We should all update our opinions every once in a while.
In mixed conversation at a Christmas party, Don Benson told me about his project. It was a Dearborn Deuce, one of the all-steel bodies that resembles a 1932 Ford roadster, yet has a fixed windshield, roll-up windows, a retractable top, and modern seals. It's a fine car in its own right, but the stylistic direction Don was taking it made me a little bit anxious. In a nutshell, he was going "traditional."
Now traditional means different things to different people, but Don's particular stripe of tradition comes straight out of the Eisenhower era: pastel color, small scallops with Dutch-type striping, red wheels with caps, rings, and skinny bias-ply whitewall tires, white pleats, red piping, and so on. Now don't get me wrong, that's a great look; however, the thought of it on a Dearborn Deuce struck me incredulous.
You can't really blame me, really. Sure the Dearborn Deuce looks like a '32 Ford roadster, but let's get something straight: with its one-piece windshield posts, sculpted interior, power windows, and new-car seals, it's more of a modern car. And to gussy it up in mid-century garb just seemed like dolling up Lucy Liu as Lana Turner. Just because each is a looker doesn't mean they're interchangeable, right?
But I gave him two things: the benefit of the doubt and my card. Good thing, too: Don's combo works. This is his car.
It's a collaboration between two Bellingham, Washington, shops: John Barbero's hot rod shop, Pyramid Automotive Engineering, and Don's body shop, Grand Central Collision.
John Barbero, a guy particularly well known for his chassis work, built the majority of the car. He boxed a set of American Stamping rails and built a round-tube crossmember for it. On its front he attached a Super Bell axle to it by way of Pete & Jake's ladder bars and a Durant mono-leaf spring. Out back it sports a Ford 9-inch axle, a Total Cost Involved parallel-link four bar, and Aldan Eagle coil-over dampers.
For running gear, Don chose a Ford Racing 340-horse 302, but what really sets it apart is what's bolted to it. Automotion Rochester Carburetor Service prepped a Cobra-style manifold with three Holley 2300-series 350-cfm carburetors for its topside. A former drag racer, Don said he's also a firm believer that a hot rod has three pedals. The third one in the Pete & Jake's cluster operates the clutch at the front side of the Tremec TKO-500 five-speed.
The traditional theme runs more than just skin deep. Cal Byerlin at Grand Central filled the '40 Ford dash's ashtrays and narrowed it right down the middle to fit the Deuce cockpit. The fenders don't exactly make the car traditional, but they still required that Cal fit them to the car. Centralia's Al Swedberg scratch-built and louvered the hood, the only part on the car that didn't require extensive massaging, Don maintains.
It's usually a tight fit in even a Deuce, but the Dearborn's flat firewall accommodates th
The pale green on the car doesn't just look like an old color; it's a Glasurit urethane rendition of '54 Buick Sea-Foam Green. Interestingly, the scallops on the fenders and headlights weren't sprayed on; striper Mitch Kim brushed them there when he pinstriped the car.
Following the color and wheel treatment, the interior in Don's car is the most significant departure from most Dearborn-bodied cars. Most of those feature highly sculpted interiors, but given the era Don intended to replicate, he kept things simple. Frank Castilleja applied a time-honored roll and pleat job to the flat side panels and Glide seat.
You could say that Dearborn Deuce was thinking of people like Don when it designed that body. "I wanted a roadster, but the built cars either came with no top or a top which had to be removed yet couldn't be stored in the car," Don reflected. "Living in the Northwest with all the rain, a Dearborn Deuce was the only answer."
And by building it with a traditional stripe, he's not only guaranteed a car he'll dig, but a car he'll never see passing him on the road.
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