For an automotive editor, writing a feature about a brand-new car that has been customized or hopped-up tends to be a little trying at times. After one gets past the part about the shiny spears spinning on its freakishly large ugly wheels or guessing how the manufacturer squeezed 25 more horsepower out of an engine without changing the cam or compression, there isn't much left to talk about. After all, how much can you say about a car's dashboard that used to be a plastic milk bottle?
That's the neat thing about street rods-there's always a great story. When we read over the tech sheet for Joe Alcoke's '32 Ford Model B DeLuxe coupe, we discovered he'd included a photocopy of his title from when the car was first transferred into his name. As amazing as this may seem, it was on May 9, 1952-54 years ago to the day before this story was written (it wasn't until he turned 21 that he could legally register the car in his name in North Carolina). While he was working as a lot boy for W.C. Hagood Ford in New Bern, North Carolina in 1948, Joe bought the '32 from a Marine returning home from overseas for $125. The Marine had lost the Deuce's New York title and couldn't get the car registered. He tried to sell it to W.C. Hagood, but they wouldn't touch the Deuce without a pink slip. Joe jumped at the chance, offering to buy it for what is now the cost of one quart of red urethane paint. Later in '48, Joe started dating a girl named Bettie, using the little third-window coupe to pick her up after high school every day and then heading over to a little caf named Mike's for split-fried hot dogs and nickel Pepsis (originally known as Brad's Drink, Pepsi-Cola was created in New Bern, North Carolina, in 1898). In probably less time than it took Bettie to finish her Pepsi, Joe had tired of the Model B's four-banger motor, replacing it with a Flathead V-8 Ford packing a Mercury stroker.
In the years to follow, Joe's job at the Ford dealer proved to be a good source for a string of full-house mills and late-model tricks. On October 3, 1951, Joe married Bettie and continued to work his way up through the ranks at Hagood Ford. In November '55, Joe and Bettie's daughter went for her first ride in the '32 when she was only 6 months old.
Looking back through the years it seems Joe's Deuce met with major revisions right around the turn of each decade. In 1957, Joe located a totaled '57 Chevy in a local wrecking yard optioned with a dual-quad 283 pushing 270 factory horses; the solid-lifter motor had traveled only 3,000 miles before its Bel Air odometer was stopped dead. For gear changes Joe picked up a 25-tooth Lincoln Zephyr tranny and hooked it to a Columbia two-speed rearend with 4.44:1 gears. Not stopping with performance improvements, Joe repainted the '32's original paint (black with gold 'stripes) with 40 coats of red lacquer. For the interior, Joe went to Jonesy at Culpepper's Auto Upholstery in New Bern for an alternating black and white tuck 'n' roll job.
"The next major change came in 1967, when I put in a 271-horse, 289-inch Mustang engine with a C4 transmission and Ford 8-inch rearend with 3.50:1 gears," Joe said. "I was cut so much slack about the Chevy engine while working with Ford, I made the switch ... I later regretted it."
On January 1, 1970, Joe left W.C. Hagood Ford, and by January 10th he had opened up the doors to Joe Alcoke Lincoln Mercury in New Bern. "By 1972, my dealership and family grew so fast I could never get or take the time to work on my car," Joe said. "The Deuce sat in our garage for the next 30 years, until at my wife's insistence to have it redone, I took it to Don's Hot Rods in Germantown, Ohio, in 2002."
Although Don's Hot Rods has won many awards creating showstoppers for the indoor circuit, including the coveted AMBR and the Ridler, it was Don's reputation for building a super sanitary driver that convinced Joe it was the right place for him.
The crew at Don's tossed the Model B frame in favor of custom fabricating a new chassis around a set of Deuce 'rails from Just A Hobby. Up front a dropped I-beam and 11-inch disc brakes from Chassis Engineering rides on a set of POSIES springs and gas shocks. For steering a Flaming River steering column topped with a Billet Specialties banjo steering wheel connects to a Vega steering box directing American Racing wheels stuffed into BFGoodrich T/As. Thanks to a GM 700-R4 automatic overdrive transmission, the three-window's 3.89:1-geared 9-inch Moser rearend doesn't get a chance to buzz the '32's Fast Burn 385 small-block Chevy motor.
For all involved, working on Joe's Deuce was a real pleasure; they all spoke of how original and cherry the '32 Ford was. Don said somewhere along the line the firewall was hacked up pretty badly, but thanks to someone spreading melted tar everywhere as a sealant, everything underneath was like new. When Paul Atkins stripped the interior out to re-cover it in leather, he marveled at being able to simply disassemble it without encountering rusted hardware. Quoting Joe from a fax he sent Don's Hot Rods after the '32 was completed pretty much sums it up: "Don, I am glad I chose your shop. You and your team did an outstanding job. Tom did a beautiful paint job and Paul Atkins backed that up with a great upholstery job. The restoration certainly exceeded my expectations."