THIS impossibly cool ’32 roadster is a great example of how creativity and patience triumphs over cold hard cash every day of the week.
This article was first published in Street Machine's Hot Rod magazine #13, 2014
“It’s a hobby build,” owner Paul Mortimer says, “done at home in a garage on a budget over a number of years. I had a vision of how a hot rod should look and took my time to get there. There was no compromise on the details along the way. All I had to do was balance it with what’s actually legal.”
The hot rod dream started 16 years ago with some Model A rails, a cowl and one door. But Paul had already made his mark with a ’56 210 Chevy Bel Air that won Australia’s Best Chevy at the Chevrolet Nationals in 1995, a car he’d bought as a teenager and put together as an apprentice from a rolling wreck.
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It was an unusual first choice for a young tacker: “My Uncle Gordon was into American cars and bikes. He was always taking me for a ride and it rubbed off. He helped me bring in the ’56 and convert it to right-hand drive.”
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Paul was only 25 when the hot rod bug bit. He scoured Queensland for Model A roadster bits before he changed tack, courtesy of a pair of American Stamping rails for a ’32 he scored at the Banyo swap meet in Brisbane. He bit the bullet, sold the A Model to his brother and decided to build the one he really wanted, a ’32 roadster on ’32 rails. He went looking for a body to suit.
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Enter Brookville Roadster Inc, long-time manufacturers of replica ’28-’32 Ford steel bodies in Ohio, USA. “There are no original ’32 Ford bodies left and what’s around is very expensive,” Paul says. “I cut to the chase and went for the repro body, which was a lot cheaper (around $US10,500 in 2006) and quicker. We were really tight for timing in shipping it home and Brookville were very helpful. They shipped it to the LA Roadster Show for Phil Woodbridge to pick up and send to Australia.
“It’s a beautiful body,” Paul adds, identical to those built in Dearborn more than 80 years ago, right down to the gauge of the steel and the location of the spot welds. The bodies are normally shipped in bare metal, which doesn’t take well to the sea air, so Brookville kindly offered to seal the lot in red oxide. Paul knows cool when he sees it and hasn’t touched it since.
The hood (two inches longer than stock) and grille shield were also sourced from Brookville. For a great contrast effect, the hood is treated with Penetrol, an old-school paint adhesion additive that acts like a clear coat over the bare metal.
The new GM crate motor is dressed impeccably for that period race car look. A trio of Edelbrock 94s sit atop an Offenhauser manifold, the distributor is disguised as a magneto and the reproduction Fenton headers are to die for. “They made them for Chevrolet to run on the Black Widow NASCARS in 1957,” Paul says. Currently making about 300hp, it’s a reliable runner with more to come. “We’ll get a lot more out of it when we get the chance”
What also sets this roadster apart is the rake of the windscreen and smick lift-off roof, both designed by bronze sculptor and ’32 collector Stanley Wanlass and manufactured by Rodware. “Stanley thought the screen was too upright, so he designed it to lay back like that, his inspiration coming from the screen on a vintage Alfa Romeo race car,” Paul says. “He designed the roof to look original but with more attitude.”
The E&J Type 20 torpedo headlights and gorgeous finned brake covers — hiding a disc brake — are from Al Fountain
Rear end styling is another standout, with the frame horns cut, lifted and moved forward to meet the body and the fuel tank relocated to the trunk, behind the seat.
The chassis is strengthened with cross members from a Model A and a centre section fabricated by Curly Hardcastle. The front end is traditional hot rod fare, with a Chassis Engineering I-beam axle located by hairpin radius rods and a single mono-leaf transverse spring damped by So-Cal shocks on So Cal F1 shock mounts.
Brakes are Commodore calipers on Falcon rotors, not that you’d know hidden behind those beautiful finned backing plates from Al Fountain, who was also responsible for the eye-catching reproduction Edmunds & Jones Type 20 torpedo headlights.
The side-steering set-up is yet another great touch on a rod that’s full of them. A reversed HK steering box hides between Paul’s legs under the dash, operating an external drag link to the steering linkage. Not only does it look great and work a treat, it frees up a lot of space in the engine bay. East Coast Race Cars helped set it all up, with Kaluka Engineering responsible for the steering column.
Down the dirty end, a Winters V8 quick-change centre is matched to shortened ’48 bells and 9in axles from Britton Engineering and a Model A buggy spring bounces around on ’36 Ford radius rods with a top bar added to almost turn it into a vintage ladder bar set-up. Brakes are Ford 9in drums.
The budget builder’s favourite, a crate Chevy small-block, is bog-stock internally apart from a Comp Cams camshaft but dressed to perfection in period race car style and drives a Bob Grant Turbo 350 with 2800 stall.
The sprint car steering wheel mounts to an HK Holden box set up for cowl steering. The SW gauges are housed in a Muroc dash panel
Like everything else, the interior is a textbook of understated style, from the Glide Engineering bench seat to the Schroeder tiller and Muroc dash panel from Knecht Equipment filled with Stewart Warner Wings gauges. A subtle touch is the pair of glass Stewart Warner warning lights out of a WWII warbird fitted each side of the key switch, used here to denote ignition. Less subtle is the cloud-busting ’39 swan-neck stick shift mounted on a modified B&M shifter which ties it all together.
Maroon vinyl trim and carpet by Reid McInnes of Muscle Car Interiors is a perfect match for the red oxide exterior, if only by accident. “The roadster might be blue one day,” Paul says of his future plans, “so we trimmed it to suit that.” A set of Halibrand magnesium wheels is also on the wish list.
In the build for seven years, Paul turned up the wick last year. “I’d turned 40 and hadn’t had a car on the road for ages,” he says. “So I set a deadline to get it down to Chopped in 2013; it was finished the week before. We trailered it down to Castlemaine and drove it out to the show.”
How was that?
“Fantastic. It all came together at that point.”
1932 FORD ROADSTER
Colour: Red oxide sealant
Type: 350 Chev
Carbs: Three Edelbrock 94s
Ignition: Vertex electronic
Headers: Fenton repro
Exhaust: East Coast Race Cars
Innards: Stock GM
Box: Turbo 350, 2800 stall
Diff: Winters quick-change
Front: Chassis Engineering I-beam, ’39 Ford stub axles, mono-leaf spring, hairpins
Rear: Model A spring, ’36 Ford radius rods, So Cal shocks
Steering: Reversed HK Holden
Brakes: Commodore calipers (f); nine-inch drums (r)
Wheels: 16in ’48 Ford steelies
Tyres: Firestone 450-16 front, 760-16 rear
My wife Deb for letting me do my thing; the Barons Moto Club for inspiration, talent and assistance; Craig, Gav, Kalvin and Bundy at East Coast Race Cars; Greg Hardcastle; Reid McInnes for the beautiful interior; Lance at Kaluka Engineering; Simon Watts, Clayton Sullivan, Malkapone, Brad, Capt Wayne Crumblin at Avgas Autos and everyone who helped