I first met Dale Withers in the early '90s in Baker City, Oregon, when I had driven down to photograph Bob Lick's '40 Ford coupe. Dale had driven over with his '40 coupe to become part of the session, as did Jim Lindsey in his '32 roadster. It turned into a great session and I have remained friends and in touch with all three ever since.
I stopped by Dale's shop in the late '90s to see a '34 roadster project that he had started a few years before and again in 2007 to see the '32 five-window of this feature, and to take another look at the '34 project. Dale purchased the coupe from Bob Bauder sometime in 2003. He was with Dale Poore at the time and Poore had told him essentially that he shouldn't pass it up, so he didn't. He bought it just to drive and work on, which he has done as the coupe has seen a fair amount of road time, including three trips to Bonneville and five trips to the Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield.
The first time I saw it was in L.A. shortly after he purchased it when he and Poore drove down from the Portland, Oregon, area for the L.A. Roadster Show. He broke a valvespring on the trip and has been tinkering with it ever since. He added hardened seats in the heads, 7/16-inch pushrods, and an Engle cam to the '62 Chevy 409 engine (the 425hp model). He also added the correct dual-quad carburetors, handmade air cleaner, and added new handmade headers. Dale changed the clutch to a Centerforce dual-friction unit with a Hayes pressure plate and a Schiefer 14-pound aluminum flywheel. The engine now hits the torque curve at around 3,000 rpm.
The 1932 Ford five-window coupe was originally found in San Francisco, in storage next to a water heater, where it had been from 1958-2000. The car remained rust free because of this and is now covered with silver Mercedes basecoat paint, except for the areas that Dale just reworked, which are painted with gray primer. Dale decided to bring the top down by chopping it 3 inches, carefully leaning the front posts back to match everything up. He then bobbed the rear fenders an equal amount, and at the same time moved the '39 Ford taillights from the fenders to just below the rear decklid on the body. He also centered the front and rear tires in with the fenders when he lowered it another 1 1/2 inches in the front and 2 inches in the back. He replaced the monoleaf front spring with a multi-leaf unit and also removed the disc brakes and replaced them with Lincoln and Buick drums. He changed the wheels to old-time-looking reversed steel 15-inch rims, which he is a stickler for.
He had the red seat re-upholstered by Jerry Arendell and swapped a gennie early Corvette steering wheel for the aftermarket one that was in it. He removed the stock rear floorpan and put in a new one located 1 1/2 inches higher for rearend clearance. Dale's personal cars reflect his interest and passion for period-perfect builds, which is very evident in the details. I remember how much effort went into restoring and re-chroming an old set of baby moons, the ones with the rounded outer edge, for his black lacquered '40 coupe. They were perfect and probably cost him as much as a set of wheels by the time he was finished, but visually it was perfect. The red reversed wheels on the '32, and the chrome and reversed wheels on the '34 are perfect examples of that sense of detail. The red upholstery is a perfect complement to the aluminum door panels. The dual-quad carbureted, 409 engine with the finned aluminum valve covers doesn't hurt either. The tranny is a Doug Nash five-speed with a Long shifter running the gears back to a '57 Ford 9-inch and take my word for it ... the Long shifter is worth the extra money.
Dale's attention to detail and his metal craftsmanship are evident in the cars he turns out in his shop. He is well known for his work, which is most of the reason that the '34 roadster is still in the process of being built. He's also known for perfect black paint, which you know has to be perfect underneath to make it work.