We all have our reasons to build cars, some more noble than others. But so far Greg Parsley's reason for building a 1932 Ford Highboy roadster is one of our favorites: "This was just kind of a weird phase of my development."
We like his explanation for its honesty, but we love it for another reason: It runs pretty much perpendicular to the rest of the world. Anyone will tell you that there's nothing weird about a Deuce roadster. It's hands-down, the Belle of the ball. You couldn't throw a ball at a car show for fear of hitting one. In fact, as the numbers suggest, even an outlandish Deuce roadster is pretty normal.
Chevrolet's small-block was...
Chevrolet's small-block was as popular 55 years ago as it is today, making it possibly the most versatile vintage engine ever. This one's a '68 327 with big-valve, camel-hump heads, a mild cam, and flat-top pistons. Greg fabricated the headers from a Speedway kit; the turnouts are Sanderson Jaysters.
But that's exactly what makes one so weird for Greg; he's sort of an everyman's maverick. He runs a shop called Retro Rods, which is about an hour north of Seattle. And typical for Northwesterners, he bucks convention.
For example, he's not above building a modern-style '55 Chevy with a throwback 348. Nor is he shy about building lowly '60s Bel Air two-door sedans even though he could hold out for Impalas. As he proved by slanting that car's B-pillars, he's fully willing to call attention to the fact that he chose to take the less-trodden path. And when people said that four-door sedans couldn't be cool, he took the least likely of the bunch, a '57 Imperial LeBaron, and showed them otherwise (see the Oct. '09 issue for reference).
So balanced against cars like that, a Deuce does seem a little bit conventional-and to an iconoclast, convention is just a little weird.
A mechanical Hilborn fuel...
A mechanical Hilborn fuel injector has about as much cache and vintage appeal as any old speed part but it isn't very street friendly. Modern electronic controls, on the other hand, tamed the beast.
But to Greg's defense, this isn't your typical roadster. It's different, albeit by very conventional means, if that makes sense. In fact, it's probably one of the most straightforward examples we've seen in a while. Let us explain.
For starters, the Bear Fiberglass body looks the way it did when it popped out of the mold. Even the paint is out of the can ... sort of.
It's also out of the can in the sense that Greg didn't resort to trickery, but there's really nothing straightforward about colors in PPG's Vibrance line; it's as custom as the cars it's intended to coat. For example, there is no official name for the combination of metallic base, overlay, and pearlescent glint suspended in the clear that created the color Greg calls Copper Penny. It's an appropriate name, though, as it beckons from across a fairground the same way a freshly minted coin does when it goes astray.
Paint serves as a deeper and more appropriate metaphor for the car's split personality: without a doubt both are modern. At the same time both the car and the color have a latent streak: by its shape. A Deuce is traditional and the paint looks somehow as if it were blended in lacquer by an old hand to gild some would-be famous custom decades ago. Greg didn't just pick up on that streak; he ran with it.
Greg built up the interior...
Greg built up the interior with a Glide seat and a LimeWorks Speed Shop '40 Ford-style wheel and bell-topped column. Scott Stratton at S&S stitched the interior with a vintage flair but with a modern twist and materials.
The color suggested '60s show car, so he picked a wheel keeping with the time: tri-rib Radirs. They're full-alloy recreations of Rader wheels created by Dick Rader and made famous by motorsport marketing guru Mickey Thompson. The tires are every bit as responsible for the car's vintage personality: ribbed 5.00-15s and diamond-tread 8.20-15s-both Firestones, and both of which appeared on hot street cars occasionally in the early '60s. Even the front brakes pull the modern/primitive one-two punch: they're SO-CAL Speed Shop discs.
Say what you will about Chevrolet's small-block, but they have something in common with the rest of the car: they're sufficiently vintage for a '60s theme yet abundant enough to earn parts store support. "I was heavily influenced to do Hilborn-style injection from seeing short-wheelbase dragsters run as a kid at Seattle International Raceway," Greg says. "My dad would take me through the pits-I thought those were as cool as sliced bread. They left a lasting impression." But like the rest of the car, those stacks have a split personality: they're commanded by unmistakably modern electronics to make them work on the street as good as they work.