If the old Chinese proverb, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" is true, then you can expect the things you do today could very well affect your life in the future. Back in the early '60s, when he was only 21 years old, Bob Everts decided he needed to leave his home in Connecticut and go to California to make his fortune, so he packed up his '32 Ford three-window and drove on out. Little did he know that the path he chose back then would lead him to a room full of Deuces later in life.
He reluctantly sold his three-window to finance the purchase of the metal tubing needed to create a prototype helicopter that he would go on to sell in kit form, setting the stage for his success in the business world. Many years later, Bob can now afford to dote on his collection of cars, which have included some of the more high-profile cars in hot rodding. One of the better-known vehicles he used to own is the Bob Morris roadster, which was built by the late Don Thelen at Buffalo Motor Cars. The hot rod used many parts that were plated in nickel, thus earning its moniker as the Nickel Roadster.
Now living a comfortable life in comedian Tim Allen's garage, the Nickel Roadster is one of those cars that many folks know about but very rarely ever get to see. Plus, with some folks putting the Nickel Roadster in an elite group that includes the Doane Spencer roadster, you can believe the quality and engineering that went into its creation is well above reproach.
Well, one doesn't soon forget owning such a vehicle, and neither had Bob. After forming a friendship with hot rod coachbuilder Steve Moal, Bob put forth a plan that would incorporate one of Steve's high-tech tube chassis (that uses sports car and NASCAR drivetrain and suspension concepts) with the style and grace of the Nickel Roadster.
But the inspiration that put Bob on the path to creating a new vehicle based on his old car didn't start with that singular thought. It began nearly nine years earlier when he was walking through the L.A. Roadsters Show's swap meet section looking for who-knows-what. What he came across were parts to an interesting engine. Contained in several crates were the pieces to a 1972 Yenko Weslake engine-a special four-valve Chevy V-8 that was originally intended for Trans-Am racing. Eternally a tinkerer, Bob bought the parts without knowing what he was ever going to do with them.
Though you never know when two paths will cross, the engine eventually found its way into the build plans for Bob's new Moal-built ride. The finished concept Steve and Bob agreed upon would be a Weslake-powered, Moal-built hot rod that would take its styling cues from the Nickel Roadster, effectively taking the best points from three worlds-engine, suspension, and elegance.
Steve has been perfecting his sports chassis for hot rods over the past few years, and has been able to cram a lot of engineering into a small, tight package. The wheelbase is set up at 110 inches and utilizes a Moal-built tubular chassis that, in the rear, houses a Currie 9-inch Posi aluminum rear (4.11:1) with torsion bar setup. Torsion bars are used up front too, while Wilwood 10.5-inch vented discs are found on each corner. Steering is handled by a Tommy Lee 12:1 power-assisted NASCAR box, which takes a little getting used to, but works well once you develop a touch for it.
Dual CNC'd master cylinders feed the brake system, and stainless steel line is used throughout the chassis. The whole package rolls on five-pin, knock-off Halibrand wheels (16x6 in the front, 18x7 in the rear). The aft wheels are wrapped in Dunlop Vintage Racing 7.00-18 rubber while the fronts are shod in the same type, only in the smaller 5.50-16 size. Sherm's Custom Plating in Sacramento, California, took care of the nickel-plating of all the chassis items.
The body for the project is a repro steel Brookville Roadster unit with some modifications done to satisfy Bob's eye. The tops of the doors and the dash have been sectioned with pieces from a '36 Ford roadster, making the top edge of the cockpit flow around smoother than the stock Deuce design. Moal also makes dual cowl vents to replace the single, stock unit, and they can work independently from each other or in unison.
The hood was fashioned at Moal's from aluminum and, with the three-row louvered sides (punched by Garth Bowie), is in a traditional four-piece layout. Another facet of the Moal design are rolled and louvered aluminum side panels that run the bottom edge length of the body as well as a louvered rear pan that has been modified to accept twin exhaust pipes. The piece de resistance of the trim pieces is the grille badge, which is made by Mark Swanson from Prescott, Arizona, out of nickel and spells out the car's Nickel 2 name.
Darryl Hollenbeck of Vintage Color Studios in Concord, California, got the call to cover the roadster in black two-stage PPG paint, which he accomplished to perfection. The miles-deep finish was then subtly pinstriped in green by Rory, though you have to look closely to see it in the beltlines.
As highlighted previously, the engine is a rare Yenko Weslake V-8. Weslake developed a special head for the Chevy 302 applications (especially the Camaros) for Trans-Am racing in the '70s. The basic short-block design wasn't altered, but the pushrods work forked rockers that actuate the four valves per cylinder, helping boost the power to around 600 hp at 7,500 rpm in racing applications.
Mountain Valley Performance handled the entire engine assembly, which began with a 350 block (which uses the same head bolt configuration as a 302). Included in the installation is a SCAT 4340 alloy 3.5-inch stroker crank, SCAT H-beam 5.7-inch rods, J&E forged pistons, and a special Crane Weslake roller camshaft for a final displacement of 358 cubes. Bob Ream at Imagine Injection Inc. designed the fuel delivery system that utilizes a Weslake intake manifold, and Moal-built headers and Turbo Tone mufflers handle exhaust.
Other engine-performance goodies include a SPAL fan, a Howerton radiator, an Enos alternator, and Taylor wires that work with the Motech Electronics. Ron Chavers hooked up the small-block to a dyno and it registered a peak 544 hp and 486 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed Tremec TKO-500 transmission was bolted up to the motor before the whole drivetrain was lowered into the chassis.
Longtime upholstery guru Sid Chavers expertly created a clean-looking interior for the roadster using deep green (nearly black) leather. A flip-down armrest in the back piece allows Bob to cruise in comfort while clever flaps on the door panels conceal pockets that can hold the required registration or other paperwork. The DuVall-style windshield uses flat glass and is outfitted with one interior and one exterior mirror. A smooth '32 dash was installed, as was an aluminum insert from Moal, which was then filled with Stewart Warner gauges. A Flaming River column continues the simple theme, and Bob fabricated the four-spoke steering wheel in his own shop. Topping off the interior is a Moal electric heater, which is found under the dash and looks like a '50s-era heater.
Now living in Camp Verde, Arizona, Bob keeps his collection (which encompasses roughly 14 Deuces, seven '40 Fords, plus a handful of other interesting vehicles, including the original SO-CAL coupe from the December 2000 cover of STREET RODDER) in a couple of barns on his property. Although there are plenty of black '32 highboys out in the world, you can sense the differences in the one pictured here as soon as you see it from a distance. Upon closer inspection, the subtle craftsmanship becomes apparent, and soon you're taking in all of its nuances. The more you look, the more you find, and that is what separates this roadster from any other, including the original Nickel Roadster. Bob and Steve were able to take an icon and go one step further with the concept, and, more importantly, make it work.