For anyone with a passion for hot rods, Southern California in the mid-20th century was a great place and time to grow up. If you were there in the ’40s, you got to see this hobby as the spark was being lit. In the ’50s, you could see it catch fire. By the ’60s, there was no stopping the flames.
Chip Buckley was a kid in the late ’60s, living in the city of San Gabriel. When other kids were collecting baseball cards of Reggie Jackson and Carl Yastrzemski, he was collecting Ed Roth monster decals of Rat Fink and Mr. Gasser. He and his friends, too young to drive, would ride their bicycles a few miles to Pete & Jake’s in Temple City to see what was being built. If they wanted to see cool engines, they’d pedal a few miles the other way to Blair’s Speed Shop in Pasadena. The original Irwindale Drag Strip was another bike ride away.
As an adult, Chip moved south to Orange County, which had its own hot rod activity. He joined the traditional hot rod club, the Lucky Devils. That’s where he became friends with Buddy Dughi. Like Chip, Dughi had been a ’60s kid. He was building a 1932 coupe (this one) in the style of the late ’50s/early ’60s. Chip describes it as “one of those ‘double-take’ cars, meaning you see it, but you have to take another look, due to its ‘eye candy’ appeal.” After helping with the build, Chip became the car’s biggest fan. When the opportunity to buy it came, he was there.
The coupe was finished when Chip bought it, with the exception of the interior. In addition to wrapping up that part of the project, Chip made a few cosmetic changes, such as removing the paint from the grille, changing and polishing the intake, chroming the carbs, and redoing the carb linkage—all to give it what he calls “that Wow! factor”. More eye candy!
The starting point for the hot rod was a fiberglass three-window body from the former Downs Manufacturing. The coupe body rides on a fresh Deuce frame. Builder George “Desert Head” Gorgeous kept the dimensions stock, but boxed the American Stamping ’rails and built the frame strong enough to meet NHRA guidelines. The hot rod rake is helped by the 4-inch drop on the Super Bell I-beam axles between ’40 Ford spindles, located by split wishbones and a SO-CAL Speed Shop Panhard bar. The springs were provided by Posies Rods and Customs. The ’40 Ford steering column runs into a ’32 steering box.
At the other end, a Currie custom 9-inch is loaded with 3.70:1 gears with limited slip, and spins a pair of 31-spline high-performance axles. The ladder bars came from Pete & Jake’s. The rest of the suspension includes original ’32 rear springs, with SO-CAL shocks mounted all around.
Carrying the coupe and maintaining the period appearance is a set of 16-inch stock Ford steelies rolling on skinny Firestone bias-ply tires. The pie-crust whitewalls measure 7.50-16 and 6.00-16. Brakes are a combination of 9-inch ’40 Ford rear drums and Buick finned drums up front. With a late-model Corvette master cylinder and proportioning valve, there’s no problem stopping.
If you’re going to run an open hood, you’d better have an engine worth showing off—and the Chevy in Chip’s ’32 is a piece of art. Champion Auto in Orange did the machine work on the early 350 small-block. Buddy Dughi assembled it, installing a mild Isky street cam in the process. The Offy intake is crowned with six chromed Stromberg 94s, fitted with custom fuel rails and fittings from Blundell Speed & Machine. Ignition is handled by a Joe Hunt magneto. Fenton 4-into-2 exhaust headers feed into a custom 2-inch exhaust system—because ears like candy too.
The 1968 Muncie M22 “rockcrusher” four-speed transmission, a ’60s favorite, was assembled by Bill Salis in Long Beach California, using a Centerforce clutch and aluminum flywheel.
When the ’32 got to Ratical Automotive in San Juan Capistrano, the ’glass three-window body—with a 3-1/2-inch chop and original steel hood—was made perfect enough for a high-gloss black paintjob. “Rat”, now from Oceanside, applied the House Of Kolor paint. The traditional flames were the finishing touch, designed, sprayed, and striped across every panel by Jimmy C. from San Clemente. The red steelies are a continuation of the blends in the flames. The coupe was further transported back to the Ed Roth decal days through some period-perfect details, including E&J Type 20 headlights and ’50 Pontiac taillights, spreader bars at the front and rear, SO-CAL side mirrors, and repro Ford door handles from Vintique. Orange County Chrome in Orange, California, did the beautiful plating.
We can’t think of a more classic interior for a ’50s-style street rod than lipstick red tuck ’n’ roll on a bench seat. “Big Mike” Romo at Mike’s Auto Tops & Upholstery in Mission Viejo installed the Glide Engineering tilt back bench, covering it—and all the inside panels and headliner—in red vinyl. The Downs’ ’glass dash was painted body color and highlighted with elaborate ’striping by Jimmy C. In the center, a vintage ribbed aluminum Champion dash insert (painted to match the valve covers) houses a set of Stewart-Warner Wings series gauges: water temperature, tach, speedometer, and fuel. The ’40 Ford steering wheel is mounted on the chromed ’40 column, and a Hurst shifter changes gears in the Muncie. “The Penguin” at Rod Tech in Costa Mesa, California, wired the car using Ron Francis products. Audio and air conditioning are absent, à la the old days.
Chip’s period coupe has been on the road a little while, and was spotted earlier this year at the Grand National Roadster Show. Despite some of the changes he’s made to the car, there are still a few folks who ask, “Is that Buddy’s car?” Chip doesn’t mind. That’s a traditional part of the hobby, too. In fact, at GNRS it was displayed with Dughi’s flamed Gretsch guitar as an accessory—because there’s no such thing as too much eye candy.
Just the Facts
Model: 3-Window Coupe
Owner: Chip Buckley