Street rods are all about individuality. Yes, I know we are living in the era of 1-800 cars, a Deuce in every garage, and black is beautiful, but even these cars still have a great deal of self-expression. While wandering the isles of this year's Grand National Roadster Show we came across a black Deuce highboy roadster--how blas. Or so one might want us to believe upon first glance.

Don Prieto of Torrance, California, is the owner/builder of this month's Track Test hot rod. Yep, it's a black Deuce highboy roadster, which should just about seal its fate in the annals of "been there, done that," but such wasn't to be the case. Don is a longtime rodder who has accumulated an illustrious career as a Bonneville and drag racer, author (his latest effort is titled Hot Rod Chronicle, published by Publications International Ltd), and currently handles many auto manufacturers' press fleet vehicles. In other words, Don is a car guy, has been a car guy, and will always be a car guy. Before getting too deep into the roadster story, let's make sure we cover some of Don's friends who helped piece the project together: Richard Graves, Perry Price, and Jeb Scolman.

Back on track, after looking at his highboy it became apparent that this was more than your basic screw-together hot rod. Immediately you note the full Kugel independent suspension, the racecar-inspired interior, but then the magical moment all of us look for happens as the defining element that makes this car different is discovered. The powertrain is straight from a 2002 Lexus LS430, which includes the V-8 and overdrive tranny (complete with shifter). The 4.3L engine--or 262 cubes, since hot rodders measure in cubes not liters--produces 290 hp at the flywheel and propels, and we do mean propel, this 2,280lb rod down the street and strip very nicely.

Before heading to the track, here's a bit of background on the Deuce: It's based on one of the last Harwood '32 Ford roadster composite bodies to come out of the Tyler, Texas, hot rod shop. This renowned 'glass manufacturer added 4 inches to the door and then Don had Steve's Custom in Torrance, California, make a longer hood to accommodate the extended wheelbase (nearly 114 inches). The grille shell is a filled '32 while the insert is an aftermarket repo. The body- and paintwork was aptly handed by Gerardo Hernandez (who works for Richard Graves) of Long Beach, California, then the car was painted in black--what else? In keeping with the racecar influence you will note there's virtually no chrome plating anywhere on the car--all by design.

Don's past rodding experiences and his current vocation have taught him the luxury and benefits of a well-handling car. He wanted this highboy to be something special in the handling world--both performance and highway driving. He opted to base the chassis on a Kugel Muroc, without the plating as he says, which takes a 1932 Ford wheelbase of just over 106 inches and adds 7 to it. From here the chassis is fitted with the respected Kugel independent front and rear suspension. The car features four-wheel disc brakes (Wilwood front and Corvette rear), coilovers, and a Currie 9-inch rear centersection with limited slip and 3.96:1 gears. The steering is another "mixed" relationship, utilizing a Fiat rack-and-pinion, Toyota Tundra truck trunions, and Honda steering column, which passes over the engine and not below in the conventional method. (This was done to gain the necessary clearance around the Lexus V-8.)

The tire and wheel assortment is straight out of the hot rodders' "bible." A combination of 14x6 and 15x8 Early Wheel Company painted steelies, chrome-trim rings and lil' caps wrapped with Toyo big 'n' littles that measure 185/60/14 in front and 225/60/15 in back.

On the highway the Deuce really performs with the best of them as the full independent suspension yields a new car ride with ideal handling over the bumps and lumps found in all of our traveled roads. In the meantime, engine performance allows for smooth and reliable characteristics such as easy start, traffic idle with no overheating issues, and smooth (while assertive) acceleration in any situation. Oh yes, did we mention that the roadster still brings in 24-plus mpg! Not bad for a car that can accelerate through the 1/4-mile in 12.72 seconds at 110.66 mph with the obligatory passing segment of 50 to 80 mph in 3.22 seconds. Hmmm, seems like Don is getting his performance and economy at the same time. Ah, rodding in the perfect world.

Other performance benchmarks for the highboy include braking from 60-0 mph in 152.34 ft while 30-0 mph is accomplished in 34.27 ft. Did we mention that it can also negotiate the 420ft slalom course in 6.56 seconds at 43.65 mph? Again, all this while still a docile machine that can be driven on the highway or in city traffic with little or no discernable effort.

Yep, it's another black Deuce highboy roadster--or is it?