Two things we really like are street rods and people who like street rods. Wayne Grafton is a guy who likes street rods, has owned a lot of them (still does), and never gets tired of finding and building something cool.
Wayne remembers that when he was growing up, the most desirable rods were ’32s and ’39s or ’40s. Since then he’s been fortunate enough to own at least one of each. He didn’t have to look for this ’39, since the car belonged to a friend. For two or three decades prior to that, the original-condition coupe had been owned by a dealership and was not driven. So when Wayne bought the car about seven years ago, it had been well preserved—and was ready to be built into a street rod.
The first and easiest decision was choosing the right professional shop to take the ’39 to the level that Wayne wanted. Pyramid Street Rods, in Bellingham, Washington, is well known for quality buildups and John Barbero at Pyramid had done other projects for Wayne.
When explaining what he was after, Wayne told Barbero he wanted it high in back and low in front, and high on power. An “aggressive cruiser” is how he described it to us. “I wanted no compromises,” he says. “John and I agreed it was going to be 100 percent or nothing at all.”
The Flathead engine that had been in the car didn’t quite fit Wayne’s definition of “aggressive”. The Chevrolet Performance Ram Jet ZL1 crate engine, which makes 510 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque, does. Tyler King in Lynden, Washington, did the machining and assembly. The aluminum block 454 barely leaves room between the fenders for the Hedman block hugger headers, capped by Flowmaster mufflers. Polished aluminum heads, and chrome valve covers and induction components add an immaculate impression. Phoenix Transmission Products in Weatherford, Texas, built the 4L60E that backs up the engine. An aluminum driveshaft ties the trans to the Winters 9-inch rearend with 3.50 gears and Posi.
In updating the chassis, Pyramid Street Rods boxed the framerails and strengthened them with 1-1/4-inch tube crossmembers. The ’rails were moved inward 2 inches to clear the wheels and tires. A Kugel Komponents independent suspension was added in front, including an antiroll bar. The rear suspension was rebuilt using a four-bar setup and Panhard bar. Aldan coilovers were mounted in every corner.
A pair of Dutchman Motorsports rear axles connect the 9-inch to a set of Boyd Coddington Smoothie 18x10 wheels, with P295/45R18 BFGoodrich radials. At the front, 225/45R17 BFGoodriches roll on 17x7 wheels. Front and rear Wilwood discs are visible behind the five-spokes.
All those years in the dealership kept the original ’39 sheetmetal in good shape. Mike King and Jeff Kutz in Ferndale, Washington, made sure it was perfect, including gaps and clearances, before shooting the paint. Wayne had seen that shade of red on a Volkswagen and PPG provided the same color for the coupe. The exterior was modified with smooth running boards, swan neck mirrors on both sides, and a ’40 Ford Standard grille replacing the ’39.
The work that went into the interior is extensive, but nothing is overstated or overdone. Upholsterer Paul Reichlin of Mount Vernon, Washington, kept the overall design simple. The Glide Engineering bench seat with tapered backs and the custom door panels, as well as the trunk, are finished in tan leather. The Budnik steering wheel was wrapped to match and mounted on a stainless tilt column from Flaming River. The pedals and shifter are from Lokar Performance. Another impressive detail is the design of the CNC’d grilles covering the door panel speakers, which match the grille in the center of the dash. And Wayne assures us that the glovebox door clock is fully functional and keeps good time. An aluminum insert in the stock dash houses a set of retro aftermarket instruments. An air-conditioning system from Vintage Air is successfully hidden from sight, but keeps the inside cool when the outside gets hot.
Wayne is enjoying the car now that it’s done, but still loves looking for the next cool project. Currently in the works is another “100 percent” ’39, a convertible to complement this “no-compromise” coupe.
You may be wondering why we titled this story “Ice Cream Car”. It has to do with one of Wayne’s reasons for liking street rods: driving them and having fun. He has three daughters who have always enjoyed riding in their dad’s cars. He says that one of their favorite destinations was the ice cream shop—so Wayne’s street rods became known as the “ice cream cars”. We couldn’t think of a better description, can you?