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351 Cleveland-powered 1934 Ford roadster

By Graham Smith | Photos: Cristian Brunelli, 10 May 2018 Features

351 Cleveland-powered 1934 Ford roadster

Street rod and then some

Meet the amazing machine that dominated the 2003 Street Rod Nationals

This article on Peter's 1934 Ford roadster was originally published in the August 2007 issue of Street Machine

ROUNDING bends isn’t normally the aim of most rodders, but Peter Gruyters wanted his swoopy little red ’33 roadster to handle, brake and steer as well as any car on the road. Now he’d love to get it out on a race track and put it to the ultimate test.

“I’d love to have a go on a track if they’d let me,” he says, “but it doesn’t have a roll bar and I doubt they’d like the seat belts I’ve put in it, so it’s unlikely to happen. I reckon it would be good, though.”

Ford Roadster rearIf it goes as well as it looks, you’d have to agree. Peter’s ’34 Ford suicide-door roadster is a masterpiece and was no accident as he did heaps of planning before turning a spanner for the first time. The initial inspiration came from photos of Bobby Alloway’s superb black ’34 coupe. It was super-low with an aggressive rake, emphasised by its combination of big and little wheels, which is exactly what Peter wanted. There was one proviso, though, and that was the car had to drive well with no compromises.

The project began in 1997 with an original ’34 chassis and a Deuce Customs fibreglass body. The chassis was handed over to Rod City Repros who boxed it and grafted in some tube cross-members for strength. At the same time they sliced off the horns for a smooth front look.

Related: Budget-built 1932 Ford roadster - 32 COOL

Ford Roadster onroadRod City also supplied and set up the stainless front and rear ends. The front end is fully independent with Rod City upper and lower arms running urethane bushes, Shockwaves adjustable shocks and Air Ride bags. Steering is Commodore power rack and pinion. The rear suspension is also fully independent, fabricated by Rod City around a Corvette centre, and uses Shockwaves adjustable shocks and Air Ride bags.

Related: Chrysler big-block-powered 1932 Model B Ford roadster

Ford Roadster rearLots of work has gone into the brakes to get them biting strong. He’s used Wilwood calipers front and rear, the fronts being massive six-spot units clamping 330mm ventilated and grooved DBA discs, while at the rear the brakes are inboard with four-spot calipers working on solids. Rod City pedals push on a Wilwood twin master cylinder without power assistance. The pedal’s hard, Peter says, but they work really well.

Related: 394-cube 1930 Ford Model A roadster

Ford RoadsterPeter was well on the way to getting his great-handling and driving car but he didn’t lose sight of the fact that a street rod needs to have plenty of get up and go, so for mumbo he turned to Ford and bought a ‘going’ 351 4V Cleveland. Nizpro was called in to modify a Weiand tunnel-ram manifold and accept a Motec throttlebody, and air cleaners were built into a hat that cleaned up the top of the engine. Meanwhile, Rod City Custom fabricated the 2-inch headers and 2¼-inch twin system, which is HPC coated.

Dyno sheets quote 400hp, a figure Peter says is not as high as he could have got if he’d really gone all out for power. The manifold set-up isn’t optimum, he admits, but it looks good and 400 horses gives it enough grunt to make it a fun drive.

Ford Roadster undersideTrannie is a manual because he just hates autos. It’s a Tremec five-speed mounted on a Castlemaine Rod Shop clutch housing to get the starter motor on the left side of the motor and get more space on the right for things like the steering column. A Mcleod hydraulic thrust bearing eliminated the need for a clutch slave cylinder and clutch fork, which saved some more space and helped keep the underbody nice and tidy.

Work on the roadster really cranked up in 2002 when Peter decided to debut the car at the 2003 Street Rod Nationals at Geelong, but work and family commitments meant he had to call in Tony Di Benedetto of Fantam Rods to finish the job by taking the completed chassis and dozens of boxes of stuff and transforming them into a complete rod.

Ford Roadster undersideTony smoothed the body from top to bottom, including both sides of the running boards and the guards. He also fabricated a bunch of cool stuff, including the bonnet hinges, the smooth bonnet sides and a rolled rear pan to highlight the fully detailed and mirror-panelled undercarriage.

Up front, the genuine ’33 grille was rechromed and made beautiful by Johnny Walker and stands in front of a Griffin five-core alloy radiator. Headlights are from a ’33 commercial and mounted on filled and smoother posts.

Ford Roadster grilleRoadstar Paintworks applied the brilliant Ford Venom Red Glasurit two-pack and clear final coats, with Mat Egan of Extreme Designs jumping in and working his magic with the blue flames in between.

Rod Lingard did the red vinyl trim with matching red plush-pile carpet. Being a roadster, Peter knew the interior would get wet at some time so there’s a blue folding roof that’s to be fitted yet, and that will fold down behind the Glide bench seat once installed.

Ford Roadster engine bayA Billet Specialties wheel tops a column from the same outfit and matches the wheels, and the interior is completed with VDO Cockpit Royal instruments and the super-clean look is completed by credit-card ignition.

You’d reckon with six years to build a car there wouldn’t be any last-minute panic, but it seems that’s wrong. Peter’s roadster was little more than a rolling chassis just a month before the Street Rod Nationals, and such was his doubt a week out that he made no fewer than four bookings at his local rego branch just so there was a guaranteed spot in the queue whenever he got it finished.

Ford Roadster engine bayDespite the frantic finish the car was completed and registered in time to take its place on the field at the Nats. Peter’s big effort was well rewarded with Best Car and Best Roadster – and the icing on the cake was legendary US rodder Boyd Coddington’s selection of the car as one of his favourites at the show. What a buzz!

Ford Roadster dash

In detail:

Why is Peter’s roadster so cool?

  • Righteous airbagged stance
  • Ultra-detailed undercarriage
  • Ultra-smooth panels on both sides
  • 400hp Motec-injected 351
  • Monster Wilwood competition brakes
  • Mirror-finish stainless panels on underside of floorpan
  • All nuts and bolts are stainless and polished
  • Smooth dash with credit-card ignition
  • Superlative paint with Mat Egan flames
  • Front guards and running boards moulded together

PETER GRUYTERS
1934 FORD ROADSTER

Featured: August 2007

Colour: Glasurit Ford Venom Red with custom blue flames

ENGINE
Engine: 351 Cleveland 4V
Manifold: Weiand tunnel ram modified
Management: Motec throttlebody and ECU
Exhaust: Rod City Repros custom headers and dual system

FRAMED AND SUSPENDED
Chassis: Rod City-reworked original
Suspension: Rod City independent front and rear
Springs: Air Ride airbags
Shocks: Shockwaves adjustable
Brakes: Wilwood six-spot calipers, DBA discs (f), four-spot (r)

DRIVE
Trans: Tremec five-speed manual
Diff: Corvette 3.99 LSD

ROLLIN’ STOCK
Wheels: Billet Specialties, 16x7 (f), 17x9 (r)
Rubber: BF Goodrich, 205/40 (f), 255/50 (r)

INSIDE
Seat: Glide bench
Trim: Red vinyl, red carpet
Roof: Blue folding