What do you picture when you think about hot rod activity from the Fifties? Dusty dragstrips with leaping flagmen? Stripped down roadsters tearing across a dry lake? If your mind conjures up images of dragstrips and dry lakes, you're in good company. Those were definitely a couple of the best known breeding grounds for the hobby when it was still something new. But remember, local strips weren't as common 50 years ago as they would be by the Sixties and Seventies. And most parts of the country still don't have dry lakes, even after all these years.
Back in those days, this was predominantly a hobby for young guns, and in a lot of towns the center of hot rodding activity was probably the high school parking lot. That was the place to bench race, brag, show off your car, or at the very least, talk about the car you were going to build some day. How many of you reading this right now built your first car when you were a teenager and proudly drove it to your school where the other kids could get a good eyeful?
Martin Nooney was a student at Serra High School in Gardena, California, in the early Fifties. He says he was a car guy then and spent a lot of time "talking hot rods" with all his car guy friends. "None of us had the money to build anything decent, but we sure talked about it."
A few years later, he owned a '33 Ford coupe that developed new problems with every upgrade, and a '57 Olds running a 371 Rocket and the J2 tri-power setup that he raced at Lion's Dragstrip. But it took him until recently to finally get the hot rod he says he's been thinking about since he was 16 years old.
Now that Martin has the money to build something "decent," he decided to talk to SO-CAL Speed Shop in Pomona about building a hot rod nicer than anything you would've seen in the parking lot at Serra High during Martin's wonder years. He met with Ryan Reed, shop foreman at SO-CAL and project manager on the coupe and, after 30 minutes of talking back and forth, Martin felt completely confident that Ryan understood the car he'd been imagining all his life. It was a three-window Deuce coupe, full-fendered and chopped, clean and simple. It had to be red with a black interior, and he wanted a 383ci small-block under the hood. In the year that followed, the '32 became a collaborative effort, with Ryan contributing some design ideas and mechanical suggestions to Martin's concept. Evin Veasie, Tony Sandoval and Monty "Moose" Hutchison at SO-CAL also contributed to the fabrication of the coupe.
The coupe made its first public appearance this past winter at the Grand National Roadster Show. In a crowd of high-end, elaborate cars, Martin's clean and simple coupe stood out. Of course the paint didn't hurt matters, either. There's a reason hot rodders paint their cars red.
The last time we talked to Martin, he said that the attention the car got at the GNRS and since has helped him get back in touch with some of the kids he went to high school with, who were planning to get together in the near future. We were about to remind Martin that his car guy buddies from high school aren't exactly "kids" anymore, but we didn't. Because when they all get together and start talking hot rods, for a while anyway, they'll be young again.