Building a successful contender for the America's Most Beautiful Roadster award requires intentionally designing and creating a car specifically for that goal.
This tradition-steeped '32 roadster was one of our favorite AMBR contestants at the Grand National Roadster Show, but the story behind it is not at all typical for an elite-level show rod.
For overall appeal, it's tough...
For overall appeal, it's tough to beat a Hemi. S&S Automotive, in San Leandro, CA, did the machining on the '56 Dodge 340, which was assembled by Tom Walsh.
The car was a collaboration between owner Sidney Allen of Longview, Texas, and builder Tom Walsh from Danville, California. Both are longtime rodders whose names have been associated with amazing cars.
Sidney still owns the '32 three-window he drove to Roswell High School in the early '60s, before swapping its Chevy small-block for a Cadillac mill and racing it in B/Gas. His current fleet also includes a '55 Chevy, which he races at Bonneville, and an SOHC 427-powered three-window coupe that was included in the '07 GNRS exhibit of the 75 Most Significant '32 Ford Hot Rods.
When Sidney wanted to add a '50s-style roadster to his collection, his first step was to call Tom. "I've always admired his cars and wanted to see if he had something for sale," he says. Tom didn't have any finished cars to sell, but had accumulated parts to build a traditional full-fendered Deuce roadster. Instead of selling those parts, he intended to assemble them and sell the complete car. "The Garage Sale Hot Rod" is what Sidney called the resulting project.
The dash was modified for...
The dash was modified for the Auburn panel, outfitted with rebuilt early style Stewart Warner gauges. Tom added a '37 Ford banjo wheel. The drop column features a '30s-style lock, while a custom shifter, fabricated pedal assembly, and vintage-style heater finish the traditional interior.
The traditional horseshoe...
The traditional horseshoe roll upholstery design was Sidney's idea. Sid Chavers in Santa Clara, CA, stitched the tan leather upholstery on the seat and panels. Carpeting is matching tan wool.
The trunk contains a chromed...
The trunk contains a chromed tubular luggage rack, and an 18-gallon stainless auxiliary tank, leather covered by Sid Chavers to look like luggage. Controls on the dash switch the fuel level gauge between this tank and the '32 Ford 12-gallon tank.
Tom, like Sidney, has been hot rodding for decades, with experience stretching from the salt to the street to the shows. Like Sidney, he still owns the '32 he drove in high school. Tom has built, and continues to build, record-setting Bonneville cars. He also built, along with Steve Moal, the "Sedeuced" '32 that won AMBR in 2005. But initial talks between Sidney and Tom were not about building a trophy car-they were about building a traditional hot rod.
Tom found the roadster "in bad shape with a pile of parts," 35 years ago. In building it up for Sidney, the original Ford sheetmetal was not extensively altered, just massaged. Rich Souza, at D&S Body Shop in San Ramon, California, smoothed the wrinkles brought on by age. Hot rod mods include shaved door handles and a 2-1/2-inch chop at the windshield posts. Steve Moal contributed the mirror. Deuce headlights and '39 taillights came from Bob Drake Reproductions. Sherm's Custom Plating in Sacramento, California, handled the chrome. Sid Chavers wrapped the top around Tom's handbuilt tubular frame.
Timeless style demands timeless paint, so Tom suggested red or black. Observing that "it's hard to beat a red '32 roadster," Sidney chose the latter, and PPG red was sprayed while the car was at D&S Body Shop.
Ford headlights are upgraded...
Ford headlights are upgraded with 12-volt halogen reflectors. The cut out in the custom hood reveals the Hemi's valve covers.
The boxed Deuce 'rails are beefed up with a Model A front crossmember, tubular center crossmembers, and a rear trans mount-and Z'd 4 inches in the rear. A Halibrand quick-change with a '40 Ford housing holds 3.78:1 gears, suspended by 48-inch ladder bars and Strange Engineering double-adjustable coilovers, plus a Model A spring for a nostalgic look. The front chassis includes a 3-1/2-inch dropped I-beam axle from Chassis Engineering with '48 Ford spindles, leaf spring, and Super Bell tube shocks. Panhard bars were installed at both ends. Brakes are 12-inch Buick drums-equipped with a '65 Mustang master cylinder, 7-inch booster, and Wilwood proportioning valve. The 15x8 and 15x5 Ford steelies are trimmed with caps and rings and matched with P255/70R15 Goodyear rear radials and P180/70R15 BFGs in front.
Sidney is "a nuts and bolts guy more than a sheetmetal guy," so the Dodge 340 Hemi engine with Red Ram heads is one of his favorite parts of the car. Tom's a nuts and bolts guy too, and assembled the Hemi with 10:1 JE pistons and other hot rod internals, plus an Offy intake with Stromberg 97 carburetors, and a '62 Corvette generator. Two-inch primaries from the custom stainless headers feed into 2-1/4-inch exhaust pipes with stainless mufflers. The T5 five-speed with a McLeod clutch was rebuilt by Tom.
It wasn't until the buildup was well along that Tom started thinking about the AMBR award. Sidney was all for it. If you were at the '10 Grand National Roadster Show, you probably saw the '32 parked in the shadow of the big trophy. It's a testimony to talent and taste that these guys can start with a "Garage Sale Hot Rod" and get that far.
With one big project done, Sidney can turn his attention to that '55 Chevy we told you about. He says he'll be sending the Chevy to Tom for help in reaching 200 mph at Bonneville this year.