It can often take a lot for a rod or custom to stand out in a crowd. When that crowd is more than 12,000 strong, and the rod is a 1932 Ford Coupe, it's going to have its work cut out for it to be noticed. Such is the scene at the NSRA Street Rod Nationals every year where we and other magazines scour the event searching out potential feature cars. Rather than make a big flashy impact, however, this five-window reeled us in with its neat use of color and those wide-five wheels. The Winter Leaf Brown shade doesn't exactly jump out at you, but paradoxically that's what made it noticeable in a sea of red, blue, green, and black. And everything-axles, chassis, engine, suspension-is painted the same shade of brown, except those '37 Ford wheels in contrasting pale yellow, or "Straw" to give them their correct Ford name. The combination quietly pointed to, rather than screamed, "nostalgia", while a closer inspection revealed that this was indeed a rod put together the old way, mixing and matching early Ford components from different years.
In a 1-800 world of easily obtainable mail-order parts, it's refreshing to discover someone prepared to search out '39 spindles, '37 brakes (necessary to mount those '37 wheels), a '36 rear wishbone, '37 axles to fit the '46 pickup rearend, and not only to use a '39 trans but to find and fill it with Zephyr gears and add a pickup tail housing in order to use the open driveshaft necessary to drive that rearend. In fact owner Jimmy Houston admits that the most challenging part of the build was "finding enough old parts from the '30s, '40s, and '50s for the motor, trans, and rear axle assembly."
This isn't Jimmy's first '32, and as soon as he'd sold his last one he started looking for another project, remembering a friend in Mississippi had told him a few years previously about a '32 not far from where he lived. Armed with a phone number, he started calling to see if it was still for sale. "The car belonged to a guy in Golden, Mississippi," Jimmy says. "I talked with him about the car, and the condition of the body and motor, and asked if it had any rust. He told me he'd driven the car for a long time and that it was in great shape. We finally agreed on a price, so my friend Bill Stewart and I drove to Mississippi to look at it. The owner took us to a friend's house where the car was stored. It was in an old shed, covered with dust and dirt. We took it out, looked it over, and it was as he had said; a great body, hardly any rust, and what we found was mainly surface rust. We loaded it on my trailer and returned to Missouri."
Jimmy then did what most of us would've done, he re-fit the fenders and running boards and tried to start it! "The gas tank was full of rust and the plugs were bad," he says, "but I tuned it up, fixed the distributor and carburetor, and the four-cylinder engine ran great, so I drove it around for a while." He even took it to the Mid-America Nationals in Missouri in 2008. "It drove pretty well, but took two people to stop it-one person on the foot pedal and the other on the emergency brake!" After the show he tore it completely apart for the rebuild, returning to the same show a year later with it done, where he received an NSRA Rep Pick.
That's a pretty fast build considering the only major components re-used were the body and chassis! The four-cylinder was ousted in favor of a Flathead V-8, though Jimmy admits it was a toss-up at the time whether to stay with Henry's finest or drop a '57 Hemi between the 'rails. Tough choice, and he has the Hemi "in stock" should he decide to go that route, though he might just want to source a few extra drivetrain parts beforehand if that happens!
1932 Ford Coupe
This five-window still employs the original chassis it left the factory with almost 80 years ago, though it now has Model A crossmembers front and rear, and the rear framehorns have been removed, as has the stock gas tank. A 4-inch-dropped SuperBell I beam is hung on a split wishbone and a Posies spring, with a Pete & Jakes Panhard bar and same-make shocks, bolted to F-100 upper mounts. The '39 Ford spindles mount the '37 brakes with those wide-five drums. The original pedal assembly actuates a '39 master cylinder, while the original steering box is now hooked to a '39 column.
Debating whether to install a '57 Hemi or a Flathead while building the coupe, Jimmy opted for the FoMoCo mill, a 255ci Merc motor of '50 vintage. It still wears its factory two-barrel intake and 94 carburetor, and the original distributor, but with 8mm Taylor wires. Dress-up items are limited to chrome acorn nuts, chrome water pipes, and a Mr. Roadster air cleaner, though Speedway Motors' lakes-style headers are a little more free-flowing than the stock manifolds. Painted black, they suit the "no bling" theme of the coupe. A '39 Top Loader trans case was filled with Zephyr gears by Harold Hale, with a pickup tail housing added to allow for the use of an open driveshaft, necessary owing to the use of a '46 pickup rearend. This is hung on a '36 wishbone and uses '37 axles. Again, '37 wide-five brakes are used.
Wheels & Tires
The '37 Ford wheels are what sets this Deuce apart, with 16x3s up front and 16x14.5 on the rear, clothed in Coker Firestone rubber all round-6.00x16 and 7.60x16 respectively. No caps or rings are used (they'd hide the unique wheel centers anyway!), though the drums are painted body color.
Body & Paint
The body was in exceptional condition when purchased, with a little surface rust, and modifications have been kept to the installation of frenched '50 Pontiac taillights. The grille and insert are the originals, though a Rootlieb hood top covers the engine. The body, chassis, and running gear were all painted in PPG Winter Leaf Brown by the owner and Stan Shobe. What little chromework is on the car was handled by Performance Plating in Olathe, KS.
A '37 Ford banjo steering wheel dominates the interior, which features mainly stock '32 items, such as the dash insert, now filled with Stewart-Warner gauges, and the original seat, upholstered in brown Naugahyde by Ray Petre in Ozark, MO. The custom-designed door panels are covered in the same material, while the American Autowire harness was installed by the owner. There's no stereo in this hot rod, the sound of the Flathead through those uncorked headers providing all the sounds needed.