and underdash bracketry for the steering box, while Stewart Warner Wings gauges in a Knecht/Mariner insert look great with the column-mounted tach.