In the wide and wonderful world of hot rods, the story behind the trio of '32 Ford roadsters presented in this story has the option of being viewed as either extremely diverse (in the case of the owners and builders) or incredibly similar (by the materials, parts, color, and style selected). Starting with the people, each of these cars began in the mind of its unique and individual owner long before the first bolt was ever turned. The look of each of these cars originated decades ago at the dawn of hot rodding, and photographic examples of this period can be found in the pages of Don Montgomery's hot rod history books-themselves the blueprints for multiple generations who were not there to witness and feel the excitement of WWII-era hot rodding. Those were the days that had begun in the mid-1930s with a handful of eager speed chasers pushing the limits in their stripped-down machines, and by the closing of the Second World War, legends were already being made of names like Edelbrock, Iskenderian, Navarro, Spencer, and Xydias.
It's difficult to think that the original pioneers had any idea just how deep their influence would run in the world of hot rodding, but thankfully they were there to set the gears in motion, and they never looked back to question the process. As for the parts and pieces that make up these three cars, it's a similar mixture of original and reproduction 1932 Ford, and the selection of these parts will be further detailed in the following stories. Each of the cars was inspired separately, but the trio came together at the So-Cal Speed Shop, and Rod & Custom was lucky enough to be there as the interesting trilogy unfolded.
While it would be romantic to think that each of the three '32 roadsters presented in this story were survivors from the early days, the truth is that each has much more modern roots-this one beginning with a desire for a quick economic return for builder Rudy Rodriguez. In recent years Rudy has been known for his own innovative designs and building techniques, but for this project he looked back to the simple days of rodding when speed was the focus and removing a few parts from an otherwise stock '32 Ford was all that was needed for an added thrill.
Starting with a gennie '32 Ford rolling chassis, Rudy began putting together his own personal vision of the perfect 1940s lakes runner. He worked hard gathering and recycling as many original '32 bits as possible, but the one piece that is common to each of the cars featured in this tome is a reproduction body from Brookville Roadster. Sometimes viewed as a concession to authenticity and "period correctness," the use of these fine representations of one of Ford's finest creations has become an acceptable step in the process of "traditionalism." Once all the parts were gathered, Rudy set forth to bring back each assembly (from the largest to the smallest) to better than factory condition-while still not losing the original flavor of the Ford pieces. The parts went together just as they had decades before for the hot rod pioneers. Every detail down to the beautiful black paint, interior, original-style cloth-covered wiring, and correct hardware were well planned by Rudy, and once he completed his marathon build he took the car to the annual Father's Day Roadster Show in Pomona and tempted fate with a "For Sale" sign in the windshield.
It didn't take long for one serious collector named Billy Gibbons (yeah, the bearded one from Texas that picks a mean guitar) to notice the car that had a constant crowd of admirers, and he made it clear he had finally found the perfect '32 roadster he'd always longed for. A deal was made and Billy took the car over to his good friend Pete Chapouris' So-Cal Speed Shop for a few additions. Although the car was nearly perfect, Billy wanted two things added: a hood and a top; both of those items were constructed in true period form, with the shape of the top coming from another historic '32 highboy, the McGee/Scritchfield roadster. Now that all the alterations have been made, the only thing left for Billy to do is find enough time in his busy schedule to enjoy the music of the sweet-sounding Flathead engine.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Billy F. Gibbons
1932 Ford Roadster
The underpinnings of Billy's ride started with an original unmolested chassis that was given a full complement of '40s-era hot rod upgrades by builder Rudy Rodriguez. Up front, the original '32 Ford "heavy" axle was drilled and '40 Ford spindles and brakes added before the entire frontend was chromed. Tube shocks limit the bounce as a '32 steering box guides the car. Under the rear hangs a gennie '32 banjo rearend upgraded with '40 juice brakes and '32 lever shocks. All the original chassis components were massaged to perfection before being sprayed a glossy black.
The '39 Ford 221ci Flathead is shifted through a top loader trans and dressed up with a pair of polished Sharp heads and a Thickstun PM-7 intake that runs a pair of Jerry Jobe-prepped Holley 94 carburetors. A pair of Red's headers route the spent gasses through a dual exhaust system by Cannon's Muffler service.
Wheels & Tires
Rolling stock choices are limited on a '40s-style "period perfect" '32 Ford hot rod, and one of the best of those choices will always be the classic 16-inch Ford steelies wrapped in big and little Firestone rubber. This set of '40 Ford rims mounts a set of 5.50 and 7.50 Firestone Deluxe Champions. A rare set of '40 Mercury hubcaps add the finishing touch.
Body & Paint
Starting with a fresh '32 roadster body assembled by Eric Hansen from pieces supplied by Brookville Roadsters, Rudy and his friend Dale Evans took it a step further and massaged every body line and reveal to more closely match the lines of an original Ford body. Additional parts like the grille shell, firewall, and gas tank are original '32 pieces. Once they were satisfied with their untold hours of bodywork, Robert Lomas laid down the multiple coats of Centari "Pitch Black" acrylic enamel.
Keeping with the early days of rodding vibe, not much has been altered interiorwise from what you would have found in a brand-new '32 Ford roadster. Other than the steering wheel (a '39 Ford banjo), the passenger compartment of Mr. Gibbons' roadster takes you right back to the Depression era of the 1930s with a completely original dash, gauges, steering column, and drop with original ignition lock. Original-style brown leather was stitched up by Carol Knap in Whittier, California, and factory-style cloth-wrapped wiring was installed by Kevin Quesenberry.
The next chapter in this trilogy revolves around a man who is no stranger to '32 Ford ownership: Texas native Jim Jard. Starting with a longtime love of the Vic Edelbrock Sr. roadster, Jim went to his friends, the Kennedy Brothers, for another well-planned hot rod build. To get the project started the Kennedys dialed up their neighbor Jimmy Shine over at the So-Cal Speed Shop and had him get started on a one-off chassis with a few of his signature tricks added in for good measure. The key to obtaining the look made famous by Edelbrock's original dry lake scorcher would be the stance that can be attributed to the undropped original '32 Ford front axle and the tall and narrow bias ply tires on all four corners. Jimmy mounted a '57 Chevy 283 backed by a six-speed trans into the step-boxed So-Cal chassis and followed that combo with a reliable 9-inch Ford rear held in place by a pair of '36 Ford rear wishbones.
With the underpinnings squared away, The Bomb Factory (the Kennedy boys' shop in Pomona) took over and mounted a Brookville body behind an original '32 Ford grille shell and hood. The Kennedys would also handle the spraying of the black PPG paint before handing the nearly completed time machine over to Gabe's Auto Upholstery to wrap it up with some classic vintage Oxblood threads to complement the cockpit, which includes a '32 Ford three-window dash.
As with all the Kennedy/Jard collaborations, the paint was hardly even dry before Jim made his way into town and without hesitation filled the fuel tank, pointed the roadster toward Houston, and headed home to enjoy the '32 to the fullest- and add it to his ever-growing collection of fine automobiles.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1932 Ford Roadster
The build for Jim Jard's car began in the hands of Jimmy Shine at the So-Cal Speed Shop, who began by jigging up a So-Cal chassis and adding the pieces he felt necessary for a cool vintage-style hot rod. A So-Cal step-boxed '32 Ford perimeter frame made a great sturdy start, but Jimmy personalized it by adding an original '32 Ford rear crossmember that he also modified to use a '36 Ford transverse rear spring in conjunction with '36 Ford wishbones to mount a 9-inch Ford rearend. Up front, a selection of '32 Ford suspension pieces includes an undropped "heavy" front axle, wishbone and perch pins mated to a pair of Lincoln front brakes, and Houdaille lever shocks, all steered by an original '32 Ford steering box.
An original '57 Chevy 283ci is topped by a factory dual quad WCFB setup that was the height of cool back when Jim could only dream about such hot rods in high school. Spent gasses exit out through a pair of Speedway Motors "rams horn" exhaust manifolds. Mated up to the vintage muscle is a six-speed Tremec gearbox from a much more recent Corvette.
Wheels & Tires
Digging way back into the archives of hot rod history, Jim duplicated the wheel and tire combination worn by Vic Edelbrock's roadster back in the early days before WWII. This setup consists of a set of '35 Ford wire wheels dressed in a set of NOS Lion's wheel covers (used for a solid wheel look before they were readily available from the factory and aftermarket) and wrapped in a set of Firestone 6.00x16 and 7.50x16 blackwall tires. It should be noted that the very early hot rods had a unique look due to their undropped front axles and larger diameter front tires. It was not until a few years later, during WWII, that hot rods would take on their classic "big & little" raked look with the use of smaller front tires and dropped front axles.
Body & Paint
The bodywork was kept simple in the form of a totally stock '32 roadster from Brookville and an original grille shell, hood, and fuel tank that were all massaged and treated to a deep coat of gloss black paint by the Kennedy Brothers. Guide headlights on cut-down ends of a '32 light bar illuminate the front while a pair of classic '39 teardrops signals drivers in the rear.
Inside Jim's roadster, the same theme of the pioneer days of hot rodding was followed with minimal changes, like the addition of a '32 three-window dash, a '39 Ford Deluxe Banjo steering wheel, and Oxblood threads stitched up by Gabe's in a factory-style pattern. No other creature comforts or modern conveniences would be acceptable in this retro ride.
Wrapping up the handsome trio (of cars-opinion on owners is up to you) is Jim Kipp's equally black and timeless '32 roadster sans the unnecessary fenders. Before this project was started Kipp found his inspiration in the paintings of automotive artist Tom Fritz and again in the pages of Don Montgomery's priceless reference books. With books in hand Kipp went to visit Pete Chapouris and showed him the marked pages of the cars that really fired him up. Pete further refined the game plan by showing Kipp what the "correct" finishes were for a WWII-era roadster based on available materials and the shortage of chrome and other rare commodities of that time, and also schooled him on the proper wheel/tire packages that nail that desired window of hot rodding.
Kipp left most of the detail decisions up to the So-Cal Speed crew headed up by project father Pelle Forsberg and shop foreman Ryan Reed, but one element he knew was mandatory was a healthy Flathead built by the legend of the lakes and drag strip, Art Chrisman. Beginning with a 276ci French Flathead, Art massaged the mill and fitted it with all the best speed parts and dressed it up on the exterior with go-fast parts from Edelbrock.
Many of the same names cross over onto all three of the featured cars, and again the name Gabe's Auto Upholstery pops up as responsible for the stitching in Jim Kipp's '32. Once the car was complete, Kipp would not elect to keep it stored away in some weather-and germ-free environment, instead driving his black beauty any chance he could get, and he even came full circle by inspiring artist Tom Fritz to select his car as the main element for one of his vintage-style paintings.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Canyon Country, California
1932 Ford Roadster
Again, using the So-Cal Speed Shop step-boxed chassis as a starting point, Ryan Reed added the right mix of old and new parts to allow the chassis to perform its best while still looking like an early hot rod chassis. An undropped '32 "heavy" axle, mated to a pair of Lincoln-style hydraulic brakes from Wilson Welding (the same 12-inch self-energizing brakes are also used on the rear), leads the way, connected to a pair of split wishbones. Vega steering heads it all in the driver-desired directions and Pete & Jake's tube shocks handle the up and down motion on both ends. A Winters quick-change center section is mounted between a pair of '36 Ford rearend bells and is hung in place by a transverse leaf spring and Ford wishbones.
Going for the ultimate "pre-overhead" powerplant, Jim located a '48 Ford 276ci Flathead and entrusted it to legendary builder/racer Art Chrisman for a complete rebuild. Parts selected include a pair of early Edelbrock heads and matching "slingshot" intake manifold (only 100 of Vic's first model were produced), an Isky 404 Jr. cam, Ross pistons, a Mallory ignition, and a pair of Smiley's custom headers. A McLeod clutch and aluminum flywheel mates the early muscle to a Tremec five-speed manual transmission.
Wheels & Tires
Correctly dating Jim's roadster to the desired time period is a set of 16-inch steelies from Wheelsmith wrapped in Firestone 6.00 and 7.50 blackwall rubber. The finishing touch is a set of '40 Ford Deluxe hubcaps and trim rings.
Body & Paint
The Brookville roadster body, Vintique grille shell, and Rootlieb hood were put into the hands of So-Cal's Abe Rodriquez to be carefully fitted to the So-Cal '32 chassis, and given numerous hours of priming and blocking before the miles deep black paint was applied. Nickel plating by Sherm's on strategically selected pieces accents the black paint perfectly.
Sitting behind the Vintique '40 Ford steering wheel mounted on a matching steering column from Limeworks, you have a perfect view of the Stewart Warner Wings gauges set in the stock dash. At the same time you can feel the saddle leather on the Glide seat which was stitched up by Gabe's Auto Upholstery.