When Charles Chase of St. Peters, Missouri, purchased his 1932 Ford three-window in 1998 he was the third owner and the car was finished as a true '90s-style hot rod. It had all the contemporary features-tweed interior, modern big-wheel/thin-tire combo, a mild 350/350 drivetrain built for show, and billet-o-plenty sprinkled about the vehicle. Sure the car was a bit too modern for Charles' tastes, but the package price was right. It had a good Downs Manufacturing body, a Barry Lobeck chassis, and enough basic pieces to get a good start on a true '50s-style hot rod. In the meantime he would drive and enjoy the car just as it was. Five years later, during one of those drives, an inattentive college student would try to turn the back of the coupe into a drive-thru. Looking back on it, that unfortunate happenstance would be the precise moment in time when Charles would start the new-to-old transformation.
The object of the exercise was to create a visually representative clone of the mid-'50s hot rod movement, meaning a car that was all about power and speed, not creature comforts. Of course there would be nice paint and upscale period upholstery, but accessories like heat, A/C, sound system, and fenders would have to go. Because the transformation is so complete, Charles started by simply removing every nut and bolt, putting it all in a pile, and then carefully selecting the items that would return to service and leave the rest. In the end, the Just-A-Hobby frame was reused, along with the 9-inch Ford rearend, Total Cost Involved four-link system, and Pro Shock coilovers. Then the changes began. Up front Charles opted for a Super Bell 4-inch dropped axle and replaced the king pin bushings with needle bearings for smoother handling. For safety (let's face it, old is cool but safe is way cool) he added Wilwood disc brakes to the front but concealed them with a pair of SO-CAL Speed Shop Buick-style covers. In keeping with the spirit of the project, the mild 350 that came with the car was replaced by (and this is where advanced technology is allowed) a Beck Racing 383-inch small-block Chevy that puts out a certified 462 ponies and really gives the TCI Automotive Street Fighter TH350 transmission and 2,400-rpm stall converter plenty to think about when the loud pedal is whacked. Then, as the final period touch, a full set of steelies and wide whites was added to the rolling chassis.
At the same time the rolling chassis was coming together, the body was in the capable hands of Leonard Canter in St. Charles, Missouri. Leonard repaired all the collision damage and blocked the car until it was so straight that the only other thing left to do to complement his workmanship was to paint it black, and that's just what he did. The only thing Leonard was not responsible for was the green and white pinstriping and the Rat Fink graphics; those are the work of Gary Mizar. Gary worked for Ed Roth for years, helped develop Roth characters, and did some of the Rat Fink artwork, so it only seemed proper that he be the one to put the finishing touches on a car meant to be representative of the '50s.
When the body and the chassis were reunited it was time to start filling the cabin with the essence of period interior treatments. Of course there were some modern items thrown in. The most notable concession to the '50s hot rod look was a full set of Tel Tek Digitals red readout instruments, because Charles really likes red digital readouts and it's his car. Other new items to the interior include an ididit steering column topped by a Grant steering wheel, a Glide seat, and a Ron Francis wiring kit to bring it all to life. Then to bring the '50s treatment all together, Little Sid's in Rolla, Missouri, stitched up a very traditional white rolled interior with black piping, a pair of matching floor mats, and the ever-present car show steering wheel cover.
So there you have it, the transformation from '90s billet mobile to '50s hot rod/show car, all accomplished in a short eight-month period-or as we like to say, everything new is made old again.