The road to Bonneville is a well-worn path fueled by passion and desire. For over 60 years hot rodders have been making the trek to the Salt Flats not only to race, but to experience the ultimate drive to the Promised Land in their own hot rods. Depending where you start from, it’s a trip that’s not for the faint at heart, as it can be grueling in many respects for both drivers and machines.

Ken Schmidt and Keith Cornell of the Rolling Bones Hot Rod Shop in Greenfield Center, New York, know firsthand what it takes to make the sojourn from New York to Bonneville and back on a yearly basis to race their own personal cars. Their road trips, which have become legendary, have attracted followers worldwide and even led independent filmmaker Brian Darwas to create a documentary about the experience. They ride hard doing 500-600 miles a day, while pushing speed limits and the durability of vintage parts through whatever elements they encounter. If something breaks, it gets fixed along the roadside, in parking lots of abandoned gas stations, or wherever need be.

Now imagine taking two freshly completed hot rods and embarking on an initial shakedown on one of these road trips right out of the gate. Dick DeLuna of Woodside, California, and Jorge Zaragoza of El Paso, Texas, recently did just that, but their epic journey actually started years ago on one of their visits to experience Garage Night, in the dead of winter, at the Rolling Bones shop. Walking through the doors where the Book of Gow comes to life, the pair immediately experienced everything their schoolteachers had warned them about regarding the evils of hot rodding. Laid out before them were both completed and in-the-works hot rods, each embodying a truly dramatic post-war style. After studying the cars and speaking with Ken and Keith at length, both Dick and Jorge made the decision to get started on two very unique builds; one from Henry’s original production line and the other from newly struck steel.

DeLuna’s ’34 Ford five-Window Highboy Coupe

For Dick, growing up in Salinas, California, it was easy to see a path unfolding when he started working and racing at the Salinas Dragstrip in the early ’50s. Subsequent years were dedicated to a tour in the military and the Peace Corps as well as starting a family and business. It wasn’t till the ’80s that his automotive calling came full circle when he began vintage racing at some of the world’s finest courses, including Tour Auto in France, Tour de Espana, and Goodwood. Add in competing regularly in the La Carrera Panamericana alongside great friend Dennis Varni in a ’55 Lincoln Capri and it’s easy to see his dedication to the hobby.

With the decision made to build a downright evil ’34 Ford five-window coupe, a search led Ken and Keith to a fully restored, yet unassembled, bone stocker residing in the basement of a home in nearby Lee Center, New York. The restoration, which had been in the works for 37 years, was about as pristine as you could imagine. Well, there’s nothing like the scent of a grinder and TIG welder to convert a vintage Ford to the dark side, so once a deal was made, the project was trailered back to the Bone’s shop to get sorted. To lay the groundwork for the coupe, a call was placed to American Stamping Corporation for a set of fresh ’34 Ford die-stamped steel framerails.

Wanting to give the car an aggressive ground-hugging stance, the team reworked the ’rails with a number of surgical alterations, starting with stretching the wheelbase to 114 inches. From there the ’rails were bobbed and pinched up front with a narrowed Model A front crossmember installed along with kicking and stepping the ’rails ahead of the firewall and eliminating the lower frame points. A custom-fabbed center crossmember was then added along with a Model A rear crossmember, which was lifted 3 inches to drop the stance height. The rear framerails were then C’d and bobbed, followed by the chassis being boxed for durability. In keeping with a post-war theme, it was important to design a suspension system that would stay true to the build. In back, a Rodsville quick-change centersection filled with 3.64:1 gears and matched to ’40 Ford axles assembled by Hot Rod Works was suspended in place with a combination of Rolling Bones ladder bars, inboard mounted Houdialle shocks, and a Model T rear spring to soften the bumps.

To bring an aggressive attitude to the front, a drilled ’48 Ford axle was deftly matched to ’39 Ford spindles and anchored in place by ’32 Ford split ’bones. Evening out harsh roads, Rolling Bones–designed friction shocks matched to a Posies leaf spring gets the job done. When everything has to stop, a ’40 Ford master pushes fluid through steel lines to ’40 Ford binders anchored at each corner while navigation goes through a Schroeder steering box. Planting the chassis on the pavement a pair of ’40 Ford 16x4 steelies wrapped in 5.00x16 Coker Classics up front and ’48 Ford truck 16x5 steelies out back capped with 7.50x16 Coker Classics complete the look, crowned by a set of vintage aftermarket replacement deluxe caps.

Knowing the coupe needed plenty of dependable power for the long haul, a call was placed to Rolling Bones master engine builder Jim Fleming of Washingtonville, New York, to whip up a stout Ford Flathead fit for the task. Starting with a ’49 Ford 8BA block, Fleming massaged it to 284 ci and loaded it with a 4-inch stroked Scat crank linked to Scat H-rods topped with Ross forged slugs, and an Isky stick. A set of Navarro heads matched to an Offenhauser two-pot intake crowned with a pair of Stromberg 97-series carbs spark to life thanks to a Vertex magneto while spent gases are dumped through Rolling Bones-fabbed headers. Linked to a Chevy S-10 five-speed trans the oats move rearward through a custom driveshaft.

To give the body a timeless look, combining equal amounts of speed and style, the team first hammered its lid 6 inches up front and 5-1/2 inches in the rear while also laying back the windshield. A Walden Speed Shop roof insert was laid in place followed by the cowl being laid down, frame covers and rear roll pan being fabbed, as well as the tail being tucked and rear wheel radius being massaged. The crowning touch is a heavily reworked ultrarare Canadian Cockshutt tractor grille accented by a custom hood and hood sides.

With the metalwork completed, the body and chassis were blocked to perfection, coated in a custom-blended PPG Salinas Special red vibe, and then treated to just enough rubbed-through patina. Sealing the deal, pinstriping legend Larry Hook of Cumberland, Rhode Island, laid his brushes across the surface, bringing everything to life. When it came to the interior less is always more, especially with an all-business hot rod like this.

For comfort, bomber seats by Frank Wallic were covered in vintage brown leather by Dore Dipasquale of Gloversville, New York, while textured rubber covers the floor. A modified ’34 Ford dash filled with a ’29 Pierce Arrow insert and gauges help monitor the vitals while a ’48 Kurtis-Kraft midget steering wheel plots the course with gear changes through a Rolling Bones shifter topped with a rare Knights of Columbus shift knob that belonged to Dick’s dad. With the coupe now showing over 3,500 miles on the odometer, Dick’s reliving his early days in Salinas with the car he always wished he’d had back in the day.

Zaragoza’s ’32 Ford Three-Window Highboy Coupe

Falling under the hot rod spell happened for Jorge when he was 12 years old while hanging around the local magazine stand scouring publications to dig all the latest soup-jobs. His first attempt to purchase a ’33 Ford at age 17 was foiled by his dad when the family mechanic warned it wouldn’t be reliable since it was comprised of too many different car parts. He later purchased a ’69 Firebird, which he heavily drag raced for a number of years till he married and started a family. It wasn’t till the early ’80s that his ability to get back into the hobby first led him to start collecting rare Pontiac T/As and other muscle cars.

Images of Tom McMullen’s iconic ’32 Ford highboy roadster on the cover of the April ’63 issue of Hot Rod still burned in the back of his mind however. He set out to locate the car for his collection and with the help of Roy Brizio he was able to purchase it along with the Jack Calori’s ’36 Ford coupe, both of which Roy Brizio Street Rods restored to perfection. There was always an attraction though to the rawness of post-war–styled hot rods with a well-aged look and a story to tell that still captivated him.

Once the decision was made to build a hammered Deuce, the team at Rolling Bones got busy laying out a rock-solid spine to act as a base. Starting with an original ’32 Ford frame, its wheelbase was first stretched to 109-1/2 inches, followed by the front and rear framehorns being bobbed. Model A front and rear crossmembers were then added along with the front framerails being pinched, rear ’rails being C-notched, and the frame being fully boxed for added strength. To keep it traditional, a Rodsville quick-change rearend with ’40 Ford axles packed with 3.64:1 cogs by the Hot Rod Works was hung in place with Rolling Bones ladder bars while bumps get scattered through inboard-mounted Houdaille shocks and a Model T rear spring. Meanwhile up front a ’32 Ford axle was drilled and laid in place with ’39 Ford spindles, and split ’32 Ford ’bones. To soak up the bumps, inboard-mounted friction shocks and a Posies leaf spring even it all out while a Schroeder steering box keeps everything on course. When the party needs to come to a halt, a ’40 Ford master relays fluid to ’40 Ford brakes at each corner. A set of original Ford 16-inch big ’n’ littles set the stance, wrapped in Coker/Excelsior rubber with caps and rings for a bit of dazzle.

Nothing says go like a supercharged Flathead packed with all the right goods, so Jorge had Jim Fleming assemble a bullet-proof V-8 to handle the long haul. The ’49 Ford 8BA block was tweaked to 284 ci and packed with a 4-inch stroked Scat crank, Scat H-rods, Ross forged pistons, and an Isky cam. Sealing the deal, a pair of Navarro heads matched with an original S.Co.T. supercharger suck air through a pair of Stromberg 97s, brought to life by a Vertex magneto. A pair of Rolling Bones headers dumps spent gases through straight pipes while a Chevy S-10 five-speed pushes the power through a custom driveshaft.

One call to Brookville Roadster secured a freshly struck steel ’32 Ford three-window coupe body, which the Rolling Bones team wasted no time cutting up. To give it plenty of attitude, its lid was chopped 5 inches in front and 4-1/2 inches in back while also leaning back the windshield. The voodoo continued with a 2-inch stretched Rootlieb hood, rear roll pan, and removable Walden Speed Shop roof insert all vented by Louvers Unlimited.

With the body worked till it was razor-sharp, it was then doused in PPG black lacquer and rubbed out with an aged patina, giving it a 50-year-old luster. The crowning touch came from the brushes of well-known artist Jeff Norwell who laid out graphics cool enough to make the Gods of Speed proud. Inside the coupe, it’s no-nonsense with a simple blanket interior accented by a custom dash filled with vintage Stewart-Warner dials, while a “weathered” ’40 Ford steering wheel dictates the course. For Jorge, the Deuce fulfills a lifelong dream to have experienced hot rodding in its purest form, just like it was in the post-war era. These vintage Fords will continue to put down the miles, Rolling Bones-style, with plenty of raw power, no creature comforts, and only what you need in the trunk while heading to the salt, and to us that’s plain wicked!

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