In the final moments of the 2011 Grand National Roadster Show, the award for America's Most Beautiful Roadster went to a '34 Ford wearing mirror-shiny black paint and a ton of traditionally influenced styling. Minutes before, this big moment was foreshadowed when a '35 Ford five-window coupe wearing mirror-shiny black paint and a ton of traditionally influenced styling took First Place in the Custom Rod Coupe class. This is the story of how a West Coast rock musician and a racer from the mountains of western Virginia teamed up to make that happen.

Joe Yuele had been looking for a coupe when his friend Tony Baron found this mostly stock five-window. The car was in good shape, complete, and "straight as a pin", but after 70 years of regular driving, it was ready for a rebuild. Joe bought it the next day.

"I'm kind of a bolt-on, bolt-off level mechanic," Joe says. "I've always worked on my own daily drivers, fixing minor repairs, an occasional engine swap, or whatever was needed-but I'm not qualified to do a complete frame-off, ground-up build by myself."

A professional carpenter friend whom Joe had hired to help him with home remodeling projects suggested a similar arrangement for building the coupe. Instead of surrendering the project to a pro builder, hire a pro builder and work together. The carpenter even knew the perfect builder for the job.

Kevin Poff works with his father, Lawrence, at Poff's Garage, their longtime, family owned auto shop in Bent Mountain, Virginia. After hours, Kevin builds and races Outlaw Dragsters and Pro Street cars.

Using the enormous amount of frequent flyer miles he had accumulated as a touring musician (Google him), Joe was able to bring Kevin out to California from time to time. Kevin would stay for a few weeks at a time and they would work on the coupe. It took six years, but-except for the bodywork, paint, and interior-the car was entirely built at Joe's house by Joe and Kevin.

The body went into a hot tank for a week while they sandblasted the frame. No modifications were necessary to the original Ford sheetmetal. Dietz headlights replace the originals. Repro door handles and '36 Ford truck mirrors from Bob Drake Reproduction were added on both sides. When Eugene Smith, in Chatsworth, California, got done with the bodywork, that factory steel was straight enough for the shiniest black paint. George Gray sprayed that paint using PPG's Delstar 9000.

Red paint on the Wheel Vintiques steelies with chrome baby Moon caps and rings provides some classic-looking contrast to the beautiful black finish. Meaty 255/70R15 BFGoodrich Radial T/As are mounted on the 15x8 rear wheels, with slightly less meaty 215/65R15s on front 15x6 rims.

The full-race Mercury Flathead was inspired by Tony Baron of Baron Racing Equipment, and is equipped with Baron high-flow heads. A Tattersfield/Baron high-rise intake manifold is topped with four new Stromberg 97 carburetors with progressive linkage, and Baron velocity stacks. Dick Landy Industries did the machining on the engine. The block was ported, polished, blueprinted, and balanced-with no relief. Kevin and Joe handled the assembly, filling the block with traditional and modern go-fast goodies, including a Merc crank, Isky 400 Jr. cam, and Ross high-dome pistons. Joe Reath at Reath Automotive converted the stock oil system to a full-flow system that uses a modern oil filter and large-capacity Lincoln-type pump. Exhaust exits through center dump headers from Red's Headers and Flowmaster HP-2 mufflers. The Flathead is connected to a TREMEC TKO five-speed with a Centerforce clutch.

Underneath the coupe are the same 'rails that carried it out of the factory. Now they're boxed and braced, with a custom X-member. A new front crossmember is part of the Heidts Super Ride II independent front suspension. Heidts also provided the rear four-link and Panhard bar. The 3.90:1 gears in the Lincoln 9-inch rearend turn narrowed Currie axles. Steering is accomplished with a front-mount manual rack from Flaming River. Aldan adjustable coilover shocks smooth out the road. Braking is achieved with Wilwood 11-inch front discs and Currie rear drums.

The inside of the '35 shows off the same combination of original, contemporary, and traditional hot rod styles. Instead of cutting the dash, Joe got the stock gauges rebuilt by Redline Gauge Works. The Vintage Air A/C unit is mounted under the dash with the controls out of sight in the glovebox. Kevin wired the entire car in a couple of days. The steering wheel and column came out of a '37 Ford. The car came back from Mike Ambrose Custom Interiors with the stock bench and custom door panels upholstered in classic-looking low-sheen German vinyl.

In January 2011, Joe's '35 was ready for its debut (and its first award) at the 2011 Grand National Roadster Show. Much of the car's success is due to the support of Joe's wife, Patty. In addition to providing encouragement, he explained, Patty was a good sound board and suggested many of the ideas that found their way onto the car. "I couldn't have done it without her," he said. In the two years since the GNRS, "we've been using the car the way we envisioned: driving it everywhere and racking up the miles."