Just the Facts
Owner: Joe Kugel
A Budnik steering wheel bolts to a Flaming River column, and the dash features a gauge clu
For being a one-year-only design, the lines of the 1932 Ford roadster have certainly stood the test of time. But for nearly that same amount of time folks have been willing to modify, stretch, lower, reshape, and generally customize nearly every aspect of that same vehicle.
Customizing something to fit your own personality is long-held tenet of the hot rod movement, whether it is the engine, the body, the wheels, or all of the above. What's certainly amazing is, after more than 80 years, folks keep coming up with new designs for the Deuce roadster. People like Jesse Greening and Joe Kugel.
Those into customizing their hot rods have probably already heard of Joe and Jesse. Joe is of the Kugel clan—a family of 300-mph Bonneville racers and rodders that includes patriarch Jerry Kugel, father of Joe (along with brother Jeff and daughter Jerilyn, who work at the "family shop"), as well as being the namesake of Kugel Komponents, the hot rod aftermarket company started in 1969 and based in La Habra, California, that makes and assembles some of the finest IFS/IRS-based chassis systems the industry knows.
Wanting a bit of European flair, the design for the custom bench seating (with bucket bols
Jesse, on the other hand, is a third-generation auto enthusiast who opened Greening Auto Company in 2001—the rod-building business located in Nashville. Besides having built two Detroit Autorama Ridler winners, Jesse, along with his dad, Jeff, has expanded the business beyond the high-level assembly and paintjobs they're known for to now include a unique line of aftermarket parts.
Joe Kugel had long admired the roadsters Marcel De Ley and his two sons, Luc and Marc, were fabricating for customers in the past two decades but, being scratchbuilt, one-off steel bodies, they were out of Joe's price range. As a side project, a few years ago Jesse had built a modified one-off 'glass roadster for himself and, liking that design, Joe soon came up with the idea of offering a package deal that would include a 'glass Deuce roadster inspired by Jesse's design and have it available on one of Kugel Komponents' independent IFS/IRS chassis designs. The car the pair came up with they named "The Mirage".
Set up on a wheelbase of 112 inches, the frame starts with a pair of 'rails made by Thunder Road Rod & Custom in Mansfield, Ohio, which uses a four-piece construction with 10-gauge steel. The design gives the roadster a pinched front end, which allows the hood sides to flow straight down as opposed to the "ledge" a stock frame would have.
From there Joe assembled one of their pushrod IFS systems, which utilizes twin rocker arms and inboard coilover shocks behind the grille insert. Drilled Wilwood 13-inch brake rotors were coupled with six-piston calipers, and 17x7 Boyd wheels were wrapped in 215/45-17 Firestone Firehawk rubber.
Out back a Kugel IRS (with a Winters quick-change centersection and inboard disc brakes) went in, set up with twin QA1 coilover shocks outfitted with Eibach springs, as opposed to the four shock/spring design they also offer. Outboard are big 20x10 wheels shod in Firestone Firehawk 295/45-20 skins.
Freedom Auto Body sprayed the BASF Grigio Silverstone paint (a Ferrari color) after they b
Powering the ride is a 1995 Corvette LT1, topped with Billet Specialties valve covers and a paintjob that is color matched to the rest of the car. Handling the cooling is the responsibility of the Mattson copper and brass triple-flow radiator and the SPAL electric fan. To make the Vette motor run right in the roadster, Joe got an engine wiring harness from Hot Rod Harness in La Habra, California, and the entire system dyno-tuned by Steve Sbelgio at Eclipse Engineering in Whittier, California. Backed to the engine is a stock 4L60E transmission, operated via a Lokar shifter.
For the massaged body, Jesse worked with Keith Allison of Allison's Rod & Custom in Shelbyville, Kentucky. The Mirage features a rear wheelwell that has been raised 2 inches, doors that are 2 inches longer, and the cockpit extended a total of 3 inches.
For this project, Joe had Marcel modify a Brookville Roadsters Deuce grille shell by not only chopping it 2 inches, but "thinning" it as well—a design popularized on many of the Deuce-type roadsters designed by Chip Foose. Marcel also fab'd the one-piece hood top and the hood sides out of aluminum.
Looking behind the D.F. Metalworks Deluxe grille, you can see how the rocker arm suspensio
Once the body pieces were fit to the body, they were delivered to Freedom Auto Body in La Habra where they were block sanded before being sprayed with Grigio Silverstone BASF paint, a color found on late-model Ferraris.
Once in color, the roadster went back to Joe, who installed one of their chromed cast aluminum windshield frames with curved glass, a set of Greening headlights, and a pair of taillights from Billet Specialties. In the cockpit, Joe used a wiring harness from EZ Wiring, hooking up a gauge cluster from Custom Rod Gauges along the way. Being a roadster, Joe didn't think about adding air conditioning, but he did add a Vintage Air heater system to keep things toasty while rolling down the highway. A Pioneer-based stereo system, with Punch speakers, was also installed. And even though this contemporary roadster looks monotone at first glance, there is a fair amount of polished aluminum and chrome pieces, the latter being dipped in the tanks at Sherm's Custom Plating in Sacramento, California.
The final work on the roadster was done by Bill's Hot Rod Interiors in Brea, California, who started with a wood base for the bench-type seating, adding foam to create individual buckets within the bench. Leather was used throughout, including the door panels and inside the trunk area.
Joe Kugel and Jesse Greening initially packaged the Mirage as a fiberglass-based car, but now they're also looking at expanding the concept and modifying Brookville Roadsters' steel Deuce bodies in the same way as the 'glass version, thereby offering a choice of either steel or 'glass to their customers.
For those who like the look of a traditional hot rod, deep down inside, they can only just tolerate the ride because you can only do so much to the 80-year-old suspension design to make it road worthy. But if you really enjoy the act of driving, and enjoy a superior ride in a sleek and powerful roadster that is every bit as reliable as any vehicle produced today, then maybe a Mirage roadster could be in the horizon of your not-too-distant future.
Under the aluminum hood fabricated at Marcel’s Custom Metal, a mostly stock LT1 Chevy engi
These top-of-the-line suspension systems are what the company is famous for so, no surpris
Even the mirrors are swept back on this ride. They’re a combination of two pieces—the stem