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.
From East to West
“Working with Jim on this project, he knew what he wanted and gave us the freedom to run with his ideas—the project took two years and required only three meetings between us to pull it together,” Simard surmised. The road to Pomona, California, from Leominster, Massachusetts, began after the initial acquisition of the gennie ’32 Ford, which again according to Simard, “…still had the original upholstery”. However, that Mohair wouldn’t last long, nor would much of the original interior other than maybe the dash panel shell. But the insides would come at the tail end of the two-year build.
First came the chassis. As earlier indicated, the stock ’32 Ford frame was part of the FoMoCo requisites. However, much like the interior, not every aspect made the cut, so to speak. In short, the framerails were bobbed front and rear as well as double-walled; custom crossmembers were fashioned and installed along with a custom tube X-member; and the rear was C-notched. The most notable part, however, has to be the completely custom-made torsion bar suspension—both fore and aft—featuring Shroeder torsion bars with a one-off torsion link system by East Coast Customs (ECC). The front is based around a ’37 Ford tube axle with hidden-mount ’35 Ford hydraulic shocks and handmade hairpin radius rods; on the opposing end is the Halibrand-equipped banjo with 9-inch Ford axles and long, Indy-style ladder bars. (After getting hand-finished, all suspension components were nickel-plated by Jon Wright.) Each of the four corners has been fitted with the Real Rodders Wheels “mags” (16x5/18x7) shod in Dunlop racing rubber with specially machined Wilwood disc brakes.
In lieu of going with an early type engine, Jim and Simard settled upon a 4.6L DOHC Ford modular motor—but not your ordinary dual-overhead, as the photos clearly show. Simard sourced a vintage Hilborn stack injector setup (circa 1955) and retrofit it using a FAST electronic fuel-injection system to work with the engine’s crank-triggered ignition. What appears to be a traditional distributor is actually an electronic water pump, while a Powermaster PowerGen alternator acts as an early looking generator. Simard whittled out a pair of valve covers reminiscent of an early Indy racer, bent up a stainless exhaust, incorporating Stainless Specialties mufflers, and to keep the modern essences to a minimum, facilitated a mechanical fan and tach drive. Behind the 4.6 mounts a Tremec five-speed with ECC-made mechanical clutch linkage setup.
As for the body, while it’s unquestionably a ’32 Ford, its genuine Henry tin has gone through some extensive re-massaging. Most notably is the absence of driver and passenger entry devices (though the functioning rumble lid handle is retained) and, of course, the custom hood sides with hand-hammered blisters. Forward of the stock hood top, the original grille shell has been filled, now void of its radiator cap and bullnose but with the addition of a “frenched” ’33 Ford Blue Oval cloisonné.
Simard chopped the windshield 3 inches, and in doing so integrated a ’36 roadster top rail. After painstaking bodywork by ECC, Kevin Olson sprayed the roadster using custom-mixed DuPont maroon. In the absence of the stock exposed gas tank, Simard crafted an aluminum roll pan, which, as you can see, wasn’t affected by Olson’s spray gun. He also added a custom rear nerf bar and abbreviated front nerf/headlight bar (mounting a pair of Guides), both of which were nickel-plated. The taillights you see are not of Lincoln origin, rather, ’39 Ford units that have added bezel features.
Finally, before the V-8 Flyer headed West, its racy yet coachbuilt-styled interior was tended to. Prior to its visit to New Hampshire, where Steve Pierce would fashion together the leather trimming, Simard built the engine-turned stainless dash insert, ultimately fitting it with an array of vintage Stewart-Warner gauges (restored by Instrument Specialties, with the tach and speedo supplied by Pat Swanson) as well as incorporating a sleek underdash panel housing the fuel cutoff, kill switch, turn signals, and indicator lights. That Delage-looking steering wheel is actually the handiwork of Dick Courville, machined out of aluminum and wrapped in black leather by Pierce, who also fabbed up the bucket seats prior to laying out the saddle tan leather and unique rubber matted flooring in the cockpit.
Now that Jim Farley’s ’32 Ford roadster, the “V-8 Flyer” as he’s named it, is finished and has done the whole show thing, it’s time for him to enjoy the “dependable hot rod” aspect he and Simard agreed on from the get go. And believe us, he will.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1932 Ford Roadster