Most people looking at Don Webb’s ’32 three-window coupe would probably not call it a restoration. Most people would reserve that term for a Ford built the way Henry did it. The difference with Don’s Deuce is that it’s built the way Bill Webb did it.
Bill was Don’s father, as well as his mentor and a genuine hot rodder. This was Bill’s car. “In the early ’50s, Bill was partners with Dennis Hildebrandt,” Don told us. “Hildebrandt Manufacturing operated a machine shop in Santa Fe Springs, California, where they produced speed equipment, such as engine adaptors, fuel blocks, scattershields, shift kits, gauge panels, beehive oil filters, and valve covers.”
Hildebrandt and Bill were drag racers. “Bill was the original builder of Hildebrandt’s ‘Dennis the Menace’ ’34 roadster,” Don says. “His own ’32 coupe was a record holder at Pomona Valley Drag Strip, San Fernando Drag Strip, San Gabriel Drag Strip, and Lions Drag Strip. Then in 1958, after a night of reckless street racing, my dad handed the keys from his ’32 to my mother. He told her that he wasn’t going to drive it anymore and that he was giving the car to me. I was 3 years old.
“The car stayed parked alongside the house. As a kid, I would crawl under the tarp and pretend that I was driving the hot rod. In 1971, when I turned 16, I started restoring the car by getting the bumpers and window frames re-chromed. I wrapped them in newspaper and stored them underneath my bed.
“As I got older my goal became to rebuild the car just like my dad originally had it, but better. I installed the same upholstery, headliner, and white roof insert, and the same ’40 dash my dad put in. I used the same 283 Chevy, McCulloch supercharger, transmission, and rearend. I built the car in a one-car garage with all period parts from bumper to bumper; the ‘real deal,’ just like my dad.”
If you remember the coupe—or have seen photos of it—from its racing days, you know that Don’s restoration deviates a bit from what the car looked like in the ’50s. Back then, the car wore full fenders and running boards, and had a full louvered hood. The all-steel unchopped body has been redone as a highboy. The cowl vent has been filled and cowllights shaved, and the grille has been filled and peaked. A 4-inch peep mirror and a windshield wiper was added on the driver side, and the glass has been replaced by Solex glass. Don got the window frames plated when he was 16 years old. The early headlights were once mounted high on a headlight bar attached to the fenders; they are now attached at the shock mounts. The stock taillights were furnished with blue dot lenses. Another prominent change Don made to the body was the color. “From salmon pink to black—a bit more traditional for my taste,” he says. Don sprayed the paint himself, using DAR-900 acrylic enamel from PPG, supplied by El Monte Auto Paint.
The blown small-block is true to the powerplant configuration that pulled the ’32 into the record books at all those Southern California dragstrips. The engine is a ’59 Chevy 283 bored 0.060-over, with an Erson cam. Machining and assembly was done at Iggy’s in Arcadia, California. Chevy small-port heads are topped with a pair of very rare Hildebrandt valves covers, which Don polished and painted. The ’56 McCulloch VS57A supercharger gets air through a K&N cone air cleaner and delivers it to a ’56 Carter 650-cfm four-jet carburetor on a powdercoated ’56 Corvette cast-iron intake manifold. Don smoothed the early ram’s horn exhaust manifolds and 2-inch exhaust pipes connected to a pair of Smitty’s glasspack mufflers.