For 75-plus years, the `32 Ford has served as a hot rodder's palette--a mobile canvas allowing rodders to create their own drivable work of art. Build styles include stock, traditional, and contemporary as well as a blend that, when finished, the car's lines that were once readily visible are at times cleverly disguised (and sometimes not so cleverly!).
Many variations designed and built over the years have stood out and withstood the test of time. Each of us can name our favorites and for all of the "right" reasons. The guys on the East Coast have their favorites, often competing with the Left Coast as to who has the most bitchin' ride.
Many of the ideas of young enthusiasts from the past have been immortalized and kept alive by building what we now call "tribute cars." These use the styling cues and ideas of the past to bring back the feeling of an era gone by. Many add modern components that enhance safety and ride quality that were not available when the cars were originally welded together. Current trends run from crudely-built incarnations that are wildly chopped, channeled, and barely drivable, to cars that, to the entire world, look like they just came back from the dry lakes but they have all the comforts of a modern car. Some of the original cars are being uncovered from under piles of boxes and old blankets, and pulled from dusty corners of old garages and shops, having not seen daylight for many a moon.
These trends are driven by many different reasons. Some come from the youth who like what they see in the old magazines. Some remember growing up with a dad who was there in the day. Others are still carrying the banner of the good times they had as a teenager.
A '56 Oldsmobile V-8 was slid...
A '56 Oldsmobile V-8 was slid behind that Gennie Deuce grille, looking as though it was meant to be. The original air cleaner was customized.
Mike Thompson falls somewhere in the middle as he had the good fortune to have a dad who is a hot rodder. Mike caught the bug at a young age and still works on hot rods with his dad. Thanks to George Lucas and the Milner coupe, Mike had become addicted to this unique hobby. One day he was driving along on the information highway when he spotted a car for sale. As is often the case, Mike and the car of his dreams were geographically undesirable to one another; the car was eastern Canada and Mike was 3,000 miles to the West in Washington. He had told himself to never buy sight unseen, but the seller was very forthcoming with all the necessary info and a ton of photos.
He was drawn to the car not only because of the 2-inch chop and Olds running gear, but also for the time period it represented. Mike developed a passion for traditional hot rods, and he felt this one told a story that denotes a period of time when a hot rod was the thing to have.
To fund his Deuce coupe Mike parted with two Model A Fords. The car arrived after its coast-to-coast ride and, as expected, a bit rough and mocked together to sell. The 324-inch '56 Oldsmobile Rocket engine and Jetaway Hydra-Matic transmission had seen better days. But it was Ford steel and just what he wanted to make his own, and he wanted to bring the car back to its former luster.
The 1950s East Coast look was very appealing to Mike, and the plan was to reflect this in the final build. He used a stock '32 Ford front axle with an original buggy-type spring then removed two leaves and reversed the eyes to get the nose down. A set of '36 Ford wishbones were turned upside down, split, heated, and bent to clear the Olds powerplant and hold the spring in place. The shocks are early friction-type that Mike had chrome plated. Forward braking is a compilation of `48 Ford brakes with chromed backing plates and Buick drums.
The engine and transmission were both gone through and the chassis cleaned up to accept all the good stuff. After the engine and trans were planted on homebuilt motor mounts and X-member, the Olds driveshaft was shortened and connected to an early Ford 9-inch rear fitted with stock brakes. The rearend is held in place with split, heated, and bent-to-fit `36 Ford wishbones. The transverse rear spring is from a `46 Ford, with two leaves removed and the eyes reversed. The rear shocks mirror the front being chromed friction-type units.
The body and paint were next, handled right there in the Thompson speed shop barn, surrounded by a lifetime collection of vintage parts. Mike squirted the red oxide over the smoothed and straightened body, and painted the top insert white.
The real challenge rested in the fenders. Highboys typically don't run fenders, but there are places where fender laws are strictly enforced. On Mike's ride the fronts were cut out of a `36 Ford spare tire cover, and improved with owner-made stainless steel accents. The rears were a different story. Simply put, they had to be handmade for the correct curve of the larger 7.50-16 bias-ply rear tire. So Mike bought an English wheel plus a shrinker and stretcher. With help from his wife, Elizabeth, and many hours of toil and sweat, the rears were finally finished.
Resting within the coupe is a `56 Olds steering wheel and gauge panel, which looks right at home in the smoothed '32 dash (Mike rewired the car to mimic a stock Oldsmobile harness). All that was left was the interior and Mike dropped off the original seat at Rodgers Upholstery, in Vancouver, Washington, for a traditional tuck `n' roll done in white vinyl.
Mike isn't old enough to have been around when hot rodding was born but, with the love of these historic cars passed on to him by his dad, he is keeping the flame and passion from another generation alive.
The `56 Olds also supplied...
The `56 Olds also supplied the steering wheel, column, and the gauge set. They seem to be as at home in the coupe cockpit as the motor does `tween the rails.
The coupe sports chrome-plated...
The coupe sports chrome-plated early shocks. Another nice detail is the Harley Davidson motorcycle running lights, used as turn signals.
|F A C T S & F I G U R E S |
|Mike Thompson |
|Ridgefield, Washington |
|1932 Ford highboy five-window |
|Frame / Manufacturer ||‘32 Ford FoMoCo |
|Wheelbase ||106” |
|Modifications ||Model A front crossmember |
|Chassis plumbing ||steel |
|Rearend / Ratio ||Ford 9” 3.50:1 |
|Rear suspension ||‘36 Ford split wishbones |
|Rear brakes ||Ford drum |
|Front suspension ||‘32 Ford / ‘36 Ford split wishbones |
|Front brakes ||‘48 Ford / Buick drums |
|Master cylinder ||‘39-48 Ford |
|Steering box ||‘32 Ford |
|Wheel covers ||16” salad bowl |
|Front wheel make, size ||Ford, 16x4 |
|Rear wheel make, size ||Ford, 16x4.5 |
|Front tire make, size ||Firestone, 6.00x16 |
|Rear tire make, size ||Firestone, 7.50x16 |
|Gas tank ||‘32 Ford |
|Make ||‘56 Oldsmobile |
|Displacement ||324ci |
|Machining / Assembly ||Drivetrain Specialties (Newberg, OR) |
|Radiator ||‘32 Ford |
|Alternator ||GM generator |
|Valve covers ||stock chromed |
|Exhaust / Mufflers ||stock / Smithy’s |
|Make ||‘56 Oldsmobile Jetaway |
|Shifter ||‘56 Oldsmobile |
|Driveshaft ||‘56 Oldsmobile cut down |
|Body style / Material ||5w / steel |
|Body manufacturer ||FoMoCo |
|Body mods ||top chopped 2” |
|Grille ||‘32 Ford |
|Bodywork ||Mike Thompson (Ridgefield, WA) |
|Paint type / Color ||PPG / red oxide |
|Painter ||Mike Thompson |
|Headlights / Taillights ||Guide / ‘50 Buick |
|Outside mirror ||old clamp on |
|Dashboard ||`32 Ford |
|Insert / Gauges ||`56 Oldsmobile |
|Stereo / Speakers ||twice pipes |
|Wiring ||Oldsmobile / Mike Thompson |
|Steering wheel ||`56 Olds |
|Steering column ||`56 Olds |
|Interior mirror ||`32 Ford |
|Seats ||`32 Ford coupe |
|Upholsterer ||Rodger's Upholstery (Vancouver, WA) & Mike Thompson |
|Material / Color ||vinyl / white |
|Carpet ||black mat |
|Seatbelts ||white |