Just the Facts

Year: 1932
Make: Ford
Model: Five-Window
Owners: Bill & Maureen Cromling
State: Ohio

Growing up in a village of only 1,700 or so people in the mid '60s, Bill Cromling and Maureen Ross were bound to know each other when they were both seniors at Midview High School in Grafton, Ohio.

As it turned out, not only did they know each other, they dated, graduated in 1966, and then married in 1967. From the beginning, Maureen was always supportive of Bill's hot rod hobby, and the two would team up on cars Bill would find, bring home, and work on. One such car was a '32 Ford coupe Bill had located not too far from his home.

A local speed shop built the motor, Maureen installed the LeBaron Bonney upholstery kit, and soon the black coupe sported some flames. The couple attended the NSRA Nationals in 1972 in Detroit with the car, and by the mid '70s Bill had taken the car to Garey Roberts of Toledo, who chopped the top 2-1/2 inches.

By the late '70s the Cromlings, whose family expanded to include two sons (Bill and Jon), had bought a '40 Ford coupe and they sold the '32. Over the decades Bill had lost track of it, but both he and Maureen always shared fond memories of the car. It was with that thought that Jon recently decided he'd try to track it down and see if it was for sale, though not tell his father about the search.

It took a bit of doing, but he found the five-window in New Hampshire and, though the owner didn't want to sell it at first, a few months went by and he eventually relented and sold the car back to the Cromling family. Under the ruse of a "family gathering,” Maureen had everyone all together on the back porch of the house when the car was driven up the driveway, much to Bill's surprise. Initially he thought the car's owner had decided to stop by to show him his old car, but he soon found out he was the new owner of his old car!

Bill had a new vision for his old ride and took the car to Lobeck's Hot Rod Shop in Cleveland. Unfortunately it wasn't too long before Barry Lobeck died, and much of his talented rod building staff was regrouped by Lobeck's Danny Tesar and his friend, Larry Brunkala (builder/owner of the 2007 Goodguys Hot Rod of the Year), who formed Precision Hot Rods & Fabrication in Macedonia, Ohio.

Right out of the gate Precision started producing some exceptional rides, and they dove into Bill's ride as well. Known for his chassis and fabrication skills, Tesar fab'd a new chassis for the '32, C'ing the 'rails both front and rear and adding a flat front crossmember. A John's 9-inch rear (3.50:1) with 31-spline axles went in, supported by Pete & Jake's ladder bars, SO-CAL Speed Shop shocks, and a leather-wrapped Posies Super Slide spring.

The old-school look continued with the front suspension, which uses a SO-CAL 4-inch-drop I-beam axle with Super Bell spindles, another leather-wrapped Posies spring, a Pete & Jake's Panhard bar, and Buick-style finned aluminum drums from O'Brien Truckers covering Wilwood disc brakes. Steering is achieved with a Unisteer box controlled by a Steer-Clear unit (which drops the location of the steering shaft) and a Tri-C Engineering tilt column. To make it a roller, 16-inch SO-CAL Hot Rod Wheels (6s and 8s) are shod in Diamondback skins (195/80R16 and 275/70R16).

Back in 1972, when Bill bought his '40 Ford, it came with a '56 Olds 324, which he eventually sold. Thinking this would be a great engine for his '32, he contacted the engine's buyer and, much to Bill's amazement, he still hadn't installed it in anything, so he bought it back.

Bill took the 324 to Tony Lombardi of Ross Racing Engines in Niles, Ohio, so they could go through the motor. Bumping the displacement to 339 cubes and smoothing out the block's exterior, Lombardi added an early Olds nitrated crankshaft, H-beam rods, aluminum forged pistons (set up at 10.25:1), and a Ross Racing Engines hydraulic camshaft.

Aluminum heads (painted to look like vintage steel heads) were equipped with 1.8:1 ratio rockers and topped with an old aluminum intake manifold that Bill had in his garage for 30 years. A triple set of Rochester carbs were bolted on, and the engine finished off with Edmunds-style air cleaners from O'Brien Truckers. To the vintage powerplant a T5 transmission, reworked by Modern Driveline in Caldwell, Idaho, was bolted up along with an aluminum driveshaft from Denny's Drive Shafts.

While the chassis and drivetrain were getting lined up, the body was also getting some work done at Precision. The mid-'70s chop was retained, but now the roof was filled (after which a stock-appearing vinyl roof would be attached) and roadster quarter-panels were welded on. To give 6-foot, 2-inch Bill a bit more room inside the coupe, the rear package tray was removed and the rear window was converted from hand operation to electric.

Though the car's cowl vent had been filled in from a previous build, Precision's crew, which included Jack Taunt and Chris Campbell, reinstalled the vent, and they also removed and replaced the car's rain gutters. A 25-louver hood was then added before Precision's Henry Roethel and Mark Mindzora did the required body prep prior to Mark spraying the car with PPG paints using a '40 Packard Blue as a starting point.

If the village of Grafton sounds familiar, it might be because Jon Wright's CustomChrome Plating business is also located there. Bill and Wright have been hot rod buddies since their early days, and Wright did all of the chrome work on Bill's coupe. Precision sent the car's dash to Juliano's, who offers a water transfer process that results in a dash that appears to have been woodgrained. Once back, Precision added Classic Instruments gauges to the engine turned dash insert with two more mounted above the rearview mirror and a tach mounted to the column. Engine turning also shows up on the four-spoke Lobeck steering wheel, as well as the surround for the shifter, which is topped with an acrylic knob that features a pair of intertwined '66 high school graduation rings Tesar had reproduced for the couple.

Maureen had the idea a green interior would complement the blue exterior (because they generally work well in nature), so when they took the car to Dean Alexander of the Hot Rod Garage in Denton, Maryland, Dean was able to locate just the right shade of green leather with just the right amount of subtle sheen to it. He used the material on the pleated bench seat he fabricated and used a green-hue square-weave carpet to great success.

Way back in 1972 the Cromlings went to their first hot rod show in Detroit and, once the coupe was rebuilt, they decided to debut the car at the prestigious Detroit Autorama in 2013. They had a great time making a full circle with their ride and, like his high school sweetheart, Bill doesn't foresee a time when he'll ever let go of his '32 Ford again.