When I sent the preliminary photos of this car to our editor for feature approval, his immediate response was yes, but with a question attached. Kevin wondered, almost as though he were thinking out loud, why so many of the cool '32s were black. Well I really didn't have an answer, I'd never really thought about it. Serious hot rods are black; that's what we have come to expect. It's a tradition dating back to the beginning of the movement. I personally like to think it has something to do with our image of the bad boy delinquent terrorizing the streets in his fast, loud, evil machine--women and children scurrying for cover while black-and-white police cars with single red flashing lights on the top attempt to maintain order so law-abiding citizens can be safe on the streets. In other words, it's the old movie stereotype that plays in our heads. Or it could be that most of the old cars that young men of the time were able to buy were black and performance parts were more important than new paint. I personally prefer the first explanation, but to each his own. Now that I've managed to not really answer the original question, let's get on with the real story about this black '32.
As I'm sure you've noticed, it doesn't matter what a dedicated car guy is doing or where he is, he's always looking for the next hot setup, the next trick piece, or the next great project. By nature he is full of plans and generally has a list of potential projects that will outlive him by decades. The upside of all this dreaming and scheming is that when something comes along he will, without hesitation, jump on it because he has a plan.
Case in point, Jerry Eckholdt and his good friend Don Albers took a little time out to attend the Chili Bowl Midget Races in Tulsa in January of 1999. During a lull in the action they struck up a conversation with a gentleman in the stands who claimed to have a variety of cars on his Oklahoma property. As the conversation progressed from the cars he had owned to the ones he still had and the ones he would be willing to part with, an uncut full-fendered '32 five-window was mentioned. At that point Jerry, who had been idling through most of the conversation, got completely engaged. You see, he had been building a five-window Deuce in the back of his mind for years and could suddenly see it all coming together. The mental car was simple, it was basic with a vintage engine and the just-right look, and now it was so close he could almost feel it. Names and phone numbers were exchanged, calls were made, and a short time later Jerry, Don, and Jerry's trailer were on the way to Oklahoma.
Jerry describes the property where the car was stored as an amusement park for car guys. Everywhere he looked were engines, engine pieces, bodies, body panels, and suspension pieces--it was a gold mine of hot rod stuff. As they drove through the property they had a running commentary on each item they spotted until they came to the abandoned U-Haul box in a back field that had been home to the '32 for the past 15 years.
Even at 50 feet Jerry could tell from what he could see that it was a pretty nice car, and was even more impressed when they pulled it out of the box. It was a '60s hot rod powered by a 289 backed by a four-speed and, as Jerry says, very crude by today's standards. Sure there were a couple of nickel-size rust spots on the body, another on the trunk floor, and a few minor dents, but it was the real deal--an all-steel '32 that needed almost no bodywork, just strip the paint (there were 11 coats) and have your way with it. Jerry could hardly make the deal, load the car, and be on his way fast enough.
As he headed east all the plans he had for the car simmered until all that remained was the pure essence of a '32 Ford five-window hot rod. By the time he got the car back to his shop he had built it in his head at least twice. That was the easy part; in reality it took three years to complete the project. Sure, some of the original design plans got changed along the way, but the basics hung right in there to the end. The car is black, fenderless, and powered by an early Hemi with a Richmond five-speed behind it. It is exactly the car he set out to build and he is having the time of his life running it up and down the road.
So what do you do when one of the projects you've planned for years is complete? Simple. If you're Jerry Eckholdt, you start on the next project that you've planned for years. This time it's a Buick-powered '33 three-window with a quick-change.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1932 Ford Five-Window Coupe
To get the project started, Jerry selected a new chassis from Hot Rods & Custom Stuff (Escondido, CA), which featured a wheelbase stretched 3 inches to accommodate engine installation, 'rails arched to lower the stance, and Hemi engine mounts, all as part of the package. The rear suspension is a triangulated four-bar setup with Aldan coilover shocks attached to a 3.00:1 '57 Ford 9-inch with stock drum brakes. Up front, a Chassis Engineering 4-inch dropped I-beam attaches to the frame with Hot Rods & Custom Stuff hairpins. Both ends of the I-beam are capped with '39 Ford spindles, '39 Lincoln backing plates, and Buick-style drums. Vega steering controls the direction while bumps are smoothed by a Posies spring and a pair of So-Cal shocks.
The only power choice possible in Jerry's eyes was a vintage Hemi, so he located a 354 Dodge truck engine and dropped it off at AMT Performance in St. Louis where it was fully machined and fitted with an array of internal performance parts. Jerry added a pair of Edelbrock 500-cfm carbs on a Weiand manifold, some nicely trimmed steel Fire Power rocker covers, a pair of homebuilt custom headers, and an MSD ignition system. To get the power to the rear wheels, Jerry adapted a Richmond five-speed to the back of the Hemi and the drivetrain was complete. Vintage look, modern tech, reliable power--how much better could it possibly get?
Wheels & Tires
To really nail the vintage hot rod look, Jerry started with a pair of 16-inch Stockton wheels, then wrapped them with 6.00 bias-ply Firestones up front and 7.90 dirt track bias-ply Firestones at the rear. Then to polish the look just a bit more, Jerry added a set of chrome Ford caps to the black steel wheels.
Body & Paint
The fact that Jerry started with a pristine body meant that there was very little sheetmetal work necessary; he just had to remove something like 11 layers of old paint and start prepping the metal. Of course, there were decisions to be made. First, should the top be chopped, and second, should there be hood sides? The answer to that was simple: no, the top should not be chopped. That would make it look like all those 'glass cars out there in profile, and that simply was not the look Jerry was after. The second was a little more involved, because Jerry decided he wanted hood sides but he wanted louvers, and because of the Hemi there was a hood clearance problem. The solution was to use a Rootlieb top and build louvered hood sides with traditional blisters to clear the rocker covers. Sounds simple, but when you choose to hammer the blisters out yourself it takes a little time and a lot of talent. Originally, Jerry painted the car in his home shop, but when it was completed he felt that the car was much better than the paint, so he took it to H&H Auto Body (St. Charles, MO) where Bob Hifill laid down a slick coat of black DuPont single-stage Centari that was a mate to the perfection of the body. There are other touches: the stock '32 grille, '35 Chevy headlights, and a pair of '37 Ford taillights, not to mention the rear license plate light housing that Jerry fabricated in his shop, the strip of louvers he added to the rear wheelwell openings, and the white firewall with its vintage decals, pinstriped by M.K. John (Montgomery City, MO).
The last guy in is always the upholstery guy, and he is the one who can tie it all together. In this case Don Albers (St. Charles, MO) was the guy to really bring it together by installing a beautifully executed traditional lipstick red rolled vinyl interior. Jerry filled the instrument panel with VDO instruments and added a glovebox to the passenger side of the dash. After painting it red, he had M.K. John lay down more really cool old-school pinstripes. Then there's the owner-modified '39 Ford banjo steering wheel he gets to wrap his fingers around every time he gets in the car.