Remember the early '90s? The first George Bush was president and gasoline was around $1.17 a gallon. In the world of street rods, the smoothie look was catching on, but there was one thing that certainly wasn't: '37 Fords. You couldn't give 'em away. For many years the '37 Ford has been considered by many as the ugly duckling of hot rods, and it really wasn't until rodders had exhausted every other year of car available did they slowly warm up to the "unique" appearance of the '37.
By the late '90s, you could find a fair amount of '37s at any large street rod show, but many had fallen into the "trendy trap" where they were all painted Turquoise or Peach (or both) with gray tweed interiors, and they all looked representative of what was popular at the moment.
The trick to making a car's look last forever is by making it stylish without being trendy. That's why black cars have always been popular. Black paint always conveys a tough attitude (try getting that with Peach paintjob!).
So when Roger Peterson from Littleton, Colorado, decided a few years back to build a '37 slantback Ford, he knew he was going to have to do a few things differently to make his ride not only stand out from the rest but also stand the test of time.
He started with a '40 Ford chassis (the chassis for '35-40 Fords are, for the most part, interchangeable) to which a Heidt's IFS with dropped spindles went in, as did a power rack-and-pinion, and in the rear a Ford 9-inch with Chassis Engineering leaf springs was added. A Corvette master brake cylinder was used, too, and the whole chassis received a black powdercoating. Additional chassis advancements included Baer disc brakes on each corner along with Nitto-wrapped 18- and 20-inch Intro Rockman wheels. To smooth out the ride, an airbag suspension from RideTech went in up front while a set of ShockWave shocks were used out back.
Roger was lucky in that he raised a mechanical engineer for a son (Steve), who designed and then assembled a 383 stroker engine for his dad that uses a four-bolt main, a COMP Cams camshaft, and a pair of Twisted Wedge aluminum heads. The beast is fed by a Holley 650-cfm double-pumper, and the engine was dyno'd at 428 hp. Steve also tweaked the TH350 trans, and Roger reports the finished drivetrain "has incredible torque and horsepower and is almost too scary to drive . . . well, almost!
But even all of those cool improvements to the chassis wouldn't help if the body of the car-the first thing you notice from 30-feet away-wasn't up to snuff; and this one is. This was in a large part thanks to the efforts of fabricators Dennis Knap and Tom Stark plus Lee Bumgardener, the owner of Zoomer's Automotive.
Zoomer's, located in Denver, has a knack for building stylish hot rods-everything from clean and simple '34 coupes to the over-the-top, two-tone Coolant Green '59 Chevy Apache truck that impressed everyone at the '07 Detroit Autorama. Their subtle approach to Roger's '37 was to modify what needed to be modified, then leave everything else alone.
Having a son who is a mechanical...
Having a son who is a mechanical engineer helped Roger when it came to designing and assembling the engine for the '37. Steve Peterson assembled the 383 stroker motor with a bumpstick from COMP Cams and a set of Twisted Wedge aluminum heads. Steve also used an Edelbrock RPM Gap intake with a single Holley 650 and got 428 hp with it on the dyno. The small-block mates to a reworked TH350 transmission.
Folks who know their way around a '37 may not even notice the front fenders were added (almost 4 inches) on Roger's ride to help bring the look of the car closer to the ground. The headlights were lowered almost 2 inches in the fender too, and all of the car's bumps (door and trunk handles, hinges, etc.) were removed for a smooth look. Other small changes included having a small radius added to the door corners, and even the roof driprails were molded to the roof for a cleaner appearance.
Besides making trick taillight housings (which were molded to the fender), Zoomer's also created the lens by carving down a big block of acrylic. The bumpers, which are graceful pieces of art in themselves, started life as square steel stock that was first welded together and then hand ground into the round shapes they are before being dipped in the nickel plating tank.
Creating much of the base for the interior of the car, Zoomer's also fabbed the center console as well as the waterfall section that splits the rear seat. Although a steel dash from Bitchin' Products was used, Zoomer's also made a trim piece that fits behind the Auto Meter gauges (and routed the Vintage Air system out two small vents at each end of the dash). Once Bill Pfannenstiel of Flatlander Rod Shop finished up the body prep on the car he then sprayed the Rockin' Red paint on the lower half of the car and a deep black gloss above.
PJ Interiors in Denver then came in to finish out the custom interior work by covering a set of Glide seats in black leather and suede while using only black suede for the headliner. Black Mercedes square-weave carpet went in below, and Billet Specialties steering wheel (wrapped in alligator skin) bolts to a Billet Specialties column.
Call it what you will, but this isn't a case of putting lipstick on a pig. In the right hands a '37 Ford can look timeless, and Roger Peterson's sedan is a textbook example of that concept.
PJ's Interiors of Denver designed...
PJ's Interiors of Denver designed and assembled the interior for Roger. Glide seats were covered in black leather and suede while the headliner was done only in suede. Zoomer's Automotive created the console as well as the waterfall between the rear seats from steel...
...and they also installed...
...and they also installed the Bitchin' dash before fabbing the trim piece that runs behind the Auto Meter gauges. Roger got his steering column and (alligator-wrapped) wheel from Billet Specialties while the vents in each corner of the dash are fed by the Vintage Air system.
A RideTech bag system smooths...
A RideTech bag system smooths the road out up front for Roger while out back a set of ShockWave shocks help control the ride. Denver Car Color came up with the Rockin' Red custom paint (a perfect contrast to the black laid over the top of the car), which was sprayed by Bill Pfannenstiel.
Baer disc brakes are on each...
Baer disc brakes are on each corner as are Nitto-wrapped Intro Rockman 18- and 20-inch wheels.
Zoomer's Automotive also made...
Zoomer's Automotive also made the front and rear bumpers from square steel stock, hand-grinding the pieces to make the artistic pieces you see here before they were nickel plated.
Zoomer's also carved up the...
Zoomer's also carved up the custom taillights, making the lenses from a solid block of acrylic.