1932 Ford Highboy Roadster - Riding With The Loner
Imitation May Be The Sincerest Form Of Flattery, But Emulation Is The Noblest
From the June, 2008 issue of Street Rodder
By Chris Shelton
Photography by Brian Brennan
Not all cloned hot rods are created equal. Take this orange Deuce, for example. Despite Tony Nancy's name and number emblazoned upon its flanks, it'd be a pretty inaccurate one.
To understand why is to know the legend of Tony and 22jr. A trimmer by trade and pioneer drag racer by night, Tony was pretty much in a league of his own in an era when precedence in drag racing hadn't fully been established. For example, whereas most of his peers were still building their own chassis out of boxed Ford frames, an up-and-coming fabricator named Kent Fuller built Nancy's. Tony's attention to detail that made him famous in Tinseltown carried over to the cars, and regardless if they were competitors, no drag racer conscious of a 'rail's appearances considered a car done until Tony pleated it in his hallmark diamond pattern. His fans dubbed him "The Loner" for his ability to field a successful race car by himself, and he dubbed every one of those race cars with the number he acquired as a roadster racer: 22jr.
The front wheels are reproduced...
The front wheels are reproduced E-T Classic 5 wheels, but these vintage 16x11 ET rears are in fact vintage. So, too, is the method that made the slicks. Dubbed pie-crusts for their distinctive sidewall shape, they're actually passenger-car tires capped in slick jackets in Hurst Racing Tires, one of the vendors who offered this service when Tony Nancy raced his roadsters. Though the matrixes are the same ones used in the day, the tires aren't-they're radials.
There's something consistent among all of Tony's four comp roadsters that would make this orange, Chevy-powered Deuce a poor clone: His were red Model As, powered by either Flatheads or Nailheads. Differences aside, there's something eerily familiar about this orange car, if only aesthetically. It's because Steve Dennish didn't copy one of Tony's cars so much as copy his particular style. Rather than a clone of Tony's cars, it's a tribute to the man.
If only the story were that simple. In fact, it wasn't until one of the last pieces fell in place that Steve and the LimeWorks Speed Shop crew realized what the car had in fact become. "Once we got the rollbar bent up, and once we got the seats in it, with the diamond upholstery that was on 'em, it looked like something that Tony Nancy would've done," Steve recalled.
Though incidental, the direction the car suddenly took wasn't entirely coincidental. According to Steve, "I wanted to do a '60s-style drag-and-show car," which is, depending on how you see things, a look that Tony popularized if not perfected. With its alloy wheels, recapped slicks, gently radiused rollbar, and aggressive stance, it certainly fulfills the checklist as far as parts are concerned. But, it's the way those parts are put together that makes the car look as if it were created decades ago rather than just made. It's because, just like Tony did in the day, Steve built the car out of a combination of original parts, a few speed parts, and made the rest by hand.
Tony's rollbars were more...
Tony's rollbars were more of an arch, as they only had to protect one person sitting dead center in the cockpit. This one, with its gentler arc to accommodate both driver and passenger, is a bit more suggestive of the one in Bob Roubal's Deuce. Made with a combination of a slip roller and conventional tube benders, Steve described its construction as "a real pain." Incidentally, those little decklid hinges are marine items.
As ironic as it sounds for a guy who manufactures his own line of parts, "The one thing we didn't do was use any LimeWorks parts," Steve noted. "It was to show what we can do, not what we make. I think the only LimeWorks parts are the Moon tank brackets; everything else is original work."
The chassis, for instance, is standard fare: a pair of stock-style Deuce 'rails that have been boxed and paired with a combination of Model A and tubular crossmembers. It's what's right in front of your face that you can't see that's so different about them. If you're savvy, you've picked up on the car's relatively low stance in spite of the nearly flat V-8/60 axle. To get the car as low as it would've been with a dropped axle, Steve pie-cut the framerails at the body's firewall so they kick up a few inches higher at the crossmember. "They're also pinched just a wee bit," he noted.
That axle also presented another problem, this time with the '32 wishbone destined for the car. To marry the two, Steve severed the wishbone's 2-inch front bosses and replaced them with 2-1/4-inch bosses from a Model A wishbone. Though wishbone-splitting bungs exist in the aftermarket, Steve made his own to use oversize rod ends. He then commissioned a local shop to make a spring to fit the perch boss width unique to a '37-41 axle when used with '34-and-earlier perches.
If the square-tube rear ladder bars look suspiciously handmade, it's because they're old-stock pieces made by Roy Fjastad after he decided to stop building dragster chassis under the SPE brand. "It's a Deuce Factory kit that they used to do in the 1980s," Steve indicated, "but I put Heim joints in the ends because they had solid bushings in the ends of the bars." It looks as if the suspension uses coilovers, but the springs are actually old Corvair coils with separate Pete & Jake's dampers.
Tony used a number of typefaces...
Tony used a number of typefaces for the graphics on his cars, but the one Dennis Jones used on this car reflects the era when Tony's cars looked like this one. Basically a black letter script, it conjures images of medieval jousting-basically the same thing drag racers do to this day-and hints at Steve's background (he's a Brit or, more familiarly, a Limey, hence the shop name).
Though Steve admits there's nothing really exceptional about the 400 Chevy other than a lumpy cam, dual quads, and a set of weed-burner pipes, its location is emblematic of '60s drag racing. To improve weight transfer, drag racers pushed the engine rearward-Tony, for one, pushed his so far back he practically straddled it. To give this car the look without totally sacrificing cockpit space, Steve pushed this one's back a few inches. He modified the body to fit by dissecting an already cut-up stock firewall surround, set it back a few inches, and bonded it to the fiberglass in the cowl.
If you've picked up on the louvered decklid, you're probably scratching your head after reading the fiberglass reference. While the body is indeed one of the Australian pieces LimeWorks used to import before the dollar went bust, the decklid is in fact a Brookville piece Eric Vaughn louvered and the LimeWorks crew stretched and shrank to fit the opening.
Every part within the cockpit is 1960s-appropriate, and despite the inclusion of a few old-stock parts, every single part to replicate it is still available in the aftermarket. The fiberglass seats that inspired the 22jr personality are available at LimeWorks. Established vendors like Speedway Motors still sell the Stewart Warner Deluxe mechanical gauges. Last we checked, Vern Tardel had a copy of the Ansen swing pedals. Though Superior Industries dropped the line, Mooneyes sells metalflake-vinyl steering wheels.
Though the seats that inspired...
Though the seats that inspired LimeWorks to make the roadster a tribute car had Tony's trademark diamond pleating, these particular covers, the door panels, and the rear garnish panels were custom made for the application. Ironically enough, another Whittier local, Tony's Auto Upholstery, did the work.
Upon having the car shot by Bob's Autobody and trim work done by-ironically enough-Tony's Auto Upholstery, the car started to really take shape as a Tony Nancy/22jr tribute. "I was just going to put stickers on it-22jr stickers on it-when Dennis Jones came into the shop," Steve said. "He saw it and immediately fell in love with it, but when I told him what I was going to do with it, I saw the hair stand up on the back of his neck," he added, chuckling. While Steve knew he'd get a charge out of a pinstriper by mentioning vinyl graphics, he had no idea Dennis and Tony had a history. "He actually lettered up the last two or three of Tony's cars," Steve added. "'No, you can't put stickers on this,' he told me, 'I'll letter it for you ... let's put his name on it.' That's where it came from, really. It didn't start off that way, but the more we got into it, the more we had to do it that way. It wasn't the plan from the start-that's the truth, really."
While the car that emerged from the LimeWorks stable isn't a nuts-and-bolts replica of a Tony Nancy car, it's all the better for it. Unlike Tony's cars, which were race cars exclusively, this one's a street car that can make a blast down the 1320 whenever the opportunity presents itself. "You drive it on the freeway as fast as you like, and it doesn't go anywhere but straight," Steve revealed. "I was blown away because I was expecting it to be a nightmare with those ribbed tires," he admitted, "but they're brilliant; it handles beautifully." And, don't take his word for it, either; the car's current stewards, a couple named Mike and Sharon Reid, flog the car regularly. "He drives the piss out of it. He loves it," Steve related. "They brought it up to the Irwindale Reunion. They drove it to Bakersfield from Temecula. I mean, just ballsy-great bloke; great wife, too. Really nice people."
For a clone, LimeWorks' 22jr car isn't accurate. For an original hot rod design that honors our past and the legend of a pioneer, though, it couldn't be any better.
Identified by their 270-degree...
Identified by their 270-degree sweeps, these 2-5/8-inch-diameter Stewart Warner mechanical gauges are structurally identical to the series the company introduced in 1946.
PSI Engineering steering column...
PSI Engineering steering column drop withstanding, every era-correct part in this photo is still available. Mooneyes sells a wheel similar to the 14-inch Covico; that's a new Hurst shift handle atop a Gennie Shifter base; Vern Tardel offers a copy of the Ansen pedal assembly; and Stewart Warner still makes the 3-3/8-inch-diameter tach.
Those dampers should look...
Those dampers should look familiar to anyone schooled in early Brit roadsters-they're Girlings.
A Chevy engine is practically...
A Chevy engine is practically timeless, but dual-quad intakes like this Edelbrock setup are nothing if not uniquely 1960s. Though the Don Zig sticker suggests the ignition is a magneto, it is in fact one of Taylor/Vertex's conventional distributors. The firewall is a conglomerate of a cut-up original, stainless sheet, and Brookville Roadster reproduction feet. Could there be any finer master cylinder for an Ansen pedal assembly other than a chromed '40 Ford fruit jar?
Steve conceded that he used...
Steve conceded that he used one or two LimeWorks parts, including the spreader-bar bracket for the Moon tank. The tube axle and spindles are vintage Ford pieces, but Steve had the spring made locally to fit the unique perch distance. The Magnum brakes are reminiscent of old Hurst Airhearts, the headlights are Guides, and their cast stands are copies of ones made famous by Lee's Speed Shop.
Lime Works pieced together...
Lime Works pieced together the weed-burners from bits of mandrel bends and made them bearable for street use with motorcycle baffles. The steering box came from an unlikely source: a '55-67 Volkswagen transporter (bus).
|FACTS & FIGURES |
|Mike and Sharon Reid |
|Carlsbad, California |
|1932 Ford highboy roadster |
|Frame / Manufacturer ||’32 Ford / LimeWorks Speed Shop (Whittier, CA) |
|Wheelbase ||106” |
|Modifications ||pinched at grille shell & raised at rear axle |
|Chassis plumbing ||stainless steel |
|Rearend / Ratio ||Ford 9” / 4.11:1 w/ Ford Traction-Lok limited-slip differential |
|Rear suspension ||boxed-section ladder bars, Panhard rod & Pete & Jake’s (Peculiar, MO) coilover dampers |
|Rear brakes ||Ford 11” drum |
|Front suspension ||’32 Ford wishbone, split w/ handmade bungs & Model A bosses; ’37-40 V-8/60 tube axle; ’37-41 spindles; Girling lever dampers |
|Front brakes ||Magnum Axle Co. (Oakhurst, CA) non-vented disc |
|Master cylinder ||’40 Ford |
|Steering box ||ZF, ’55-67 VW Transporter |
|Front wheel make, size ||E-T Wheels (Team III Wheels, San Leandro, CA) Classic 5, 15x4 |
|Rear wheel make, size ||E-T Wheels Classic 5, 16x11 |
|Front tire make, size ||Firestone (Coker Tire, Chattanooga, TN) rib, 5.00-15 |
|Rear tire make, size ||pie-crust recapped slick (radial carcass) by Adams Hot Rod Rubber/Hurst Racing Tires (Oregon City, OR), 30x10R-16 |
|Gas tank ||’32 Ford reproduction, Vintique Inc. (Orange, CA) |
|Make ||Chevrolet |
|Displacement ||400ci |
|Camshaft ||appropriately lumpy but mild |
|Water pump ||Chevrolet long-style iron |
|Cooling fan ||flex-type |
|Radiator ||aluminum, Mattson’s Radiator (Stanton, CA) |
|Alternator ||Quality Power (Yucaipa, CA), one-wire |
|Valve covers ||Edelbrock (Torrance, CA) curved script |
|Manifold / Induction ||Edelbrock 2x4 / Edelbrock 500-cfm, old-stock Cal Custom air filter housings |
|Ignition / Wires ||magneto-style distributor by Taylor Cable Products (Grandview, MO) / Taylor Cable Products |
|Headers / Mufflers ||LimeWorks weed-burner style / motorcycle baffles |
|Make ||GM TH350 |
|Shifter ||Gennie Shifter (Denver, CO) base & old-stock Hurst shift lever for manual transmission |
|Driveshaft ||steel, Drive Line Service of Whittier (Whittier, CA) |
|Body style / Material ||roadster / fiberglass |
|Body manufacturer ||LimeWorks |
|Body mods ||shaved door handles & stainless steel–faced recessed firewall w/ chrome-plated stock-type legs |
|Grille ||Brookville Roadster (Brookville, OH) grille shell & Vintique insert |
|Bodywork ||Bob’s Autobody (Whittier, CA) |
|Color ||Omaha Orange, pearl overlay |
|Painter ||Bob’s Autobody |
|Graphics ||Dennis Jones (Whittier, CA) |
|Headlights / Taillights ||Guide / ’50 Pontiac by Vintique |
|Outside mirror ||LimeWorks |
|Other body items ||sheet-steel decklid louvered by Eric Vaughn (Monrovia, CA), windshield by Pete’s Auto Glass (Whittier, CA) & plating by L&G Polishing (Whittier, CA) |
|Dashboard ||stock-type, flat |
|Gauges ||Stewart Warner (Lancaster, PA) Deluxe-series 3 3/16 and 2 5/8 |
|Steering wheel ||N.O.S. Superior Industries gold 'flake |
|Steering column ||'55-67 VW Transporter column & LimeWorks column drop |
|Seats ||fiberglass buckets by LimeWorks |
|Upholsterer ||Tony's Auto Upholstery (Whittier, CA) |
|Material / Color ||top-stitched vinyl / black |
|Carpet ||black loop nylon |
|Seatbelts ||Crow Enterprizes (Anaheim, CA) |