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.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Apple Valley, California
1932 Ford Three-Window Coupe
One of the reasons Martin went to So-Cal for this project is because he wanted their chassis components on the car, which is what he got, starting with So-Cal's Step-Boxed '32 Ford frame. The Super Bell 4-inch drop I-beam axle runs between Magnum spindles with So-Cal's hidden disc brakes. Hairpin radius rods, Panhard bar, leaf springs, and Pete & Jake's shocks are all from the So-Cal catalog. A Vega box handles steering. The rear features a Currie 9-inch with 31-spline axles, 3.73:1 gears, and drum brakes, plus ladder bars and coil-overs with So-Cal Speedshocks. The fuel tank is from Vintique.
A brand new GM Performance Parts crate engine was one of the specific requirements for the coupe, and the 405-horse ZZ383, assembled by Pace Performance, fits the bill. Martin knows that "a hot rod should have more than one carburetor," and this one has a pair of 4-barrels on a dual-quad manifold, all from Edelbrock. The air cleaners were shot with black wrinkle-finish powdercoating to match the valve covers. The serpentine set-up is a Vintage Air FrontRunner system. The Sanderson block-hugger headers and exhaust system are ceramic coated all the way to the MagnaFlow mufflers. A Walker radiator was added to keep everything cool. Torrance Transmission provided the Chevy Turbo 350 automatic, connected to the Currie rearend by an Inland Driveline driveshaft.
Wheels & Tires
Ryan and Martin thought about mounting steelies, but ultimately decided to go with these Classic Five five-spokes from Team III, which provide enough brightness to keep up with the impact of the paint. The 16x9 and 15x5 rims are wrapped with Continental radials, measuring 255/70R16 and 195/60R15.
Body & Paint
The three-window coupe exterior is a combination of parts and materials, starting with the 3-inch chop '32 Ford fiberglass body from Deuce Custom, and continuing with the Brookville fenders, Rootlieb steel hood and the Vintique grille shell finished with a Dale's insert. Stock-style hinges and handles were added to give the body an authentic appearance and add a little ornamentation. Body finishing and paint was handled by Luis Ramirez and Sean Dooley. Martin's ideal hot rod color is red, and So-Cal certainly helped make the point.
The black interior is where "simple" really paid off. The dash is as clean as they could make it, with Stewart-Warner gauges in a So-Cal insert. Martin said he was pretty excited about having Gabe's Upholstery doing the tuck `n' roll stitching in black vinyl on the Glide bench seat and the door panels. The Vintage Air A/C controls are hidden beneath the dash and the radio--when one is added--will be mounted under the seat and operated with remote control. A '40 Ford-style steering wheel is mounted on a Limeworks column. The shifter and handbrake are from Lokar. Scotty "Dirty" Howard did the wiring using a So-Cal harness.