What is a "real" hot rod? Don't get off on a tangent regarding steel versus glass, 'cause that's not what this is about. It's about a certain look...a particular vibe. It's about style. You can look it up in the dictionary if you don't know, and you most certainly can buy it, but if you don't "get it", you never will. Like a certain family group once said, "It's our thing."
Cliff Hansen gets it. He may not be a generational hot rodder, per se, which is quite often inconsequential, but he is a true car guy. An ex race car pilot (fast one...of the Indycar nature), he knows the innermost workings of some of the world's most technologically advanced vehicles—at his fingertips. "Actually, I've liked hot rods since I was a little kid in the 1950s, but didn't really get into it until 1982 while I was professionally racing cars in Europe. I found a 1933 three-window coupe driver while interviewing for a potential CART ride at Phoenix. After buying the car and having Steve Davis and Dan Fink chop it in their old shop in downtown Huntington Beach, I took it to Roy Brizio in 1988 with some drawings I had Thom Taylor do for me. I still have that car today. And that's where all this started," Cliff recalls.
Now, as for the five-window, it had been in the works at Brizio's for years. Cliff continues, "I bought the original body at Brizio's from Rick Figari, who owns the real Graffiti coupe, and I was planning to build a primered nostalgia coupe at Brizio's. But as Brizio started on the car, I found a complete channeled driver in Santa Ana and we stopped the project."
But the back burner remained lit, and the coupe would eventually make its way to the big hotplate, as it were. And since Cliff's desires for a driver had already been quelled, the parameters for the project expanded.
"I've always liked the look and color of Bill Rolland's sea foam green 1929 roadster from L.A. in the Aug. 1953 issue of Hot Rod magazine, but I had to give it what the guys in Brizio's shop say, ‘That Cartoon Cliffster Look'. But now had to give it a look of Roland's 1929 and apply it to a ‘Cliffster' coupe. So I had my son, Hobie, who's a local professional car photographer, help me with some concepts I had using his Photoshop background. Then Brizio and I started mocking up the car with possible looks in his shop after Jack Stratton and Bill Ganhal chopped it 4 inches. Then the right green became a challenge until Hobie and I were at Cars n' Coffee in Irvine, where we saw a beautiful 1959 T-bird. We both instantly agreed that was it, 1959 T-bird Indian Turquoise.
"I let Darryl Hollenbeck know, and he was off and running with another of his perfect paintjobs. Jokingly, I'm sure some questioned the possible lack of oxygen in my brain when I picked the color after seeing it before anything was assembled." Well, I can't remember how many times I was asked, "Did you see that bitchin green five-window at the GNRS?!" Nuff said about the color.
"To make it comfortable for my trashed back, Brizio gave it to Sid Chavers, along with two old ratty 308 Ferrari seats I supplied and, ‘presto', Sid did his usual magic touch. Bitchin job."
As we wrapped up our coupe chat, Cliff wanted to point out a few things about his relationship with friend, builder, and fellow "get it" guy, Roy Brizio. "People in the past have also asked why I always use Roy Brizio. First, Roy has become and will always be one of my very best and closest friends since 1988. Second, Roy will build what you ask him to build, not what someone thinks you should build, although respectively he will suggest helpful ideas. After all he's built a lot of great cars—but, in the end, it's ‘your car' that reflects what ‘you' want, which makes it much more special to you. Third, Roy's cars can be really driven. And fourth is the pure enjoyment working with Roy and all the great guys in his shop. They truly put their hearts into each car they build, which makes the build experience worth every penny you spend. It's a shop of pure pride with a true team effort. Though I give special credit to Roy, as well Darryl, my son, Hobie, and others, a real credit should truly be given to all the guys in Roy's shop who actually built this car that is being featured. I had a dream and they made it come true."
A true hot rod dream come true.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Huntington Beach, California
1932 Ford Five-Window Coupe
Cliff Hansen's hot rod coupe, aka the "Cliffster Coupe", is founded on a Roy Brizio Street Rods (South San Francisco, CA) Deuce frame set up by Jack Stratton. Moving back from the 1932 spreader bar, a SO-CAL Speed Shop 4-inch dropped beam axle is located via chromed hairpins, mounting Wilwood disc brakes via Chassis Engineering forged Ford spindles. To keep the transverse-sprung, hydraulic-dampened frontend in check, Stratton also installed a Deuce Frame Co. sway bar in conjunction with a Borgeson-Vega cross-steer setup. Further back, a Winters V-8 quick-change, also placed with hairpins, features a driver-friendly 3.90:1 street gear and 31-spline axles. QA1 coilovers and 11-inch Wilwood discs complete the rear.
Underhood, a 2012 Edelbrock GM 350 small-block was used to power the five-window. From Edelbrock, the V-8 comes equipped with a forged steel crank, hypereutectic pistons, hydraulic roller cam, and namesake aluminum cylinder heads. On the exterior, full Edelbrock induction (dual 500-cfm four-barrels with OTB filters), MSD Ready-to-Run electronic ignition, and Sanderson headers. The aforementioned Winters quick-change is spun thanks to a Tremec TKO600, featuring a McCleod Racing clutch, classic Hurst shifter, and Brizio-modified Tilton pedal assembly.
Body & Paint
Under Brizio's trained eye and Cliff's design directive, Cliff's original-steel Deuce five-window took new life, beginning with a 4-inch top chop, leaving the factory insert intact. Further, the body was, as Brizio puts it, "pie-channeled from rear wheel to cowl", ultimately resulting in a mild 2-inch channel at the firewall. Jack Hageman formed the custom aluminum hood, which mates to a filled 1932 shell housing a Dan Fink stainless grille. Darryl Hollenbeck's Vintage Color Studio (Concord, CA) handled the bodywork and subsequent PPG paint, which of course being the 1959 T-bird green that Cliff and son, Hobie, initially spotted. Other external incidentals include OTB Guide-style headlights (striped by Rory), 1950 Pontiac taillights, stock-style mirrors, and chrome work by Sherm's Custom Plating.
Wheels & Tires
What's a traditional hot rod coupe without traditional chrome wheels? In Cliff's case, they come in the form of Wheel Vintiques 16-inchers (4.5- and 6-inch widths, respectively) shod with Coker Tire's Firestone wide whites (500/525-16 and 750-16) and classic baby moon caps.
After Brizio's spliced a 1957 Olds bezel into the stock dash panel (with additional Stewart-Warner curved-lens gauges), hung a Tri-C column topped with a Moon wheel, and mounted the donated Ferrari Dino bucket seats, Sid Chavers did his "thing" inside Cliff's 1932. His thing, as you can see, is a perfectly styled interior consisting of two-tone green and white tuck 'n' rolled Naugahyde with teal green nylon loop carpet. Chavers also equipped the coupe with a hidden iPod system (fed through a Soundstream amp to Pioneer 6x9s), while Jim Vickery handled the wiring.