People often invoke the red, Chevy-powered Deuce as an indictment of conformity. And for good reason, really; it’s so common you can’t swing a cat at a rod run for fear of striking such a car. Even that has its reasons: the Deuce is a sure bet, Chevy power is easy, and red makes anything stand out as a wolf among sheep.
But typical of most generalizations, the one who lumps all red, Chevy-powered Deuces in one group is flawed. Pat Swanson and Steve Gilligan’s cars could hardly be any different from each other. One’s body maintains its original proportions; the other has been chopped and channeled. One has fenders; the other is a highboy. Both ride on 16-inch wheels, but one set was stamped from steel for production cars, the other cast from magnesium for race cars. Even the tires—rags on one, radials on the other—are unique to each car.
And at the heart of the matter—the engines—well, you’d have to be blind to not see the difference. And at that you’d certainly hear it. Chevrolet arranged the six-cylinders in Swanson’s Stovebolt in a row. The bent eight in Gilligan’s is functionally identical to the seemingly infinite number of engines that gave wings to the idea that all red, Chevy-powered Deuces are the same.
Though both cars are the same age we’ll give deference to Gilligan’s simply for the fact that it’s been a hot rod nearly as long as the term existed. He’s also owned it the longest—in fact he’s known about it for two-thirds of his life. “I saw this car for the first time that I remember when I was 10 years old,” he recalls.
Typical for passion-driven people, he knows the car’s story. In fact, he knows it to the beginning. “This car was purchased new in 1932 in Estacada, Oregon,” he reveals. As the story goes, the original owner gave the car to his grandson in the early ’50s. Soon after that, Doug Sukau channeled the body 4 inches and sectioned its grille 5. Presumably it was around that time when the owner had the axle stretched and swapped the transmission for a ’39, the rear axle for a ’40, and the mechanical brakes for hydraulics.
The car was disassembled in the early ’60s and stayed that way until 1979 when Northwest drag-racing pioneer Earl Rowland reassembled it and built its hood sides. Though Karl Pasero saw the car in a garage as early as 1965, its purchase eluded him until 1980. In 1988 he had the top chopped 3 inches by Loran Heisman and the rear fenders bobbed by John Scheewe.
The following year Pasero sold the car to Damascus, Oregon’s Stan Ochs. Ochs swapped the Flathead for the 301 Chevy (a bored 283) in the car to this day. Among other places the car appeared on the Bonneville Salt Flats (as a spectator of course) and in Bob Drake’s column in the Oct. ’91 Street Rod Action.
A few years later Ochs sold the car to the aptly named Ed Cole (another Ed Cole oversaw the design of Chevrolet’s V-8 engine). Cole in turn sold the car to Mike Gregg. Gregg had Mike Geiszler louver the hood in 1994. Gregg refreshed the car’s black primer and had the body flamed before selling it to Brent Housley in 1995. Housley had the trunk lid louvered by Paul Harper in 1997.
To say Housley drove the car is an understatement. In the dozen or so years he owned it he took it to an equal amount of events in at least five states. Interestingly enough, though it traveled as much as 1,300 miles on any one given jaunt, the car’s ownership has never left a 100-mile radius of its original purchase location.