Growing up in California's Central Valley in the 1950s, Howard Michels' life as a teenager mirrored that of the movie "American Graffiti." Cruising 10th Street in Modesto or the Avenue in Stockton, Howard and his friends were the real-life John Milners and Bob Falfas. Howard's love for all things auto began at the tender age of 14 when he acquired his first car, a '49 Ford convertible. That '49 and another Model A served him well until 1968, when he bought his first '32-a five-window with a Flathead. A few years later he ditched the Flathead for a 283ci Chevy. Then in the mid-'80s, the coupe received a complete rebuild. He says the coupe is the love of his life, but he has always longed for a roadster.
Like a lot of hot rodders today, Howard found that he couldn't afford a good, original body and what he could afford was too far gone for the caliber of car he wanted to build. Noting the development of the Brookville line of reproduction steel bodies, he decided to put in an order for body number 137. Having been collecting parts for a time, he already had an original Deuce frame as well as a '55 Olds 324ci engine with a four-speed hydramatic trans. His plans were to build a nostalgic hot rod similar to the ones he remembered seeing cruising the boulevard back in his high school days.
Howard set off building his dream car, first by modifying and repairing the stock '32 frame. He replaced the stock front crossmember with a Model A unit, modified the center crossmember, and boxed the frame. A cross-steer Flaming River box was mated to a dropped and drilled axle and split '32 wishbones. The Ford spindles mount Halibrand wheels with Wilwood four-piston disc brakes, inconspicuously hidden by modified frying pans. Out back, a 9-inch Ford rearend carries a Strange aluminum center section with Buick drums hung off a '41 Ford transverse leaf spring.
For the drivetrain, Howard had the '55 Olds 324ci engine rebuilt and used a set of '56 Olds heads due to their larger valves and higher compression ratio. A Daytona cam, polished Edelbrock 4x2 intake with Retrotek EFI, Mallory distributor, chrome valve covers, and Cermakrome-coated exhaust round off the engine. Howard decided to go with a more modern 700-R4 trans instead of the stock Olds Hydro.
The Brookville body was shipped in pieces, so before any paintwork was to begin, Howard had the task of assembling the body first. Once assembled, he modified a few of the panels to fit just right, and then sprayed the body in PPG Victory red and black. The chassis was also sprayed using PPG's Concept powder blue paint. Once the paint was dry, the roadster was sent out to Leon's Auto Upholstery where Leon Jones stitched up custom-dyed leather to match the red paint. Moon gauges in an engine-turned Auburn panel, a Schroeder steering wheel, stock column, and original dash knobs finish off the interior.
Howard's nostalgic roadster went off nearly without a hitch, although he does admit that his original plan of spending around $20K was slightly unreal. Though the finished product exceeded that original limit, we're sure he wouldn't have changed a thing.