Retro-rods are back. I'm not talking about the primered “rat rods” that you see lying around on eBay, or other intentionally rusted projects, but rather cars that were built in the early days of hot rodding and restored today to their original modified condition, rather than stock. Names like George Barris come up all the time, and the fact that some of these cars are showing up at places like Pebble Beach suggests that the tide has turned in the collector car hobby. Today, some of these cherished relics command prices normally reserved for pedigreed Full Classics.
But if you're an ordinary fellow with ordinary means, your chances of owning one of these pieces of hot-rodding history are about as good as making a personal visit to Mars. Instead, your best bet is to build one for yourself, as one enterprising gentleman from the other side of the Atlantic did with this killer retro-styled '32 Ford 3-window coupe.
Clearly inspired by the Clarence "Chili" Catallo / Alexander Bros / George Barris '32 Ford coupe that graced the cover of the Beach Boys' “Little Deuce Coupe” album, this 3-window has a ton of retro appeal combined with today's latest technology to build a show-winner that has graced the pages of several magazines and will draw crowds at any show you attend.
The body is fiberglass, and like all great rods, has evolved over its existence. Originally simply a purple 3-window coupe, the recent scallops and fade job elevate it to an entirely new level. The style definitely dates the car to the late '50s or early '60s period, where customs and hot rods were overlapping in a big way. With a ton of candy and pearl in the paint, it borders on artwork that you can drive and evokes a very authentic vibe from onlookers who were there. The bodywork has been done to period standards, which were good, but not with the scientifically-calibrated body gaps that we enjoy today. In some light, the paint has an almost satin-finish to it, but other times, it's highly glossy with the trick scallops and custom spiderweb graphic on the rear deck buried under a layer of clear for a seamless look and feel that is very contemporary. This is a very convincing tribute to some of the past greats.
Trick details abound, too. Dig the V-shaped front spreader bar that's been chromed, and the stainless steel tank at the front of the car which is designed to evoke the Moon tanks used on early dragsters (mounted up front so acceleration would help force the fuel into the carburetors). The '32 grille shell has been chopped down and filled with a matching insert that keeps this car's profile nice and low. I love the polished '34 Ford commercial headlights and the original-style door handles. King Bee “peep” mirrors on both sides give you surprisingly good rearward vision, and out back, the simple taillights and exhaust pipes poking through the lower valence are a timeless look.
One thing that never goes out of style is a small-block Chevy. They were the engine of choice 50 years ago, and they're still in fashion today. The one in this 3-window is a modern ZZ4 crate motor, which makes 335 horsepower thanks to a reproduction Tri-Power setup that features three 2-barrel carbs. Tons of chrome make it sparkle, including those cast aluminum Corvette-style valve covers and alternator. You'll notice that the block and heads are painted to match the body, and the headers are ceramic coated for long life and a great shine. A new radiator with electric fan keeps it cool in a way that they couldn't imagine in the early days of rodding (where an overheating rod was not only common, it was expected). The recessed firewall that's been painted white is an outstanding period touch. And don't worry, the combination has been tested and perfected over the past 50 years, and it runs beautifully. The carbs aren't finicky, the exhaust is modest, unless you uncap the headers, and it drives more like a real car than most vintage jalopies ever managed.
A lot of the credit for its great road manners also has to go to the expertly built chassis. Yeah, it's got rigid axles and leaf springs, but like the engine, the combination has been perfected over the past few decades and these cars track straight and ride better than you'd expect. The frame rails are painted to match the body, but just about everything else has been polished or chrome-plated. The dropped front axle has been cross-drilled to lighten it, a familiar hot-rodding trick, and chrome wishbones keep it out in front. The transmission is a modern 700R4 4-speed automatic, which makes this car a great long-distance cruiser. Out back, it's a TCI quick-change differential with painted tubes hanging on a set of coil-over shocks. A brilliantly polished stainless exhaust system features glass pack mufflers for an authentic sound, and you'll note that the bottom of the body has been painted white to really show off the details. Rolling stock consists of outstanding reproduction Torque Thrusts with spinners on period-perfect Firestone bias-ply wide whites.
The vintage look continues inside, with ultra-traditional tuck-and-roll white leather on the bench seat and door panels. Extremely well done, the fit and finish of the interior matches the standards set by the rest of the car. Dig the painted dashboard with the machine-turned gauge panel, which houses a complete set of Stewart Warner gauges. A matching panel has been fabricated for the ignition and light switches, and hangs right underneath. And yes, that IS a hand grenade acting as a shift knob. Other retro touches include the spoon-style accelerator and round brake pedal, reproduction knobs and handles for the door latch and windows, and even a pin-up girl airbrushed onto the window frame. The steering wheel looks like a track reproduction, and is wrapped in matching white leather. In back, you'll find that the trunk has been upholstered to match with more pleated white leather and a custom-made Moon fuel cell that matches the tank up front.
This car has been well-documented, too, appearing in the 2008 Goodguys Rod d'Elegance Goodtimes Gazette, on the cover of the August 2008 Goodguys Goodtimes Gazette, in a September 2008 issue of “Rods of the World,” and on the cover of the 1999 American Rodder Buyer's Guide (which is interesting, since the car was built in England). And if you speak German, it also appeared in the European magazine “Wheels” in January 2000.
So if you're into the retro rods, but aren't interested in some homemade looking primer-mobile, take a good, long look at this '32 3-window coupe. With a lot of traditional features combined with invisible 21st century components, it's a great driving show car that will draw a crowd anywhere you go. And we're not alone in our appreciation for this one—all the magazine articles and other accolades this car has won are proof enough that vintage hot rods are red hot right now. Offered at a fraction of the construction cost, it will be hard to have more fun in a car than you will with this '32. Call now!
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