The path back to authenticity is rarely straight or clear for race cars of any discipline, whether they're internationally known sports cars, Indy roadsters, or dry lakes hot rods from the years following World War II. Provenance is often cloudy, especially so for old iron that raced for a decade or better, ran in different classes, was shepherded by several owners, and complied to the dictates of more than one sanctioning organization.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1932 Ford Three-Window
Aside from racing prangs and repairs, race cars-especially the good ones-were subjected to constant upgrades just to keep pace with ever-advancing competition, never mind continuing to dominate their racing classes. Add to this the cannibalism that was common practice up until the last few decades when a race car that was no longer viable or was "legislated" out of the rules book of the sanctioning body that governed and it was sent to the "bone pile". Countless old battlewagons sat in backyards and behind service shops, largely ignored other than when they might yield a valuable artifact that could be incorporated in the build of a newer race car. Many had their goodness plucked away a piece at a time until their carcasses had no more useful bits to offer.
The Quinton-Joehnck 1932 Ford three-window coupe could serve as the poster car for all the changes that can be visited on a race car during its active life. For openers, it began its racing career as a roadster. There was a time when coupes were persona non grata in hot rod speed contests on the dry lake beds of Southern California. The seminal sanctioning body, the Southern California Timing Association, permitted only roadsters, modifieds, and streamliners to compete-no coupes or sedans, period. Jack Quinton and Bob Joehnck raced roadsters under the SCTA rules in the late '40s, but when the Russetta Timing Association was formed in 1948 to legitimize coupes and sedans in racing, it wasn't long before Quinton traded his '32 roadster body for a Deuce three-window coupe, teamed up with Joehnck who fronted the chassis from his own successful roadster, and they were on their way, garnering records at El Mirage and Bonneville with Mercury Flathead power.
For three seasons, 1951-53, the coupe dominated its class on both the dry lakes and the salt, finishing the '52 season as the overall points leader in the RTA. The coupe was given the first of two roof chops in 1954 and enjoyed an active drag-racing life at strips throughout Southern California. This type of "crossover" was common in the early and mid '50s before purpose-built racing hot rods reached the levels of specialization that would come later. From 1955-59, the coupe was fitted with a Hemi, and in 1961 it was further re-configured for a blown Olds built by Jay Roach and driven by 200-mph club member Don Torgeson at Bonneville, posting a very respectable 173 mph the first year, followed by a most-impressive 198.30-mph performance in 1962-its final year as a race car.
The coupe was "parked", as racers are wont to say, giving up some of its valuable hardware to other race cars and then passed from one new owner to the next, for as many as 10 such transactions in this case. In 2002, Paul Hoffmann, a young Santa Barbara, California, building contractor and ardent enthusiast of vintage hot rods, learned of the coupe's whereabouts through sheer chance. Hoffmann had known of the coupe's existence for some time. It was "the car everybody knew about," he says, but no one could pinpoint its location ... until an electrician who worked for Hoffmann discovered it in a garage where he'd been sent to do some wiring work. Hoffmann soon struck a deal with the owner and put the coupe on the path out of obscurity and back into the light of day where it could be enjoyed.
The path Hoffmann chose was Rudy Rodriguez, one of the most highly regarded and respected craftsmen working in the traditional hot rod and custom car idiom today. Hoffmann has known Rodriguez since he was a youngster and an 18-year-old phenom of a Porsche engine mechanic, building engines for Hoffmann's dad, an old-world educated engineer and former Porsche factory race car driver. Hoffmann was the facilitator of the coupe's resurrection. As he describes his part, he found the coupe, bought it, turned it over to Rodriguez, and got out of the way. "Rudy made the decisions," Hoffmann says.
And good decisions they were. The original chassis was no longer. With thoughtful input from no less an alumnus than Bob Joehnck, and help from Erik Hansson, Rodriguez created a new, evolved chassis, an amalgam of its former iterations that would have handled all the drivetrain and performance upgrades of the past, but now accommodated the original Mercury Flathead. The powerplant is not a recreation; it is the actual race motor that garnered all that glory years ago, found in the hands of a local high school shop teacher who willingly parted with it for a very fair price, knowing it was going back where it belonged.
The original quick-change rearend wound up under Alex Xydias' SoCal coupe decades ago, replaced now with a period-correct unit from Hot Rod Works. Jack Quinton had hung onto the original seat, however, which he donated to the project. The two top chops, done after the car's Flathead days, were typical of hot rod race car work of the time, a bit rough and exhibiting more enthusiasm than care. Rodriguez cut the top off and started fresh, giving it a just-right attitude and perfect symmetry. He created new inner doorskins in place of the originals that had been cut out many years ago, and healed all the other wounds that had been visited on the old warrior's sheetmetal.
Working with Tom Leonardo Jr., Rodriguez metal-finished the body to a quality level rarely seen, even on restored race cars. Over the years, the coupe had worn several different colors, including red and gold, but the intense blue that it sported for a short time early in its career was considered the most pleasing rendition. Expertly recreated by custom painter Barefoot Gary, it works extremely well with the light gray accent color on the suspension and inside the cabin.
While the resulting Quinton-Joehnck Deuce coupe might not fit the strictest interpretation of a point-for-point restoration of a specific configuration in the car's racing life, it honors its overall history very well. Rodriguez has skillfully evoked the spirit of the car over the years, adding a look at how it might have further evolved after the point at which it was retired 40-plus years ago.
Since its completion, the Quinton-Joehnck coupe has moved onto yet another owner and a collection of quality hot rods and special-interest cars. Its racing days past, it no longer languishes under a dusty tarp, forgotten by all but a handful of old timers and a few knowledgeable younger enthusiasts like Paul Hoffmann who drug it back into the sunlight for all of us to enjoy.