|1932 Ford roadster project
||Last updated on September 26, 2013|
The race car
Significant inspiration for this car was provided by Boyce Asquith, shown here preparing for a pass. Boyce engineered and built one of the quickest and
trickest Deuce roadsters ever built, and as you see in this Pat Ganahl photo, he liked to put his foot in it.
This page shows the progress on our roadster project, as the car is transformed from a vision and piles of parts into a first-class hot rod.
This is a pure race car for nostalgia drag racing, with a 496-inch big block Chevy, built to hook up and run in the nines.
When it is eventually finished, the car will be black (with no filler anywhere), sitting very low in the front, and mean.
From the 1940s on up through the early 1970s, there were dual-purpose, record-setting race cars that ran at the drags as well as on the salt. Occasionally some
of them would find their way onto the street. As an example,
Tom McMullen drove his blown-mouse-powered Deuce on
the street and also raced it on the strip as well as at Bonneville and El Mirage.
Things are different now. Whether they're for the salt or the strip, contemporary, truly competitive race cars have evolved to the point where it is no longer
practical to drive any of them on the street, regardless of how many parts you change. As an example, the
SCTA record at Bonneville for the Unblown A/Gas Roadster class is currently just over 231 mph. In the
Unblown A/Gas Street Roadster class, the record is just over 233, held by
Ron Jolliffe's "Rocket Science Engineering" '34, which was featured in issue 16 of The
Rodder's Journal on pages 24 to 29.
Any car that is built to be competitive on the salt would be far too heavy to do well on the strip. So you decide what you want to do with the car, balance
that against what your budget allows, and then start compromising.
And that's the problem. I just don't like to compromise.
I've had lots of time to plan what I'd like to build. The original roadster project has been mocked up two different ways: as a mild street car that's
relatively practical; and as a pure race car with slicks, spindle-mounts, and a cage. Rather than trying to build something that we can convert from street to
strip, I'm just going to build it as a race car. Your basic traditional hot rod with a big engine, a classic look, and lots of neat parts some old, some
new. And it will go like hell.
There are many people whose work will play an influence on this car, including Boyce Asquith and Tom Prufer, and going all the way back to Bob McGee and Doane
Spencer. Overall, the race car will have a late-Sixties look to it The goal is to create something that features an array of classic hot rod parts on the
outside and inside, with some of the finest-available contemporary goodies in the engines.
The race car project began one day back in 1999, not long before we went to the fiftieth Grand National Roadster Show. Standing outside in the California
desert, I unpacked the pair of late-Sixties Halibrand magnesium 16 by 13s that the brown truck had just delivered.|
You can read more about these wheels, as well as the other wheels for all of our projects on
As soon as I saw these wheels, that was it. I knew that I was going to build a car around them.
I also knew that I was completely out of my mind.
After asking around for a pair of new slicks, I bought a new pair of M&H Racemaster 13.00-16 wrinkle-walls from Nostalgia Top Fuel racer Ron Martin in
This particular pair of tires was made in 2001, shortly before Marvin at M&H, the inventor of the wrinkle-wall drag slick, sold the company and
The 13.00-16s are not mentioned in the current M&H product line. With Nostalgia Top Fuel racers now being restricted to a twelve-inch tire, they may not be
I've bought some exceptionally nice original 1932 Ford parts for the roadster and the coupe, including two cherry original grille shells and inserts.|
One of the grille shells and both inserts were massaged by Portland metal master Mike McKennett at Restorations and Reproductions. Mike did a superb job, and I
highly recommend him.
The grille shells are now in
bare metal, protected by Gibbs Brand.
Other original '32 parts that I've scrounged include several stock grille shell trim pieces, several Ford emblems, one of which was restored by Gordy Lippman
in Everett, Washington, five pairs of headlights, a cherry gas tank, front axles and wishbones that are described below, and several hoods that include a rare
25-louver hood. That's about all that's needed in the way of original parts for these cars.
The 327 small block Chevy engine for the coupe is described on
a different page, and the 496-inch big block Chevy engine for the race car is described on
Here's a pair of headlight mounts that were cut from an original '32 headlight bar. These will get polished after they are heated and bent to hold the
headlights at the right angle when they are bolted to the frame rails.
For both Deuces, the basic frame starts with a pair of stamped reproduction frame rails that are C-notched over the rear axle housing, and a pair of boxing
The front suspension on each '32 will be basic and traditional, built around dropped, original, forged-steel 1932 Ford I-beam axles. Known as the '32 heavy
axles, these are distinctive pieces that add to the appeal of a Deuce as only original '32 Ford parts can. We dropped one of the axles to a total drop of 3 1/2
inches, and I have completely polished the axles using abrasives.|
The axles are being used with a couple of original '32 wishbones that I've split, filled, sanded and polished. In order to come up with two wishbones and two
axles to modify and polish, I bought five original '32 axles and four '32 wishbones, and selected the two axles and wishbones that were the best candidates for
polishing. We are in the process of installing some new ends for the wishbones that were machined out of chrome-moly. Once they're dialed in, I'll finish
The rest of the front ends will include a pair of original, forged '37-'41 Ford spindles, and a pair of '48-'52 Ford F-1 pickup front shock mounts. This
picture shows three sets of F-1 shock mounts that are in different stages of refinishing.
Under both the race car and the coupe, the chassis makes use of a number of original parts, including a Model A front crossmember. The Model A front
crossmember will lower the front end an inch.|
The frames are completely TIG-welded, in extremely rigid jigs and fixtures. To allow for the engine set-back in the race car, the round-tube X-member will be
moved back several inches.|
In March of 2005, Darryl Smith, stopped in at my shop. Darryl runs a very respected shop called
Darryl Smith Race Cars. A true perfectionist, Darryl is a very experienced race car
designer and builder with an
Back in the mid-'90s, Darryl and I worked together, building race cars. Before that, Darryl built Pro Stock cars that were raced by Bob Glidden, Warren
Johnson, Ricky Smith, and Jim Yates.
After a quick tour of my shop that included my explaining what I wanted the car to do when it was done, Darryl dug the direction the roadster was heading. And,
having about as much common sense as me, Darryl indicated an interest in getting involved in the project.
Darryl's company has a division known as
9-inch Warehouse, a major distributor of rear end parts from suppliers that include Currie
Enterprises, Richmond Gear, Strange Engineering, and Mark Williams Enterprises. Darryl and his staff also fabricate and modify rear axle housings, so they can
do anything that might be called for on the street, strip, or salt.
All through the 1960s, the '57-'64 Olds and Pontiac rear ends were by far the most popular rear ends in serious, high-horsepower drag cars all the way up to
Top Fuel. They're extremely strong, and they happen to look great.|
I traded a V8-60 axle for the 1962 Olds rear axle housing shown here. We removed its brackets with a plasma cutter, and I've ground and polished it. Next,
we'll TIG-weld a few areas where there was undercut from some of the factory welds, and I'll grind it and give it a final polishing once it's been narrowed and
we've installed the new ends.
The housing will be used with a Strange Engineering aluminum carrier that uses Chevy 12-bolt gears, a Detroit Locker, and a pair of custom 40-spline axles with
long studs on a five-inch bolt pattern.
To help the car hook up on the drag strip, the rear end will located with a fully-adjustable "door car" four-link. The goal here is to have the car hook
up,launch hard and go straight. That will be easy for Darryl.
I've scrounged a bunch of neat parts for this car. Part of the fun of building a classic hot rod with some personality is the finding interesting old parts
that fit the theme of the car and add to its character. Every part on the car is being carefully chosen and then detailed.|
This original Halibrand fuel cap is a rare piece. Halibrand produced them from the 1950s through the late 1960s. Most of them were used on sprint cars and
front-engine Indy roadsters.
Unlike most fuel caps, the Halibrand caps would pass Tech inspection at Indy. They were unique in having a safety latch to prevent the cap from popping open if
the car got upside-down.
This is one of the last new Halibrand fuel caps left in the world. It came in its original box, and has never been installed. It used to belong to the late
Grant King, and was found in his Indy car building shop.
This cap will supply the fuel cell that will be custom-built to fit behind the seat.
A big thanks goes out to Ed Norton who restores vintage sprint cars in Michigan, (who also sold me the Halibrand magnesium brake calipers, the Hilborn
magnesium fuel filter, and the NOS Gordon Schroeder steering wheel) for making this outstanding piece of history available to me back in October of 2002. This
car could not be what it will be without Ed having made these rare parts available.
Here are some of the original Halibrand Engineering parts that the race car is being built around. This set of four Halibrand magnesium brake calipers, which
were made for Indy cars and sprint cars in the 1960s, came from Ed Norton.|
This picture shows the
dual-piston rear calipers behind the
finned "lobster" front calipers, which were designed to fit inside of early 18-inch Indy car wheels. I bead
blasted them, and have started to completely polish them. If we decide to use them, they will be sent out to be rebuilt with sleeves, and custom aluminum hubs
and brake hats will be machined along with the mounting brackets, and a set of drilled cast-iron discs.
Fitting in with the theme of using many vintage race car parts is a 17-inch four-spoke Gordon Schroeder steering wheel and center pad.|
In the 1950s and 60s, these were the steering wheels of choice for most Indy roadsters. This wheel used to belong
to the veteran Indy car builder, Grant King. Although it was made in the 1960s, it has never been on a
I'm machining a simple, retro-style steering column, which will resemble an early Ford column, and will machine the 1 1/2" tube and both of the 5/8" steering
shafts from chrome-moly.
As far as steering column hangers go, I've scrounged several of them, and will choose the one that works best once the car is mocked up.|
On the top left is an NOS Moon hanger with the early Mooneyes sticker that I found in November of 2002.
Below that is another Moon cast-aluminum steering column hanger, that turned up at a swap meet in Portland in October of 2002. This piece is from the late
1950s or early '60s, and has the very early Moon logo that shows a Model T roadster.
When I was looking for a steering column hanger back in 1998, I was given a Childs & Albert aluminum connecting rod that was taken out of
Don Prudhomme's nitro Funny Car after it ran one pass in a 1998 test session at Pomona. The
rod looked new, but due to the violence of running on nitro it has been compressed one-thousandth of an inch center-to-center, so it got tossed.
Here's what it looks like now that I've gone over it with fine abrasives and some aluminum polish.
When California Top Fuel Hydro world champion Dale Ishimaru made this NOS Cragar gas pedal from the 1960s available in August of 2002, it was too neat to pass
While this piece resembles the popular Moon pedal, the pivot point is higher and there is a recess for the heel.
The pedal and its mounting bracket have been detailed with emery cloth and Scotch-Brite.
I'd really like to find more Cragar pedals for my other cars, so please let me know if you have one.
The brake and clutch pedals, and the shift lever for the car, will all be machined from aluminum plate.
Shown to the right of the pedal, from top to bottom:
One of the NOS 1960s Stewart Warner 2 5/8" gauges that will be used
One of the shift handles that I've filed, sanded, and polished by hand, an early-'70s
Cal Custom "El Toro"
The mounting bracket for the Cragar pedal, positioned inline with where it mounts on the pedal
At the bottom is a late-'60s Hurst T-handle.
These cast-aluminum tach mounts were common on 1960s drag boats.|
This one was found on eBay and came from a hot rodder in San Diego.
Here it's shown after I spent a half-hour smoothing it out with abrasives.
The tach that's mounted in it is an NOS 1960s Stewart Warner mechanical tach that goes up to 9,000 rpm.
Steve Baker, the owner of
Safecraft Safety Equipment in Concord, California, has offered a padded and upholstered
aluminum seat, an
SFI-approved five-point safety harness, and a race-legal Halon fire system for the car, in exchange
for advertising on this site.|
Thanks to Steve, I'll be a lot safer. I'll also be in good company. Safecraft products are used by many of the top race teams in the IHRA, NASCAR, and the
The race car will have a roll cage that will pass tech inspection at races put on by the NHRA and the SCTA.|
Don Dillard took this picture of the cage in the number 996 Deuce roadster that was built
by Jack and Harry Stirnemann and George Lange.
All of the switches will be located so they can be reached when strapped into the
Here's another picture of the same car, showing its hand-formed aluminum tonneau cover.|
These are going to be some nice rides. Building them is work, but it's work that I enjoy doing. Listening to good music while I work helps. And all of the
interesting people that I meet along the way in the search for more neat parts for them help make the projects even more fun.|
I have designed numerous parts for the cars, some of which I won't talk about until they're finished. There are still decisions to made, and some of the parts
for the roadster are still being sourced. Everything is being selected or designed and built to stay within the overall theme of the car.
Beautiful but brutal.
I call it "wicked elegance".
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