For a lot of Americans in the late-'30s, World War II was a remote conflict they read about in newspapers and heard about on radio broadcasts, with little direct effect on their lives. In Southern California during that time, a lot of young men who, a few years later would be fighting in Europe or the Pacific, were occupying their free time racing their roadsters on the local dry lake beds.
Todd Kindler's recently finished '32 roadster is styled in part after the cars that those early rodders were building and racing at El Mirage, Muroc, Harper, and Rosamond-and in greater part to honor a small group of Americans who sacrificed their lives and their own citizenship by volunteering with the British Royal Air Force and fighting in Europe in the years before the United States entered the War. Todd's roadster, nicknamed Spitfire, is dedicated to that particular group of pilots known as the Eagle Squadron.
It might be appropriate, in that light, that this project started with a set of bomber-style buckets. "I was searching eBay for a set of vintage airplane seatbelts for a '32 project sometime in the future," Todd said. "During the payment process, I asked the gentleman if he might know where I could find a bomber-style bench seat similar to that in Geoffrey Skene's car from the cover of STREET RODDER magazine's July '07 issue. He said 'Sure, I made that seat.' I asked him to build one for me, and so began my friendship with Frank Wallic."
Todd had completed a couple of John Deere tractor restorations in the past, but never a car, so he turned to the pros to help him with the heavy lifting. Wallic steered Todd toward Gary Mussman at Cornhusker Rod & Custom in Alexandria, Nebraska, for building the Deuce rolling chassis and original-style flathead.
Cornhusker offers a '32 Ford chassis built off of a boxed repro frame-in this case featuring a C-notched rear with a transverse spring and Pete & Jakes ladder bars locating a Ford 9-inch rearend. A Super Bell I-beam axle and hairpins were added in front, with P&J shocks and Posies springs. As that was being built, Todd called Coker to order a set of 16-inch Gennie rims, powdercoated satin matte black and wrapped in Firestone piecrust bias-plies.
A new Taylor/Vertex magneto fires the Flathead, bored, balanced, and blueprinted, and running Offenhauser aluminum heads. Bob Baxter at Baxter Ford Parts assembled the pair of 94s on an Offy manifold with custom risers to clear the alternator. At the other end, Sanderson headers carry the exhaust to Smithy's mufflers.
The original World War II...
The original World War II Spitfire goggles are the perfect accessory.
"My initial plan was to get the complete rolling chassis and engine done, and head down to Brookville a year later to purchase a body, since the company is located here in Ohio," Todd explains. "Then Gary called to say that he could pick up the body in pieces at a rod show in Kalamazoo, and assemble it when he got back to Nebraska."
A few days before Christmas 2008, Todd and his friend Doug Frautschy headed to Nebraska to pick up the roadster. They made it as far as northern Missouri before a prairie ice storm put the brakes on their road trip, but they eventually made it to Cornhusker where the roadster was waiting to be hauled back to Ohio.
"Once home, Doug and I continued work on the car, doing as many things as possible before paint. In January 2009, I delivered the car to Steve Fender of Ageless Iron Restorations. Steve and I have worked together before, and he allowed me to help with the prepping process to help reduce the total finishing costs. I quickly learned about block sanding and metal preparation. Steve primed and painted most of the car and even did a nice little touch of outlining the ends of hood louvers with a dark Crimson Red paint.
"When Steve was done , we hauled the body down to CrowTownCustomZ where Dave Clark does custom lettering and painting on motorcycles and cars. He did a fantastic job on the 'boxing eagle' nose art and adding my old high school football number to the side of the doors."
The Flathead engine with dual...
The Flathead engine with dual 94s on a custom high-rise manifold continues the '40s-era theme under the hood. The modern fin-top air cleaners from OTB only look old; same with the 12-volt alternator hidden in a generator case. The fan blade ends were painted in the style of fighter propellers.
Todd and Frautschy still had a lot of finishing work to do before they were ready to drop the steel body onto the chassis. Todd's friend, Ervin Beachy, is a skilled woodworker and finished the top deck portion with hard-to-find curly cherry and installed the floor using red oak. Todd wired the '32 using old-fashioned braided sleeves and added the leather straps that hold down the hood and add a lot of period character to the Deuce.
Frank Wallic (remember Frank from the beginning of this story?) followed through on his promise to build that bomber-style bench (mounted on undetectable sliders). Wallic also built the exceedingly riveted door panels and the rubber floormats. He also provided those vintage belts Todd discovered on eBay, which is waht kicked off their friendship in the first place. The aircraft-style gauges, designed to look old, are actually new items from Classic Instruments. A '40 Ford wheel brings the whole fighter plane design back to the ground.
Dedicating his '32 roadster to the pilots of the Eagle Squadron must have put a little extra pressure on Todd, who certainly wanted to make sure the tribute is worthy of those it is intended to honor. Let us be the first to say it is worthy indeed.
These door panels, painted...
These door panels, painted by Dave Clark, were finished while this story was being written. The two roundels were used by the Spitfire pilots, according to Todd.
The star roundel was favored...
The star roundel was favored by some U.S. pilots. Todd plans to have the inside areas of the kick panels primed and have some art added to that area.
The boxing eagle image that...
The boxing eagle image that Dave Clark painted on the right and left cowl is taken from actual nose art on the aircraft flown for the British RAF by American pilots. There were three "Eagle Squadrons" comprised of approximately 250 pilots who volunteered. They flew Miles Masters, Hawker Hurricanes, and Spitfires in air battles against the German Luftwaffe. Todd's '32 Spitfire is dedicated to all of those heroes.
Frank Wallic supplied an old...
Frank Wallic supplied an old military aircraft hydraulic filter for use as a gas filter.
This license plate frame is...
This license plate frame is another late addition, built by Wallic to match the seats.