Building a cool rod or custom is about more than just turning wrenches and welding steel. It's about making choices. It's about knowing where to make the cut, how much to remove, what parts to change-and when to leave things alone. Some guys have more of a knack than others for making such decisions.

Gary Anderson is one of those guys. For the past decade or so he's managed to put a new ride on the road every few years, each one as cool (or cooler) than the last. The diverse lineup has included a Deuce sedan and five-window, Model A roadster, '64 Chevy wagon, and even a mild custom '59 Plymouth. They've all achieved a great combination of style, attitude, and substance. Gary's secret recipe seems deceptively simple. He picks good-looking cars, avoids major body mods, and focuses on three fundamentals: stance, color, and detail.

The fundamentals of Gary's latest ride-this '40 Ford coupe-are, well, as fundamental as hot rodding gets: black paint, louvered hood, white cabin, and a vintage small-block with a four-speed. It's all enhanced by one of the coupe's defining elements: a quartet of chrome-reverse wheels wrapped in wide whitewall rubber.

"The right stance and tire combo can make or break a car's look," Gary says. "Because I like '60s-era hot rods and customs, chrome wheels are timeless. Throw in a set of vintage spider caps and it's that much better. That combo is as cool now as it was 50 years ago."

The parts to which those wheels and tires are bolted are just as important in achieving the coupe's stance. Gary used a Cornhusker Rod & Custom chassis with a 4-inch dropped axle, reverse-eye spring, and parallel-leaf rearend. "Sixties hot rods need a little rake," Gary says, "and fat fendered cars need the tires stuffed up in the wheelwells." Mission accomplished on both counts.

It's worth noting that this is the coupe's second set of wheels and tires. Gary started with cast-center five-spokes and pie-crust cheater slicks. They lent the car a more badass vibe, especially since it was initially hoodless with a four-carb intake. Gary never fully warmed up to the look, though. He says it lacked, well, luster. Gary's son hit the proverbial nail on the head after Gary swapped on the current rolling stock: "This car went from 'badass hot rod' to 'date night,'" he says. Funny what a change of shoes can do.

Date night or not, Gary didn't forget the substance under the hood. He had Keck Machine outfit the vintage 283 Chevy with a lumpy COMP camshaft, roller rockers, and TRW slugs. "I went through a couple of induction systems," Gary says. "At first it had four Holley 94s on a vintage intake, but I settled on a true, tried, and tested Edelbrock C3B intake with an Edelbrock 500-cfm carb topped with a Cal Custom air cleaner and valve covers for that great vintage look and reliability." The white firewall (complete with Chevy pickup master cylinder) adds to the '60s vibe, as do the cast-finish Speedway Motors Tru-Ram manifolds.

You'll find more '60s-style surprises inside, as the glow of pearl white tuck 'n' roll shines from all of the cabin's padded surfaces. A floor-mounted Hurst shifter rows gears on the Super T-10 four-speed, while a '59 Impala tiller dictates direction. Stewart-Warner Blue Line gauges and a Sun tach help complete the period look.

Like Gary's previous rides, the basic black '40 is no stranger to the highway. Since its completion last year, it's been to a variety of regional runs around his Omaha home, plus the Hunnert Car Pileup over in Illinois. It even made a few passes at the HAMB Drags (best e.t.: 15.37). More road trips are in the works for 2011. For Gary, driving what you build is an easy decision-and one of the key fun-damentals of hot rodding.