“Voodoo” Larry Grobe’s cars hit you at the belly level. You can talk about the street level stance and the belt buckle–high rooflines you see on most of the hot rods and kustoms built at Voodoo Larry Kustoms, but we’re not being literal, we’re talking about impressions. And Voodoo Larry knows how to make an impression with a car—not by revealing things slowly and subtly, but by unloading everything all at once. You already know that. You experienced it yourself when you picked up this magazine and saw these photos of Voodoo Psychosis, Larry’s 1931 Ford Model A coupe. Or better yet, when you saw the car in person.
Larry said he got interested in this stuff after seeing American Graffiti when he was a kid. Within a few years, he was building his own cars. Now he builds them for other people and occasionally for himself at his shop in Elk Grove, Illinois. His bright green Voodoo Idol ’46 Ford sled, built in the style of Gene Winfield and the Barris brothers, earned a lot of attention a few years ago.
This time, Voodoo Larry wanted to build a traditional hot rod. He started by looking for Model A bodies on eBay. Most of them were “a lot of junk for a lot of dollars”, so he switched his search to complete cars, and found one for $4,500. The seller had purchased the coupe from the original owner 45 years earlier.
Larry sold everything except the body. After media blasting and some lower panel repairs, the coupe top was treated to a 6-inch chop. The visor was welded in place for a clean look and the firewall was reversed for more engine clearance. The grille and headlights from a ’32 were added. To create the decklid, Larry’s friend Jim at Lions Rod Shop punched 171 louvers into a fresh steel skin, which was then welded to a 1/2-inch square tube frame. More louvers were punched in the lower panel, where Larry installed nerf bars and the taillights from a ’36 Dodge. Up above, the canvas top snaps onto the perimeter channel. Rain channels were rebuilt from 1/4-inch angle.
At Flat Line Kustoms in Elgin, Illinois, Bob Sanford performed final bodywork and painted the two tones of green using PPG’s waterborne Envirobase paint. The light green is a ’46 Chrysler color and the darker shade is borrowed from an ’80 Mercedes. The scallop style is close to the old Pierson Brothers coupe from the early days of Bonneville. Larry finished it with pinstriping. The decklid was cleared, but unpainted to give it an unfinished look. Courtesy Plating and Polishing in Addison, Illinois, handled the plating jobs.
The chassis started with an aftermarket ’32 Ford frame. At Voodoo Kustoms, it was pinched 3 inches, kicked up 14 inches in the rear, and shortened 6 inches in front. The ’rails were boxed and strengthened with a custom X-member, plus front and rear crossmembers. Larry wanted the body to look channeled but wanted the Deuce frame to be visible underneath. He accomplished both by sectioning 2 inches from the frame from the firewall to the seats. The motor mounts were built to resemble the drilled front axle.
A suicide frontend, with a 5-inch-drop Magnum axle extending forward beyond the framehorns, and ’37-style dropped arm spindles let the car sit as low as it does—about 4 inches from the ground. The ’40 Ford wishbones, transverse leaf spring, and chrome Pete & Jakes shocks on ’56 F-1 pickup shock mounts complete the front suspension. The rearend is a 3.73:1 ’65 Chevy 10-bolt with a Posi. It hangs on a pair of QA1 coilovers and a custom tri-link setup Larry came up with.
The Spectre shifter from Pep Boys is equipped with a one-of-a-kind drilled aluminum arm cu
The wheel and tire combination is as old-time hot rod as you can get. The ’39 Dodge “high clearance” wheels, 20x3s in front and 18x4.5s in the rear, are what you would have seen in the earliest days of hot rodding—before it was even called that. Skinny Firestones, measuring 4.75-5.00-20 and 7.50-18, finish the look. The front brakes are Wilson Welding backing plates equipped with ’40 Ford shoes and cylinders inside ’57 Buick drums. The rear brakes are ’65 Chevy, also with Buick drums.
“Since I love my small-block Chevys, the motor is a ’72 SBC,” Larry says. Before you start any “belly button motor” comments, take a look. Nobody’s got a belly button like this 350, designed by Larry and built by Milo Iglesias at Foreign Car Rebuilding in Palatine, Illinois. The Vintage Cal Custom finned valve covers are painted with Chrysler light green to match the body, and many other vintage components are chromed or polished. Gas is delivered through an Eelco fuel rail to half a dozen Holley 94 two-barrels with frog’s mouth scoops on top of an early Edelbrock X1 Ram Log 6x2 intake manifold.
Steering is provided by a 16:1 Schroeder sprint car box mounted to custom-made framework u
Larry built the headers, wrapped to keep in heat and muffled with custom baffles. The TH350 transmission was built at Pioneer Transmission Service in Franklin Park, Illinois, and modified with a shift kit and manual reversed shift pattern. And unlike most transmissions, this one isn’t hidden. The polished case is a prominent feature in an interior loaded with prominent features.
The interior started with new scratch-built floor pans. The black canvas fabric was installed by Bruce Mapes at Guven Custom Auto Upholstery in Elgin. Most of the interior is unupholstered riveted aluminum panels. Combined with the custom-built B-52 bomber seats with original B-52 belts, it creates a World War II aircraft feel. The ’49 Pontiac insert and gauges contribute to that feel. A ’36 Dodge gas tank is located behind the seats. The steering wheel, mounted on a scratch-built column, once steered a mid-’50s English sports car. Larry says the rearview mirror is from a ’27 Greyhound bus.
Voodoo Psychosis was built in six months. Since the ’31 has been finished, Larry’s been driving the hot rod as often as he can. “She wins awards pretty much everywhere she goes,” he says, and he’s having fun giving the car exposure at a variety of shows. In other words: Making an impression.
Voodoo Larry knows how to make an impression with a car— not by revealing things slowly and subtly, but by unloading everything all at once.