The roots of hot rodding extend back to the ’30s. By the ’40s, it was a fast-growing phenomenon, especially around Los Angeles where the climate provided perfect year-round playing-with-your-car weather and the dry lakes on the nearby edge of the Mojave Desert provided a playground. But as soon as the United States entered the Second World War at the end of 1941, the popular new pastime hit the brakes. The shortage of supplies and the immediate demand for war materials—not to mention the fact that many of the young men who had been contributing to the growth of hot rodding were overseas serving in the military—led to a dry period for the hobby.
Fred Ruth was 11 or 12 years years old during that time, too young to drive and too young for military service, but just the right age to start messing around with cars. The fact that hot rod activity had slowed down didn’t affect his enthusiasm. His first motorized toys were Cushman scooters. His first car was a soon hot-rodded ’33 Plymouth five-window coupe. By the mid ’50s, hot rodding was more popular than ever. Fred, married with three young sons, got involved in Quarter Midget racing and began his own company building them called Pacemaker Quarter Midgets. When that lost popularity, Fred started a metal fabrication business and an auto parts store. He later raced Indy cars. Through it all, Fred was building hot rods. Now on the verge of his 80th birthday, he still is. The car you’re looking at is Fred’s latest, probably number 50 or 60 on the lifelong list that has included just about everything.
After the LS-powered, Kugel-chassised ’32 Dearborn Deuce he built with his youngest son, Larry (of Larry Ruth Engineering), was totaled, Fred wanted a project that wouldn’t require nearly as much time or money. He told us he saw an ad for Factory Five Racing’s (FFR) ’33 Hot Rod on the pages of this magazine and thought it would be fun to build one. His middle son, Dan, got on board with the project, but before making the commitment, father and son traveled to Massachusetts to check out the FFR factory and meet owner Dave Smith in person. Back at Dan’s shop in Litchfield Park, Arizona, they inventoried what had been supplied by Factory Five and began work on the build.
The FFR ’33 is lower and wider than the ones built in Dearborn 78 years ago. Several coupe and roadster variations are offered by the manufacturer, but the Ruths mixed things up a little by modifying a coupe top for use with a roadster windshield. They also lowered the headlights and recessed them into the front fenders, bobbed the rear fenders, and added a pair of Rodworx ’42-48 Ford-style LED taillights. Southern Rods provided the turn signal outside mirrors. Fred says they spent 21 days (in 100-degree-plus heat) to complete the fiberglass work prior to paint. The color is GM Victory Red from Spies Hecker; Ivan’s Auto Body in Laveen, Arizona, invited Dan to use its spray booth to shoot the basecoat and clear finish.
The original plan for the powertrain was to use a new 5.7L or 6.2L Dodge Hemi, until a friend stepped forward with a 119,000-mile ’96 Lincoln Mark VIII for sale for $1,000. As Fred says, “The hot rod Lincoln was born!”
The most distinguishing components of the FFR ’33 chassis are the inboard coilover shock setup and tubular control arms. For rear suspension, the company offers a four- or three-link solid axle rear suspension, but Fred chose neither in favor of building an independent assembly, using most of the complete brake-to-brake rearend assembly from the Mark VIII. A Wilwood master cylinder controls the Lincoln rear brakes and the 11-inch PBR front brakes. Fred and Dan decided to add airbags to change the stance of the ’33 with the push of a button and Jason and Jeremy at RideTech developed a system specifically for the Hot Rod Lincoln.