There’s this book, Allure of the Automobile, coauthored by hot rodder and all-around automotive aficionado Ken Gross, that since the day I opened its cover for the first time has intrigued me beyond belief. Whenever I glance at the selection of “fine art” classics, among which are included stunning examples of coachbuilt excellence, such as the ’34 Packard LeBaron Runabout Speedster and ’37 Delage D8-120S, I imagine various cue elements incorporated into hot rods and customs. On occasion, I’ve seen efforts made; sometimes the interpretation works, while others, it falls short. This past January, however, my visions literally came to life when I laid eyes on Jim Farley’s ’32 Ford on display at the Grand National Roadster Show.
Though he credits early IndyCars as the main inspiration for Jim’s roadster, which is clearly obvious with its ’50s-era esque Halibrand mags, builder Dave Simard also manipulated parts of the ’32 that may or may not intentionally pay tribute to high-class road cars of the same era the Model B was born. Take, for example, the steering wheel—pure Delage—while the turned-stainless emblazoned dash borrows similarities from a ’35 Duesenberg JN. But that’s just my personal interpretation—as stated, both builder and owner had their interpretations based as such: “The thought was to incorporate not only the Indy race car influence, but to create a dependable hot rod,” as Simard put it.
With a client high up the ladder of Ford Motor Company (VP of Global Marketing and Sales to be exact), one thing was obvious when it came to key elements of Jim Farley’s roadster: it had to be genuine Ford, from the body to the frame to the powerplant that moves it … all FoMoCo. Simard recalls, “After countless chases, I found a nice original roadster in New Hampshire—off the road and in storage since the ’50s … it was the ultimate barn find and the right car for this project.
“First thoughts were to utilize a Flathead/Ardun or OHV conversion four-cylinder … a review of Ford Racing engines led to the DOHC 4.6L as the basis. With the addition of an early Hilborn injection system and custom valve covers—along with numerous other changes—it would create the feel of a true vintage race engine. Once again, the theme was to build this roadster with the mindset of an IndyCar builder set in the late ’50s.”
From the scratchbuilt torsion bar suspensions, Culver City Halibrand quick-change, Shroeder cowl steering, and the aforementioned IndyCar knock-offs, Simard and his crew at East Coast Customs in Massachusetts (which includes Joe Carbone, Ryan MacDonald, and Derek Couture) did just what owner and builder set out to build: an Indy-inspired roadster… a V-8 Flyer. But in my eyes, it goes beyond the race car influence.
It’s the length to which many of the elements on Jim Farley’s Flyer are finished that give the car more than just a spartan racer look and feel. What IndyCar ever had luxurious saddle tan leather? Or bodywork and paint qualitative for Pebble Beach? Apparently, the “dependable hot rod” aspect also equates to high class standards. And for good reason—the ulterior motive behind the build was to compete for America’s Most Beautiful Roadster, where top caliber is the name of the game … or in this case, the show.
Bottom line, beyond my opinions or even those of the AMBR judges, Jim Farley’s roadster is one of a kind. It embodies intended vintage Brick Yard influence wrapped in a classic motor car tinged shell. It has the looks, the feel, and most importantly, the ability to be driven. Obviously, the harmony was there … and the finished product speaks for itself.