1932 Ford Convertible - The Mint
A Fresh Perspective Of The Dearborn Deuce
From the May, 2009 issue of Street Rodder
By Chris Shelton
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...
It's usually a tight fit in even a Deuce, but the Dearborn's flat firewall accommodates the Ford Racing 302 well. This one sports a trio of Automotion-prepped Holley carburetors on a Cobra-type manifold. Dave Carpenter tuned this system, and it runs strong.
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.
Option it right and the Dearborn...
Option it right and the Dearborn Deuce body comes with a Glide Engineering seat and flat interior panels; trim them right, as Frank Castilleja did with white rolls and pleats with red piping, and it looks pretty retro. The maroon carpet Frank used is cut-pile wool similar to what Mercedes-Benz uses.
Though I don't own a single...
Though I don't own a single car with radials, rag tires like these on a modern car like a Dearborn just seemed...strange. But as it turns out, they work really well. These are Firestones on OEM-style Vintiques wheels. Also on those hoops are '49 Ford-style hubcaps-probably the handsomest small-diameter cap of all time.
With its forward rake and...
With its forward rake and compact window size, the Dearborn tops resemble the speedster-style tops popular in the late '40s and very early '50s. About the only outward indications this isn't a gennie body is the seam for the flip-up tulip panel and the rakish windshield posts.
The stock Dearborn body comes...
The stock Dearborn body comes with a stock-style Deuce dash; however, Don went to a '40 and it works really well. Cal Byerlin narrowed this one and filled its ashtrays.
Narrowing the dash down the...
Narrowing the dash down the middle was the easiest method...until it came to the speaker grille. Note also how Cal integrated the Vintage Air controller under the dash.
When Kelly Mackie told Don...
When Kelly Mackie told Don that he could flame the trunk without creating any ridges, Don took him up on it. Incredibly enough, even though the finish has never been color-sanded, there isn't a ridge in sight. Due in part to Don's shop's downdraft booths, there isn't a speck anywhere in the paint on the car.
Don has a clever story to...
Don has a clever story to explain the plate, but bear in mind that collision work pays his bills. The license plate surround is a '49 Chevy front guard, and trimming it to fit the Deuce bumper must've been tough; they're made of thick steel and they're expensive nowadays.
One of the things that makes...
One of the things that makes a Dearborn look so modern is power windows. But with electronic window crank switches available today, like these from Autoloc, cars needn't necessarily look that way.
Don wasn't just a drag racer...
Don wasn't just a drag racer in a former life; he raced in an age when you still rowed your own. But that was back when four gears was the ultimate. With five close-ratio gears in the Tremec TKO, Don has his off-the-line snap and his highway legs all in one package.
|F A C T S & F I G U R E S |
|Don Benson |
|Bellingham, Washington |
|1932 Ford convertible |
|Frame/Manufacturer ||John Barbero, Pyramid Automotive Engineering, Bellingham, WA |
|Wheelbase ||106” |
|Modifications ||1 1/4” tubular crossmember, Model A-style front crossmember, large-tube rear crossmember |
|Chassis plumbing ||Stainless |
|Rearend / Ratio ||Ford 9” by Dutchman Enterprises, Portland, OR / 3.73:1 |
|Rear suspension ||Four-link with Panhard rod by Total Cost Involved, Ontario, CA |
|Front suspension ||Hairpins, Panhard rod, steering arms, batwings, spindles, shocks, |
and Super Bell dropped axle by Pete & Jake’s, Peculiar, MO;
mono-leaf spring by James J Durant Enterprises, Newport Beach, CA
|Master cylinder ||GM cast-iron dual-circuit |
|Steering box ||Vega-style by Mullins/Borgeson, Torrington, CT |
|Brakes ||11- and 12-inch rotors and four-piston calipers by Wilwood Engineering, Camarillo, CA |
|Pedal assembly ||Pete & Jake’s |
|Wheel covers ||’49/50 Ford caps and rings |
|Wheel make, size ||62-series OEM by Wheel Vintiques, Fresno, CA, 15x6 and 15x8 |
|Tire make, size ||Firestone Deluxe Champion, Coker Tire, Chattanooga, TN, 5.60- and 8.20-15 |
|Gas tank ||1932 Ford, Vintique |
|Make ||Ford |
|Displacement ||302ci |
|Radiator ||Aluminum, Griffin Thermal Products, Piedmont, SC |
|Accessory drive system ||Tru Trac, Billet Specialties, LaGrange, IL |
|Manifold / Induction ||Ford Cobra-style / Holley 350-cfm 2300 series by Automotion Rochester |
Carb Service, Great Falls, MT
|Ignition / Wires ||Autolite by Mallory, Carson City, NV / Spiro-Pro 8mm by Taylor Cable |
Products, Grandview, MO
|Headers ||Block-hugger by Sanderson, South San Francisco, CA |
|Exhaust / Mufflers ||2 1/2” steel with Walker turbo-style mufflers by Midas Mufflers, Bellingham, WA |
|Other engine facts ||Tuned by Dave Carpenter, Bellingham, WA |
|Make ||Tremec TKO 500 |
|Driveshaft ||Drive Line Services of Bellingham |
|Body style / Material ||Convertible hybrid / steel |
|Body manufacturer ||Dearborn Deuce, Branford, CT |
|Body mods ||Fenders by Gaslight Auto Parts, Urbana, OH; ’40 ford dash |
|Hood ||Aluminum by Al Swedberg, Centralia, WA; hood hinge/latch |
by Dan Fink Metalworks, Huntington Beach, CA
|Grille ||Shell by Brookville, Brookville, OH; insert by Obsolete and |
Classic Auto Parts, Oklahoma City, OK
|Bodywork ||Cal Byerlin, Grand Central Collision, Bellingham, WA |
|Paint type / Color ||Glasurit polyurethane / 1954 Buick Sea-Foam Green |
|Painter ||Kelly Mackie |
|Graphics ||Mitch Kim, Portland, OR |
|Headlights / Taillights ||1932 Ford on dropped bar / 1932 Ford on shortened stands |
|Bumpers ||1932 Ford on shortened stainless brackets |
|Dashboard ||’40 Ford, narrowed and filled by Cal Byerlin |
|Insert / Gauges ||Aluminum / Ford Racing |
|Climate Control ||Vintage Air, San Antonio, TX |
|Wiring ||Pyramid Auto Engineering |
|Steering wheel ||Mark 40 by Lecarra Steering Wheels, Oneida, TN |
|Steering column ||Tilt by ididit inc., Tecumseh, MI |
|Seats ||Glide Engineering, Cucamonga, CA |
|Upholsterer ||Frank Castilleja, Motor City, Mt. Vernon, WA |
|Material / Color ||Vinyl / white with red piping |
|Carpet ||Cranberry colored Wilton wool |
|Seatbelts ||Beams Industries, Oklahoma City, OK |