Most folks don't recognize the wheels, but they're solid (no holes) Halibrand-type magnesi
Just about every true car guy has done it: made a list of what he'd like on his dream car-the one he'd like to own some day. For 67-year-old Bruce Burton, the dream is now a reality, thanks to the efforts of Jamie Johnson of Hot Rod Haven in Albuquerque, New Mexico. But Jamie wasn't even alive when Bruce was a pre-teen living in West Texas and hacking up cars with his buddies, mostly because there wasn't much else to do in West Texas in those days. Bruce remembers it seemed every farm had some old cars laying around, and they always had tools and a welder to repair the farm equipment, so why not drop that Flathead into that Model A frame and see what she'll do? Bruce sheepishly admits and wonders out loud why he and his friends weren't killed with the contraptions they cobbled together, but luck was on his side.
Luck was also with Bruce when he met and married his wife, Darlene. More than 47 years later, she's still by his side, even after Bruce's career wandered through several different stages: from working in a body shop to managing and owning a retail motorcycle and automotive dealership. Nowadays he buys and sells a lot of cars on the Internet, and occasionally he even trades hot rods. But buying someone else's hot rod and driving it around is very different than having one built to your specs. Deciding the time was right and ready to commit to the endeavor, Burton tracked down local hot rod builder Jamie Johnson to help attain his dream.
Bruce came to the table with a few non-negotiable thoughts. The car had to be a highboy '32 Ford three-window, it had to be a steel body, and it had to have a unique engine. The theme of the build also had to reflect the time frame Bruce had really enjoyed: the mid- to late-'50s. Johnson came to table with years of experience, which belay his young age of 34 years. Growing up with a hot-rod-obsessed father helped Jamie appreciate what it takes to build a car up from nothing and, with his dad, Jim, being something of a perfectionist, passed that trait along early on to his son. While Jamie was growing up family outings included local and some not-so-local "vacations" spent retrieving old cars out of hillsides and ditches. Currently running his own shop with an eye for vintage and traditional rides, Jamie is as busy as he wants to be.
There were only a few requirements Bruce wanted for his coupe, and having something differ
Burton and Johnson started gathering parts and pieces for the build in November of 2007. Bruce located a Brookville Roadsters steel three-window body in Oregon and had Steve's Auto Restoration do the chop on the car, and he then obtained a '32 chassis from SO-CAL Speed Shop in California. But the real fun was when Bruce told Jamie of his desire for an odd motor, like an Olds J2 V-8. Jamie listened intently and then walked Bruce to the back of the shop and there, in the midst of Jamie's engine collection, was a '57 Olds J2 engine, and Bruce was stunned. With the pieces starting to come together, the first thing was to convert the chassis to a roller. The SO-CAL chassis uses Model A crossmembers front and rear, with the front suspension being dialed in with a dropped I-beam axle, a Posies tapered leaf spring, an original wishbone split and then chromed, and a Johnson-fab'd steering arm.
The base for the rear end is a polished Halibrand V-8 quick-change (3.78:1) from Hot Rod Works. But wanting a vintage look, Jamie liked the early brake drums with their "snout" sticking out of the middle. The drums are intended for tapered axle applications, but Johnson equipped the quick-change with modern 9-inch Ford axles, so he cut the snout off some old drums and attached them to a plate that he then indexed to the new axles and sandwiched between the wheels and the brake drum. The look is old (he even chromed the little nuts to hold the fake axle) but it is entirely modern.
Lincoln hydraulic brakes were used on each corner, as were reproduction Halibrand magnesium "solids" that are now being made by Ray Franklin at Vintage Engineering in Redwood City, California. Vintage made up a pair of 16x5 wheels for the front while a set of 18x5 were for the rear. The way these wheels look when you get them is a smooth concave look on the front side and some webbing on the back side for strength. But Jamie chose to turn the wheels around, facing the webbing out and using it as an accent. Hand-painted Firestone bias-ply rubber (4.50-16 and 6.50-18) were then mounted to the wheels.
Burton's "unique" engine requirement was fulfilled with the installation of the J2. Originally used to power the legendary Olds 88, the 371 was rebuilt by Frank Brown to include Jahns pistons and a Sig Erson camshaft. A Powermaster PowerGEN alternator keeps the vintage look intact, as does the running of a stock cooling fan (though a Walker radiator helps keep the motor cool).
Up top a trio of Rochester carbs, restored by Buzzard Carburetor Rebuilding in Florida, fit the factory J2 manifold and the exhaust is handled by a header system fab'd by Johnson. The V-8 bolts into the chassis via a Hurst-style front mount setup, which was also created by Johnson. Burton gets the power to the road through a TH350 trans, which uses an adapter from Bendtsen's Transmissions to mate to the Olds motor.
Once the chassis was a roller and the engine dialed in, Johnson turned his attention to the fit and finish of the body. The gaps around doors and trunk lid were tightened up and then Jamie and his dad performed the body work before Jamie sprayed the entire car with single-stage Glasurit maroon paint. Final items, such as the '32 roadster mirror mounted to the driver's door, the Pontiac taillights, and the Arrow headlights from SO-CAL were then added to tie up the exterior.
The three-window '32 dashes are different than the ones you find in similar-year roadsters in that they have a glove box on the right side, inside which Jamie installed two of the six Stewart Warner gauges found in the car. The tach was mounted under the dash near the glove box, and points directly at the driver but is unobtrusive otherwise. In the center of the dash a trio of gauges mounts to a stainless steel engine-turned panel. Dynamat insulation was run throughout the interior before Ron Mangus came along and covered the floor with brown wool loop carpet. Mangus then recreated a stock '32 bench seat and covered it with a pleated brown leather design, which was copied to the door panels. Finishing up the inside was the installation of the '40 Ford truck steering wheel and column, which mounts to a steering gear (from Gordon Schroeder) that is mounted under the dash. Al Edwards wired the car, which included a headlight dimmer switch that is operated by a fake clutch pedal (remember: it's an automatic). The cigarette lighter jewel is actually a turn indicator light.
When building a hot rod, sometimes it's hard enough just to make something work right every time, let alone get tricky and fabricate something that not only works well but looks good, too, but that's what Jamie enjoys doing. We'd say he's something of a dream weaver, as he was able to help Bruce Burton take a life-long dream and make it a reality. Look for the coupe on the roads of Albuquerque as Burton likes to drive all of his cars, and isn't afraid of getting this dream car dirty!
Behind the glovebox door are another pair of gauges, and mounted just below the dash is a
......A '40 Ford truck steering wheel works with a Gordon Schroeder sprint car-type steeri
.....Ron Mangus created the interior, mimicking and building a stock '32 bench seat before