What is it about the look of a killer 1932 coupe that even custom guys are drawn to? Paul Bragg of Paso Robles, California, has been a hot rod and custom builder for the last 45 years, but leans a bit towards the custom side, owning several custom Mercs. He also owned two 1932 pickups over the course of his hot rod life and remembers them fondly. Approximately 30 years ago, his last 1932 pickup--along with two Mercs--was stolen from a storage facility, never to be found. He did eventually replace the Mercs and has now replaced the 1932, this time in coupe form.

Paul purchased this five-window coupe in 1989 and started work in 1992 at his own shop, Paul’s Rod and Custom. As an old race car, a number of panels suffered from metal fatigue and were replaced. Paul pointed out that no body filler was used in the transformation of the vintage coupe. Modifications were numerous, including chopping the top, removing the driprails, filling the roof and cowl vent, and channeling the body a bit more in the back than the front, allowing the beltline to run parallel with the framerails. The coupe also received a rolled rear pan and a sunken license plate.

The frame was fully boxed with custom crossmembers, frenched front horns, and bobbed rear rails. The front suspension uses a dropped axle with TCI Engineering spindles and a four-link with a monoleaf spring, chrome shocks, and a sway bar added for handling. At the rear, a narrowed 9-inch Ford is kept in line with a set of coilovers. The disc/drum brake combination uses a Corvette master cylinder.

Between the framerails lies the heart of this classic hot rod coupe. The 354 Chrysler Hemi was built by Phil’s Machine and was bored 0.120 inch over while using balanced stock internals, a Weiand dual quad intake with a pair of Edelbrock carbs, and a Mopar Performance electronic distributor. The exhaust is fed through Sanderson headers and a stainless steel custom exhaust. The Hemi connects to a Turbo 400 automatic using an A-1 adapter and a Gennie shifter.

The interior was stitched in a classic 1950s style red-and-white tuck ’n’ roll over custom seat frames by Rick Simmons in Nipomo, California. Paul added a leather-wrapped banjo steering wheel and an array of Stewart Warner gauges wrapped in subtle flames across the dash. The coupe was finally finished in 1998 and rolled out the door, a shiny new set of red steelies, with trim rings and caps pointing the way.

Now, Paul might still be a custom guy at heart. His garage full of customs shows his love for reshaping metal. Yet we couldn’t help but notice the big smile on his face behind the wheel of this awesome coupe as we were photographing the driving shot for our cover. There were times it produced a glare in the camera lens. How could you not be happy with a Hemi under your foot and the menacing sound that goes with it? Someone may have stolen Paul’s 1932 pickup many years ago, but now with his Hemi 1932 coupe, they’ll never steal his thunder.