Ron Hartwell has been a lifelong car enthusiast. He bought his first car in 1953 when he was 13 years old-a drivable '37 Ford two-door that cost him a whopping $15. He immediately discarded the fenders and running boards, aiming for the proper hot rod look. That was the first in a long line of cool rides, a line approximately 45 vehicles long. When marriage, children, and career reorganized his priorities, hot rodding was relegated to the back burner. Now that he has retired and relocated from Massachusetts to Florida, he's back into it.
This '32 Ford roadster is Ron's current car, but one that has been on his mind since 1960. It began when he saw a beautifully channeled Deuce roadster, painted a distinctive shade of purple. That car was owned by Fred Steel, one of the founding members of the Ty Rods Club in Massachusetts. It was love at first sight for Ron and the object of his dreams ever since. After arriving in Florida, he acquired a '32 Ford sedan and decided to use the chassis as the basis for his own project car, ordering an all-steel roadster body from Brookville. Longley Restorations in DeLand, Florida, handled the assembly process, and Chuck and Mike Longley began by reinforcing the '32 frame. The Longleys channeled the body 9 inches over the frame, while Ron took on some of the chassis, engine, and transmission upgrades.
With the custom side panels removed, it's easy to see the nicely detailed 260ci '51 Mercury Flathead V-8, equipped with Hymax 9:1 pistons, Isky cam, a traditional set of twin Strombergs, and Fenton headers connected to straight pipes. A U.S. Radiator and electric fan keep temperatures in the green.
Big steering wheels were the power steering option in the Fifties. Ron sourced this one from a '51 Dodge. What looks like a three-on-the-tree shifter is really the selector for the C4 automatic transmission. The twin pedals continue the illusion, but both pedals now operate the brakes. The N.O.S. 1950 Hollywood gauge cluster from Stewart-Warner keeps track of all the underhood activities.
The upholstered and carpeted trunk accommodates a traditional fuel tank and battery, with plenty of room left over for a picnic basket or a cooler. Who says hot rods can't be functional?!
It's the exterior, however, that really captures your attention. The car maintains a level stance-a look that Ron remembers from the Fifties. Ron plans to keep the open-fender look for the time being but has located a set of Packard side-mount tire covers that may be adapted into a set of cycle fenders all around.
The entire process took 18 months. When it was done, Ron was thrilled with the results. The roadster is now on the road, and Ron is actively engaged in working out any bugs. Future plans call for enjoying the car thoroughly-a process that will be doubly sweet since the roadster that has been in his mind for more than 46 years has finally become reality. Ron and his wife, Sammie, are planning to travel with the car, hooking it up behind their motorhome for trips to events on the Southeast car show circuit.