Things are changing at the Grand National Roadster Show. Have you noticed? In the past few years, the influence of street rodding’s roots has started seeping more and more into the most prestigious level of GNRS competition: America’s Most Beautiful Roadster.
The change we see has nothing to do with the quality of the roadsters, which has always been excellent. It’s about their style. Most of the complaints we’ve been hearing are about the AMBR finalists and winners drifting too far in the direction of futuristic styling changes that camouflage the classic beauty of the cars—you know, the thing that makes us like hot rods. Now the trend is moving toward modifications that may look contemporary, but that reflect the time-honored design of cool old cars.
To see what we mean, look no further than this full-fendered 1934 Ford roadster. Daryl Wolfswinkel’s roadster is the successful link between high tech and old style. It’s not a period-correct replica rod from pick-your-favorite-decade, or a complete reinvention of a street rod. It’s not going to appeal to every taste, but it is probably the most universally appreciated AMBR winner in recent memory.
The now-you-see-’em-now-you-don’t headlights attach with two-prong aircraft plugs fastened with a retainer nut to upright stands, which are mated to the radiator mount inside the sheetmetal. Boyd Coddington built that 30 years ago. Removing the headlights at the GNRS took about two minutes, but had people in Pomona talking all weekend, and online for weeks.
The roadster features an original ’34 body on original ’34 ’rails, built almost 80 years ago by employees of Henry Ford. We can’t tell you much about the first half century of the car’s history, but in the early ’80s, it showed up at the Pomona swap meet at the L.A. County Fairplex. At the time, Daryl was a partner with Squeeg Jerger at Squeeg’s Hot Rod Connection in Arizona. He saw the car, bought it, and brought it back to Squeeg’s where it began its transformation.
The foundation was laid by boxing the factory framerails, but the front and rear suspension is anything but stock. Squeeg called on long-time friend Charlie Hopkins to install a Kugel Komponents, Jag-style independent front and rear suspension. Wheel choice was a set of 14- and 15-inch Mehelichs. A Chevy small-block engine provided power, paired with an automatic transmission.
The seat, built by Gabe Lopez,...
The seat, built by Gabe Lopez, has the look of a pair of custom buckets squeezed into a single bench. Check out the baseball stitching around the seat bottom and down the center of the seat back.
The roadster went to Kenny Gartman, who replaced the structural wood with steel and wedge channeled the body over the ’rails for a perfect rake. With the metal shaped up, Terry Hegman straightened the cowl line and created a hood top and sides. Dan Fink contributed the functional hood side scoops, hinge assemblies, and grille insert (one of his first). Boyd Coddington fabricated the upright headlight stands hidden inside the body. Dietz headlights were mounted with two-prong aircraft plugs. Before Squeeg and Ron Hunt’s final assembly, the roadster rolled into the paint booth at Squeeg’s for a deep maroon finish. That’s how Daryl drove the ’34 for many years. Then he sold it and away it went.
The story starts up again about six years into the 21st century. Squeeg had semi-retired, his son, Doug, was keeping Squeeg’s Kustoms in the limelight, and Daryl was trying to remember why he sold his cool old roadster. After Doug tracked down the lost ’34, Daryl bought it back and began driving it again. Another year passed and Daryl was ready to get the car completely blown apart and rebuilt—at Squeeg’s Kustoms, naturally.
Doug kept the stock frame and Kugel suspension, updated with Aldan coilovers at all four corners, Wilwood disc brakes, and 4.11 gears in the limited-slip rearend. Brake and fuel lines were entirely replumbed in stainless steel. The wheels and tires were upsized with 15- and 16-inch Real Rodders wheels rolling on Diamond Back radial rubber.