What sort of car would you build for yourself if you were the owner of a street rod shop? Would it be something cutting edge with every trick part on the market, particularly those you were hoping to sell? Or would you make it a "design exercise" and push the envelope so far out of shape that the linage of the end result was impossible to identify? Or maybe you'd just build something that was simple, tasteful, and beautifully executed-a real car that not only looked like a hot rod, but one that could go from point A to point B without a trailer, laptop computer, or a support crew. That's not only what Richard Graves would do, that's what he did.
Head honcho at Richard's Wheel & Chassis in Long Beach, California, Graves is the kind of guy who can take a pile of parts and make a rod out of them. Of course, in this case, he started with a pretty cool pile, one that he had been gathering for some time. There was a good, running 327 Chevy that had been pulled out of another hot rod, enough transmission parts around the shop to put together a five-speed, a '57 Ford rearend that came out of a wrecking yard 10 years ago, and a set of '56 Ford pickup brakes that had been yanked off a car that got discs. Not a bad start. All Richard needed to come up with was a cab to build the '32 Ford pickup he'd always wanted; just about everything else he could find or fabricate.
Richard was ready to get serious after buying a fair cab on eBay. He turned to the Kiwi Konnection for framerails; then Richard, along with Jeb Scolman, hung the front and rear suspension, built the necessary brake and clutch pedals, fabricated engine and transmission mounts, and installed the steering.
With the chassis well on its way, Jeb turned his attention to the truck's body. The non-chopped, non-channeled, unmodified cab was soon factory fresh, but a major part of the truck was still missing-the bed. But with a talented guy like Scolman around, it was less of a problem than you might think. He simply made one. While he was at it, he whipped up a custom 15-gallon gas tank, banged out a pair of trick rocker covers, and reworked an early Studebaker air cleaner to make it fit a Holley two-barrel carburetor.
When it came time to paint the Deuce, Gerardo Hernandez was the triggerman who laid down the perfect black acrylic enamel, and then the oh-so-subtle pinstriping was laid down by the legendary Dennis Riklifs. Inside the closed cab is a custom bench seat that was covered by Darrell Morgan of Seal Beach, California. The inside of the doors are painted steel and a stock-style rubber mat covers the floor.
After six months of fabrication and body and paintwork, Richard set a goal of assembling the truck in two short weeks, an ambitious goal he accomplished. But, despite the brief build time, once the truck was on the road, the only complaint was that the rear gears were a tad high, but that's easy to fix.
It could probably be argued that street rods are a reflection of the builder's personality. Some builders are all business while others are flamboyant. Of course if this theory is valid, it means Richard Graves is an uncomplicated, get-to-the-point, no B.S. rodder with an uncanny eye for detail and unlimited talent. I guess we'll let you be the judge of that.