When it comes to famous race cars or well-known hot rods, say the Pierson Brothers’ coupe, it’s easy to trace the car’s history through its various owners and accomplishments. But when the car in question is "just an old ’32," then it gets a little trickier. And even though there has always been, after all, a finite number of them out there, you might think finding the history on any particular Deuce wouldn’t be that hard. But that isn’t always the case.
When Tommy Grimes was told about a black ’32 Ford five-window for sale at the 1996 Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, he had to take a look. Just a day earlier he had sold a ’32 Chevy five-window at the show--a car he’d spent five years building into a primered rod--but someone wanted it and Tommy sold it. Back in 1975 when he was in the Air Force, he’d bought a ’34 Chevy and fixed it up but getting married and having two kids meant the coupe had to go. He went through a 16-year dry spell of not owning a hot rod before building his ’32 Chevy, and he didn’t think he’d let that amount of time pass between cars this time around. As a kid he always liked little Deuce coupes, so when he approached the seller of the Ford, he couldn’t pass it up, and soon he drove it all 450 miles home.
Hard to go wrong with a 327. Through the decades, several motor and trans combos have been
Tommy knew the car had a history of being a race car, but he had to dig to get a better picture of its lineage. One of the people he hooked up with was Ron Roberson, the author of the book Middletown Pacemakers: The Story of an Ohio Hot Rod Club. Roberson found some early history on the car, and believes it was built and raced back in the ’50s by Bill Burton. Though Burton has since passed away, Roberson was able to contact one of the original Middletown club members, Roy Palmer, who told him Burton had built the car for the dragstrip in his grandmother’s small garage in Middletown, Ohio, and raced it from 1957-61.
It ran at Thorn Hill, Stout Field, and Beechmont Drag Strip in Cincinnati, and also at the Nationals in Detroit in 1959 (and possibly 1960) under the name Lightning Rod. Though the car had started out with a Flathead, Burton told Palmer a few years back the car had a top speed of 111 mph in the quarter with an Olds V-8.
Burton sold the car around 1961 to another Middletown resident who raced it up into the mid-’60s, after which the car sat for several years. Harold Keister, also from Middletown, bought the car in the late ’70s, and made it street legal.
After a few years on the street, Keister took it apart (around 1981), channeled it 6 inches, added a chromed suicide-mount front axle, replaced the floor and firewall with stainless steel pieces, and louvered the decklid. Another big change was painting the car PPG black, as well as adding a 327 engine that had come out of a ’67 Camaro. At this time the car also had Ansen kidney bean wheels wrapped in big ’n’ little rubber.
In 1993 Keister sold the car to Carl Stevens from Pennsylvania who, in turn, sold it to Tommy Grimes three years later at the Nationals. Over the first few years, Tommy made some minor changes with the wheels, gauges, carbs, and shifter, but, in 2005, decided to make some major changes to it.
Tommy turned the project over to the best fabricator he knows: Roy it ain’t a problem Jordon from Glen Burnie, Maryland. The old stainless firewall was replaced with a repro stocker from Brookville Roadsters, and framehorns were added where they’d been sliced off decades earlier.
When the recessed stainless steel firewall was removed in favor of an unaltered one from B
A Banjo steering wheel is fixed to a Limefire column, and the stock bench seat was used, a
Yes, it’s a driver. Tommy has driven the 1,200-mile round-trip from his home in Maryland t