Modern brick office buildings now occupy the block in downtown Alexandria, Virginia, where Jeff Berry’s grandfather opened Herby’s Ford in 1947. Jeff worked there before he was even a teenager. By the age of 13, he was wrenching on a ’65 Mustang GT fastback that his dad had given him. Before he had a driver’s permit he’d painted the car twice.
A few years later, the dealership service manager took Jeff to his first street rod event. The variety of cars and the absence of rules—“you could do whatever you wanted”—made an impression. He sold his ’69 Shelby to buy his first street rod: a ’37 Tudor sedan.
Tyler, Jeff’s almost 15-year-old son, started his street rod education at an even younger age. He was three days old when he attended his first event.
We first met Jeff and Tyler at the 2008 Goodguys Southeastern Nats where their burgundy ’32 roadster was drawing attention. We reunited at the 2011 PPG Nats in Columbus, where the Berrys were showing a full-fendered black roadster. They were back in Columbus in 2012 with another ’32—this time a rich red coupe.
Well-known racer and builder Lem Tolliver had spotted the coupe long before we did. Tolliver was at a Goodguys event in Pleasanton 20 years ago where the car was for sale. It was in excellent shape, with original sheetmetal, and much of the original chassis and interior. It was black back then, still unchopped and still wearing full fenders and bumpers. Within two days, the fenders, running boards, hood, splash aprons, and framehorn covers were removed and the ’32 was rebuilt as a highboy.
Tolliver sold the ’32 within a year. It went to a couple other owners before Anthony Masucci found it in Florida. He bought it and brought it back to the West Coast, where the transformation into its current form took place.
Joey Stockdale in the Bay Area performed a lot of the external modifications, including the filled original grille shell, filled roof, and 3 1/2-inch top chop. The louvered, three-piece hood was built by the late, great West Coast metalman Jack Hagemann. A set of ’34 Ford commercial headlights were installed, and the taillights were replaced with a pair from a ’47 Chevy.
The paint is a recent Ford color, but it reminds Jeff of something you might have seen in the ’40s. The paintjob, wiring, and final assembly were performed by Daron Morris. Gene Worth at Worthworks in San Jose added the black and cream pinstriping on the grille shell, along the beltline and on the decklid.
Racers/builders, in addition to being skilled drivers, have a knack for setting up suspensions, and Lem Tolliver’s chassis modifications are stout. Custom crossmembers and boxing plates stiffen the factory frame, and front and rear C-notches help lower it. Custom sway bars and Panhard bars were built for the front and rear; Tolliver also added the one-off front hairpins. The spindles and drilled axle came from Super Bell, with a mono-leaf spring and QA1 adjustable shocks. QA1 coilovers were mounted in the rear, where a four-link locates the rearend. Brakes are Super Bell Super Stopper discs in front with stock rear drums, balanced by a Wilwood proportioning valve. A Flaming River box handles steering.
Under the hood, the valve covers identify the engine as a Smeding Performance crate motor. The 383 hot rod small-block runs a custom-ground roller cam and Dart cast-iron heads, and makes more than 400 hp. A PerTronix ignition provides spark while the Holley 650 carb delivers fuel and air to the Edelbrock intake. Sanderson headers connect to 3-inch stainless pipes with Flowmaster Hushpower mufflers. A Lokar shifter operates the B&M Racing TH400 transmission. The 3.50:1 gears in the Ford 9-inch spin Currie axles.
Sid Chavers did a beautiful job with the coupe’s interior, combining first class material and clean hot rod design. The custom seat was built in the style of an original bench, and upholstered in black leather with traditional tuck ’n’ roll seams. Door panels, kick panels, and headliner and overhead console were built to match. The floor was covered in gray German square weave carpet with black piping. A Haneline five-gauge panel was filled with a complete assortment of instruments from Auto Meter’s Old Tyme Black series. The matching tach was mounted on the Mullins column. The classic-looking drilled three-spoke steering wheel is of unknown origin, and was one of the many components contributed by Roy Brizio Street Rods.
In early 2012, Jeff found out about the Deuce. At the time, it was at Sid Chavers’ interior shop. A friend picked it up for Jeff and Tyler in exchange for their black roadster. The Berrys have made only minor changes to the coupe in the year they’ve owned it. The solid wheels have been replaced by the tires and wheels that Jeff and Tyler retained from the black roadster. The 15-inch artillery wheels with ’32 Ford V-8 caps are from Wheelsmith. Firestone 8.20-15 grooved dirt track tires are paired with 5.00-15 skinny bias-plies in front. Pinstriper Neil Madden added some pinstriping to the dash and lettered “Timeless” on the far right.
Jeff and Tyler’s first show with the coupe was the NSRA Street Rod Nationals East in York, followed by the PPG Nats in Columbus in July. They have a few more national events they’d like to visit before they start adding some serious miles to their newest Deuce.