Kenneth Rupp, like most of us, dreamt of owning a hot rod as a kid. Visions of jet-black roadsters, gleaming chrome, and leaving dusty rooster tails in his wake haunted him. So much so that when his time came to build his dream car, he knew exactly how he wanted it. Seeing our friend Ken Gross' nostalgia highboy (SRM, January 2001), Kenneth knew he had himself a bona fide recipe. The chrome-on-black nostalgia highboy roadster was the exact image that filled his boyhood dreams. Combining elements of one of the most famous hot rods of all time-Doane Spencer's roadster-with Ken Gross' highboy gave Kenneth his finished vision, but it takes more than just a vision to build a stunning hot rod. It takes blood, sweat, tears, and of course, a little bit of money.
You can't build a highboy roadster without a body, so for that detail, Kenneth picked up a '32 roadster body from Brookville Roadster and contacted Don's Hot Rods, winners of numerous Ridler and America's Most Beautiful Roadster awards, to get the build started. Using American Stamping Deuce 'rails, the team at Don's fabricated front and rear cross-members to hang the suspension from and a custom X-member to mount the T5 trans and master cylinders. With the frame con-struction complete, a chromed, dropped, and drilled Deuce axle was hung off a reverse-eyed chrome spring and located by custom hairpin radius rods. Hydraulic brakes of '40 Ford origin provide stopping power, while '56 Ford truck tube shocks keep the bumps at bay. A steering box from a '56 Ford truck was used to pull the tires in the right direction via side steer. What other rearend is more at home under a traditional hot rod than a Halibrand center-section flanked by Ford axle tubes? That's what Kenneth figured, and equipped his car as so, hanging the quickie using a Model A transverse spring, Pete & Jake's ladder bars, and '48 Ford shocks. All four corners received 16-inch Ford steelies with '40 Ford Deluxe hubcaps and trim rings wrapped in Firestone big 'n' little rubber.
While the chassis and body were being fitted and various parts fabricated, Mark Kirby at Motor City Flathead was busy getting the 8BA flat knocker together and pretty. Kenneth had a number of parts gathered for his highboy, including a hard-to-find Italian-bred S.Co.T. blower, a pair of Eddie Meyer heads, a pair of Stromberg 48 carbs, and a dual-carb Hexagon Tool Company air cleaner. Mark dug into the Flathead and bored the block to 3 3/8 inches and gave it a 4-inch stroke. A 250-degree duration MCF cam was installed to bump open the valves that popped up into the modified combustion chambers in the Eddie Meyer heads. A Mallory ignition fires the fuel which is then belched out Fenton headers and continues through a custom-made exhaust system, exiting below the stock gas tank. Once completed, the Flatty was mated to a modern T5 transmission and lowered between the Deuce 'rails where it was then hooked to the Halibrand rearend using an open driveshaft.
With everything fitted up and looking good, it was time for Kenneth to bust out the ol' brush and bucket and lay down a few coats of gloss black. Well, not exactly. Kenneth has a paint booth on his property and decided "why not?" After a few coats were applied and rubbed smooth, that deep gloss black finish was looking up to snuff. A careful rebuild was done to get the body back on the chassis and everything back together, then it was time to make a final trip to Dave Shank Upholstery in Wadsworth, Ohio.
Drawing heavily from the Doane Spencer roadster, Dave carefully mimicked the pattern on the seat and door panels onto Kenneth's Deuce, down to the map pockets on each door panel. The dash received the same treatment as Doane's car, with eight Stewart Warner gauges backed by an engine-turned panel. Kenneth opted to go the more sensible route with the steering, and instead of running a Sprint Car box like Doane did, he ran a traditional-style column topped with a custom banjo-style steering wheel. Needless to say, when the two interiors are compared side-by-side, it's hard to tell them apart!
Drawing inspiration from the past is something almost all contemporary hot rodders do. It's in our blood. The very nature of hot rodding is to take the past, bring it into the future, and put your own spin on it. That's exactly what Kenneth did. Using styling cues from various cars, past and present, he's built one of the finest traditional hot rods around. And that's not just our opinion. Last year, Kenneth and his Deuce roadster took home Best in Show of the Hot Rod Class at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, a class judged by none other then Ken Gross and Bruce Meyer. If that doesn't say something about the quality of car Kenneth has put together, I don't know what would!