“Back in the ’60s, when I was 16 years old …”
You’ve got to love any hot rod story that starts that way. When we read those words at the beginning of Cliff Walter’s story about his beautiful ’32 Chevy three-window coupe, we had to smile. It was probably the same kind of smile we had when we spotted the jet-black highboy parked in the middle of the street in downtown Culver City, California, earlier this year. But back to Cliff’s story …
Triple Rochester 2Gs on an Offy intake feed the well-dressed small-block—reflected in the
“I was 16 years old and ready to buy my first car. I found a ’23 T-bucket in my neighborhood. That’s when I knew that I wanted a hot rod. But, since the car had no top, my dad said, ‘No way.’ So I ended up buying a ’56 Buick Roadmaster two-door.
“After that, I drove a ’64 Chevy Malibu SS, then a ’41 Dodge, then a ’51 Chevy, and so on, but it was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to own a hot rod.”
It took awhile, but in 2004 Cliff’s wish came true. “I found this ’32 Chevrolet on eBay. It was a completed car and it was a Chevy—not a Ford. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to have it. I bought it that weekend.”
At that time, the coupe was riding on the original Chevrolet-manufactured “deuce” ’rails, and it still is today. The frame was boxed for strength, and the suspension was beefed up accordingly. In front, a tubular dropped axle was set up for Chevy spindles and hairpins. The steering is original, and the front brakes are 10-inch ’66 Corvette discs. The master cylinder is also ’66 Corvette, and the rear brakes are 11-inch drums. The rearend is from a ’66 Nova, with 3.55:1 gears and limited slip, hanging on ’37 Chevy leaf springs.
Coker Tire provided the rims as well as the classic wide white bias-ply rubber. The tires are nice and narrow, measuring L78-15 in the rear and 5.60-15 in front. The 15-inch steelies are painted red with beauty rings and caps.
All work on the unchopped Chevy body—including the paintjob—had already been done when Cliff discovered the coupe, and was one of the strongest selling points of the car. The downside is that due credit cannot be given to the bodyman who worked hard to get the original steel straight as a laser, or the painter who shot the reflective jet black that proves it. They’re out there somewhere; let’s hope they read this and accept our compliments. The door handles are stock items, and the windshield and windows are original glass. Gaps are probably better than original. Los Angeles–area pinstriper “Skratch” added some tasteful traditional lines to the grille shell, decklid, and dash.
There is no hood—because why would anybody deliberately hide such a great-looking engine?! This 350 small-block is not the same 350 that came with the car. “A few years went by and I knew I needed a few more horsepower,” Cliff explains. In the spring of 2010, he and his neighbor, Jim Schall, pulled out the old motor and TH350 transmission that had been powering the car, in favor of something that could power it even more.
The skeletal shifter handle from Mooneyes adds its own personality to the Chevy interior,
Paint on the block continues the bright red color theme, matched by the MSD distributor cap and plug wires, and the finned aluminum valve covers. The red is contrasted by lots of polish and chrome, and the engine was dressed up to keep up with the car’s traditional hot rod look. Louvered helmet-style air cleaners are mounted on 250-cfm Rochester 2G carbs on a polished Offenhauser intake. Lakes-style headers with cutouts are ceramic coated. But this is more than just a pretty Mouse; the motor was built in the true tradition of a hot rod. Cliff delivered the engine to Vellios Machine Shop in Lawndale, California, for machining, and it was balanced and blueprinted. Jim Schall handled the assembly. Probe 10:1 pistons with Scat rods fill the 0.030-over cylinders. It also has Edelbrock RPM aluminum heads and an Isky cam. The Turbo 350 was rebuilt at Hiro’s Automatic Transmission in Gardena, California, and runs an 1,800-rpm stall converter and Lokar shifter.
A little bit of period two-tone pinstriping by Skratch adds some accent to the grille shel
The interior is the perfect complement to the rest of the ’32, with the color theme swapped. Black is restricted to the carpet, stock steering wheel, and dash. Mooneyes supplied the engine-turned-dash insert as well as blackface gauges; the wiring was accomplished with the use of a Painless Performance kit. Like the bodywork and paint, the upholstery was accomplished prior to Cliff’s involvement, but the red vinyl tuck ’n’ roll on the aftermarket bench seat and door panels suits the whole look. Cliff rolls down the windows when he wants air conditioning, but the coupe does feature a an underdash head unit for tunes.
Now that Cliff owns the hot rod he always wanted, he’s having a blast. When we saw the Chevy in Culver City, Cliff was about an hour away from winning the Best Hi-Boy award at the Cruisin’ Back to the 50’s Car Show, hosted by legendary builder and custom car icon George Barris. That’s when we first heard the story that began in the late ’60s. The next time we saw the Chevy was later that day at the top-secret location where these photos were taken. “I have entered it in a few local car shows, and it gets lots of stares when my wife, Carol, and I go for Sunday drives,” Cliff says. “It’s been great finally having the hot rod of my dreams.”
Triple Rochester 2Gs on an Offy intake feed the well-dressed small-block—reflected in the near-mirror finish of the firewall.