I'm always anxious when I see a new build and then hear that the project started with an existing old hot rod because I love old barn finds and survivor cars from back in the day. When I spoke to Gary Bennett about shooting this five window, and saw its nostalgic appearance, I figured it had been a '50s or '60s build. Despite its stunning reconstruction, my heart sank a little. This only proves that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover because when he sent me a CD full of pictures of the Deuce on the day he bought it, my (selfish) fears proved unfounded. Sure it may have been rodded farther back in the past, but what Gary purchased was an '80s-built rod that hadn't stood the test of time, and he's done a heck of a job bringing it to what it is now.
Found in the classified section of a local newspaper, Gary went to look at it and found it to be channeled, full fendered, and possessing a definite '80s-scallop paint scheme and Pro-Star wheels. The owner bought it in North Carolina and had driven it 600 miles home to Arkansas, and then seemingly left it in his garage for the next nine years. Paying significantly less than the asking price, Gary figured he'd scored a good deal, and set out on the drive home. Since his good friend, Rodney Payne, of High Gear Hot Rods, was located on the route home, he ran it by the shop for a second opinion. As Gary puts it, "He looked the car over and, trying to be gracious about it, told me the car had some problems and that it wasn't very safe to drive. I took a chance and drove the rest of the way home. The steering column was welded to the steering box and the front axle was rubbing on the frame."
By now Gary was deciding whether to just fix the problems and enjoy the car, or undertake a full rebuild. He called another friend, an old-time hot rodder, and again asked for an opinion. This time the response wasn't quite as gracious as the first. "He looked the car over and asked me: 'What in the hell was on the car that I actually thought was worth anything!' I didn't know what to say. Maybe the steering wheel, as it was billet and I could use it on another car? I am glad he was so blunt with me because it made me so mad I wanted to show him what could be done with the pieces I had." Immediately, Gary tore the coupe down, keeping pretty much just the motor, transmission, and body, selling some parts and retaining some that may get used on a beater in the future.
A chassis was purchased from H&H Hot Rods and uses a pair of original 'rails, while a new floor, firewall, and rear quarters came from Brookville. Gary unchanneled the body and let fresh sheetmetal in where required, removing the rear quarters and old fenders that had been welded and leaded to the body, and installing the new quarters. Then the coupe sat for around a year while Gary contemplated the style in which he wanted to build it. "My 'gracious' friend, Rodney, helped me with the final design, where we aimed for an early '60s look, from the custom-mixed paint to the white and gold tuck 'n' roll interior. We had many discussions on whether to run a hood or not, knowing no hood meant having a special motor in there. I really needed to use the small-block Chevy that I already had, so we decided to go with no hood, but make the motor a little different." That "different" includes Retrotek 6x2 Nostalgic EFI, a Vertex distributor, a Powermaster alternator disguised as a generator, Technostalgia Olds valve covers, and a set of rare Fenton cast-iron headers with dual outlets that were run on NASCAR Chevys in the late '50s.
With the theme settled on, the build picked up steam again. The bodywork and paint was handled by Darwin's Hot Rods in Jonesboro, Arkansas, after Gary installed Autoloc solenoids and bear claw latches, along with the original-style door and trunk handles. Fry's Upholstery installed the Ultra Leather tuck 'n' roll and Clarion stereo system, with the EZ Wiring harness fitted by Gary, who also added a Vintage Air A/C unit inside the cowl. Three-and-a-half years after purchasing the car he thought he'd drive as-bought, Gary could finally get behind the wheel. He'd actually only driven it a total of 100 miles or so, to and from work a few times, before we spied it at the Lone Star Roundup earlier this year, and was very pleased with it; although when we asked about his most memorable experience with it, he replied that it was the night he brought it home when his then 5- and 3-year-old kids ran out to sit in it. It won't be long before they're fighting you for the keys Gary!
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1932 Ford Coupe
Despite buying a running and driving hot rod, Gary elected to replace the chassis with an H&H Hot Rods-fabricated frame using original 'rails and tube crossmembers. A chromed triangulated four-link and Panhard bar locate the QA1 coilover-suspended limited-slip Currie 9-inch rearend, while a full complement of Super Bell products support the front end, namely a drilled 4-inch dropped axle, spring and spindles, hung on hairpins. So-Cal Speed Shop polished Buick-style brakes hide the discs, with a Flaming River Vega steering box turning the wheels.
The '70-vintage small-block came with the car and is one of the few parts remaining on it today; although it has been treated to a full roller valvetrain from Competition Cams, Retrotek Vintage EFI replete with scoops, and Macs air filters, all mounted on an Offenhauser manifold. The Technostalgia valve covers and rare Fenton dual-outlet, cast-iron NASCAR headers further disguise the Chevy's origins, while Gary did a fine job of concealing the A/C compressor. Further engine bay detailing consists of a Powermaster PowerGen alternator, beehive oil filter, and Vertex magneto-style distributor, as well as soldered copper plumbing to and from the Walker radiator. Also in the car at the time of purchase was the TH400 trans, updated with a shift kit and now attached to a driveshaft by Hesco, in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and shifted courtesy of Lokar.
Wheels & Tires
This style of hot rod could only really roll on one type of wheel. Gary went to Vintique for the OEM-style steels; 8x15 at the blunt end, and 4.5x15 at the not-quite-so-blunt end. L78 and 590 Coker wide whitewall bias-plies are fitted respectively.
Body & Paint
Gary's '32 looks a lot different to the fendered and channeled car he'd purchased. The welded-on rear fenders were replaced by fresh Brookville quarters, the body's been unchanneled with new floors and a new firewall from the same source, and there's now additional bracing in the body. That firewall received a coat of white though the remainder of the body, as well as the chassis, grille shell, and rearend, which were treated to a custom-mixed Metallic Green before Darwin's Hot Rods, who also handled the paint and bodywork, pulled the pinstripes. Stock door and trunk handles were put back on, since they'd been removed in the car's previous incarnation, while '39 taillights sit above a new 18-gallon gas tank in the stock location below the rear deck.
The collaboration of Rodney Payne and Gary's ideas, and the talents of Fry's Upholstery paid off in the gold and white tuck 'n' roll interior, complete with a gold pleated insert in the headliner. The original garnish moldings still frame the windows, though the stock steering column made way for a Limeworks stainless version with a banjo wheel from the same company, painted white of course. Fry's installed a hidden Clarion stereo with front and rear speakers and a 600-watt amp, though you'd never know it was there. A Vintage Air A/C unit keeps temperatures down, for pleasant cruising on the Glide bench seat. Stewart Warner gauges keep Gary informed of engine functions, as does the tach mounted in a Borgeson cup on the column, and a real neat touch is the white-trimmed green loop carpet, closely matching the body color.