IT’S AN iconic scene: a canary-yellow ’32 Ford is parked outside Mel’s Drive-in, as its drag-racing owner, John Milner, smokes a cigarette. Arguably, that 1973 movie, American Graffiti, ignited hot rod culture for new generations of gearheads.
This article was first published in Street Machine's Hot Rod #19 magazine, 2018
“I’ve had quite a few hot rods over the years, but I always wanted a ’32 coupe,” says Dave Monaghan. “I also love the Beach Boys songs 409 and Little Deuce Coupe, so this car combines all those elements together.”
It all sounds simple when Dave explains it like that, but the ’32 coupe you see here has so much more going for it. From an aluminium 509ci W motor to elite-level detailing, killer chop, speedway-style side-steer, and that awesome pastel yellow paint, it oozes class and attitude in equal measure.
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“I was inspired by a coupe Bobby Walden from Walden’s Speed Shop was building,” says Dave. “It was in The Rodder’s Journal seven or eight years ago, and we chopped this car in a similar way.”
Dave was clear about what he wanted: something that wouldn’t date; a colour that wasn’t in your face; and something completely different to what he’d had in the past.
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Andy Scicluna was also responsible for the amazing bootlid. “He made the whole louvred boot panel himself, as he is a trained and experienced coachbuilder,” Dave says. “I made the drilled-out spreader bar at work [D&D Radiators] with one of my employees”
“I also wanted side-steer, which is a modification from the speedway era,” he says, “and that meant I had to have a hi-boy as you can’t run fenders with a side-steer.”
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Dave’s killer coupe kicked off with fresh tin in the form of a brand-new reproduction shell. “I wanted to buy a new Brookville steel body because I didn’t want to deal with rust and getting an 86-year-old shell straight,” he says. “But I was chatting to Colin Whyte from The Eagles Rod Club at the Castlemaine Swap Meet and he had a spare brand-new Brookville body I could buy, so I grabbed it.”
While such intricate, involved builds often strike problems, it turns out time was Dave’s biggest issue. “There were no problems to speak of,” he says. “I just had to be patient with the Americans, as it took two years to get my engine and eight months for the steering box”
This was when Mark ‘YT’ Whyte from Rod City Repros stepped in to set up the frame the body would sit on, starting with a pair of original rails. “Mark did an amazing job,” says Dave. “Not a lot of people see it, but he moved the front crossmember forward four inches so the engine fitted without having to modify the firewall. I didn’t want the firewall moved back.”
Hanging out front is a Chevy W big-block from Lamar Walden Automotive (LWA) in the USA. Based in Doraville, Georgia, LWA has been the go-to for hot 348-409s since Jesus was in shorts, and now offers the Gen 1 Chevy big-blocks as a 509ci crate motor.
“It’s a brand new alloy motor based off a World Products block,” says Dave. “It had to be a W motor because I love that Beach Boys song.”
Packing a 4.5-inch bore, the new LWA block means the valves operate towards the centre of the cylinder, improving breathing and the engine’s ability to rev. This guarantees the Eagle crank and rods (and LWA’s own pistons) will cop a workout as they spin in time with the Comp Cams bumpstick, which pushes a set of Isky solid-roller lifters and Comp pushrods around.
Dave sent the Offenhauser intake and Rochester two-barrel carbs over to LWA in America, getting the manifold port-matched to the aluminium cylinder heads. YT made the custom exhaust manifolds once the 509ci donk was mounted in the frame
The heads are basic Edelbrock aluminium castings heavily modified by LWA, including being stuffed with 2.25-inch intake valves and 1.75-inch stainless exhaust valves, while the grunty combo is topped off by an Offenhauser six-jug intake wearing Rochester two-barrel carburettors.
It adds up to 584hp and 500lb-ft, so it’s a good thing Dave got the TH350 auto rebuilt by Paul Rogers before he chucked it under the floor.
“These engines will pull stumps, so it’ll light the tyres up pretty easily,” says Dave. “The biggest issue with the motor is the old-school intake and carburettors, as LMA said this motor should’ve gone up to 700hp with one of their intakes and carburettors!”
“YT put a lot of time into the engineering of the suspension and steering,” says Dave. “There’s a lot of mucking around setting up side-steering. I spoke to Rolling Bones about setting up the Schroeder box, as they’ve done heaps. We have another hole in the Pitman arm so we might have a play with that once we’ve put some miles on the car”
Funnily enough, it was Dave’s choice to run an Edelbrock mechanical fuel pump, which led to another one of his car’s ice-cool period touches: “I didn’t want to run an electric fuel pump so I had to run a Schroeder 16:1 side-steer set-up,” he says.
This moves the steering box under the dash, with a Pitman arm mounted vertically beside the cowl. That works on a horizontal tie-rod, which pushes a steering arm on the front wheel, creating space in the narrow ’32 engine bay as there is no longer a frame-mounted steering box or column impinging on exhaust space.
“I got the stock body on the frame and sent it to Andy Scicluna who chopped the car, laid the B-pillars back and did a mirror-image right-hand-drive conversion on the three-window dash,” says Dave.
“The amount of work in that dash is insane – people can’t appreciate how much work Andy put into making it. He also started steeling the whole thing out.”
The car went home and sat in the shed in bare metal while Dave took a break from the project. It wasn’t until he ran into fellow Marsh Rodder member Daniel Cassar that he was inspired to continue. Daniel convinced him to drop the car at his work to finish it off, so the coupe headed to Fast Lane Speed Shop.
“Daniel did an amazing job,” says Dave. “He did things like TIG-welding the tops of the doors and then linishing them back to make them perfect. He made the cycle guards, and heaps of the bracketry on the car.”
Daniel also painted the car, under and above, in the custom pastel yellow that Dave had fretted over.
Pat at Sunshine Motor Trimming handled the interior trim, with leather-wrapped modified Glide Engineering seats, a ’40 Ford tiller and ’55 Chev Daytona carpet. The column-mounted tacho screams 60s hot rod, while the Lokar shifter and Irving Air Chute seatbelts are a subtle modern touch
“I didn’t want the paint to make a statement, I wanted the car to make the statement – the stance, the body mods, the 60s-style colour,” says Dave, quickly adding, “it’s a bastard of a colour to photograph! Lights mess with it.”
“The gauges are in the glovebox because I didn’t want dials everywhere in the interior,” says Dave. “Andy still talks about how much work it was doing the right-hand-drive conversion, but also making the glovebox work”
Thankfully, gun SM snapper Chris Thorogood was able to nail it in our shoot, so we can appreciate it on these pages.
Dave has some minor shake-down issues to address, but is keen to hit the road soon in the coupe. “I didn’t build it to be a show car; I wanted a driver I could take on runs and enjoy,” he says. We can’t wait to see it rolling down the highways.
1932 FORD THREE-WINDOW COUPE
Paint: Custom Glasurit COB
Brand: Chevy W motor
Induction: Six 2bbl Rochester carburettors
Pistons: Lamar Walden Automotive
Heads: Lamar Walden Automotive
Camshaft: Comp Cams
Lifter: Iskenderian solid-roller
Oil pump: Melling
Fuel system: Edelbrock mechanical pump
Cooling: D&D four-row, Spal fan
Ignition: MSD Pro-Billet dizzy
Gearbox: Turbo 350
Diff: Winters quick-change
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: So-Cal dropped I-beam, Rod-Tech shocks, Schroeder side steering
Rear: So-Cal transverse spring & shocks
Brakes: So-Cal discs and Wilwood calipers (f), So-Cal drums (r)
Master cylinder: XA Falcon
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: So-Cal Salt Flat; 16x5 (f), 16x8 (r)
Rubber: Firestone; 5.00-16 (f), 7.50-16 (r)
D&D Radiators staff; Dean Finch; In Motion Metal Polishing; Pro Repair Group; Werribee Brake & Clutch; Ryan Ford