Les Moran has had many cool cars over the years, but this one's a keeper
This article on Les Moran's five-window coupe was originally published in issue 16 of the Street Machine Hot Rod magazine
SOME hot rodders are a little sentimental at heart, holding on to their cars for a lifetime, maybe rebuilding or updating them once or twice. Then there are the guys that appear to have a revolving door on their garage, never holding on to anything too long, quite often selling their cars before they even get a chance to drive them.
Les Moran has tended to fall into the latter category. He’s had enough cool cars to fill an entire magazine: a T coupe, several ’32 Fords, a ’57 Chevy coupe and a couple of Chevy pick-ups from the mid-50s – and that’s just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.
Most people think a '32 coupe needs to be chopped to turn it into a hot rod. But with a stance like this, nobody's confusing this one for a stocker
As it turns out, I’ve known Les for about 25 years now, meeting him and Vaughan Farmer when I joined a car club called American Streeters back in the late 80s. He’d just finished his first hot rod, a tall T coupe that was featured in Australian Rodder (see below), and for a young and very green car nut, it was one of the wildest things I’d ever seen. Combine that with the tunnel-rammed big-block ’31 roadster that Vaughan was building at the time, and it’s fair to say that those two cars and these two blokes are a big part of the reason I’m the editor of a hot rod magazine.
Even though it’s fully fendered, you can see all of the good stuff that’s under the car: A dropped and drilled axle, chrome tube shocks and ’48 Lincoln brakes with Buick finned drums
But that’s enough about ancient history. This creation – and one that he swears is a keeper – is a genuine ’32 five-window coupe that has never had a hacksaw anywhere near the roof. Yes, we all love chopped hot rods, but it’s nice to see one every now and then left as Henry Ford intended.
The number plates don’t lie; this deuce coupe is as cool as can be and does it while wearing most of its original jewellery. The bumper irons were shortened to tuck the bumpers in a bit
Being an ex-Kiwi – although they’re never really ex-Kiwis – it’s no surprise that Les is good mates with Squeak Bell, and thanks to that relationship, an incredible amount of cool stuff has made its way to Les’s hometown of Perth over the years, including the coupe body. “I bought it close to 20 years ago,” he says. “I was in America and Squeak asked me what I was looking for and I told him a five-window coupe.” Of course, Squeak knew where one was hiding, Les did the deal and yet another piece of cool American iron was making its way across the oceans. “Apparently it was a channelled hot rod from Riverside, so it didn’t have any floors in it,” Les says.
It’s all neat and tidy underneath as well. The Winters quickchange peeks out and is held in place by Pete & Jake’s ladder bars
The chassis, on the other hand, was sourced locally. “I bought an original chassis from Eric Warren [long-time West Aussie hot rodder] about 20 years ago and then kept collecting parts for it over the years,” Les says. “Then the car sat until about four years ago. I was always going to build this car later in life.” With all the parts on the shelf, Les finally got busy with the build. “I always knew how I wanted to build it,” he says. “It was always going to be unchopped and fully fendered and have a flathead in it.”
The 258 flattie isn’t that big on cubes, but the Camden blower helps give it plenty of extra poke
Les dusted off the original chassis and had Phil Pavicich box the rails and add a Model A rear crossmember – a requirement when you need to mount a Halibrand V8 quickchange – and then worked out where the mounts had to go for the flathead and World Class T-5 gearbox. Yep, a blown flathead, manual ’box and quickchange – this thing is most definitely a hot rod!
About as perfect as you can make a ’32 dash. The three main gauges are complemented by a column-mounted tacho and three accessory gauges tucked discreetly under the dash
The 258ci flathead was screwed together by Les with help from Ray Abbott and Max Gamble, and uses a stock stroke of 3¾in, but has been punched out 1/8in to 35/16in. “I think the shorter stroke works better for blown motors, so that’s why it doesn’t have a four-inch crank in it,” Les says. There’s also a set of Navarro heads dressing up the outside, while internally the engine has been treated to Ross Racing pistons, an Isky 400 Jr cam and Isky adjustable lifters. The crank and rods that Ford supplied from the factory keep it all spinning.
The blower is not your usual set-up either. Most often people will fit a S.C.o.T. blower and some Stromberg 97 carbs, but Les found a Camden blower kit to suit a flathead at the LA Roadster Show swap meet. It’s topped with an Edelbrock 500cfm four-barrel, and combined with a set of pipes that exit just in front of the rear tyres and a couple of glasspacks, it doesn’t sound like any flathead you’ve ever heard. Les reckons one of the secrets – it’s not a secret any more – is to use mild steel pipes and not stainless. “I reckon stainless sounds tinny, so I just use mild steel and touch it up with a pressure pack when I need to.”
The interior is a fresh change from the popular white/black/red. The Jetstream Cool Blue vinyl has a pearl finish and is a very classy look
While you’re underneath checking out the flat black exhaust, you’ll also notice the rest of the underside is neat as a pin and full of good old-fashioned transverse springs and tube shocks. Pete & Jake’s hairpins up front and ladder bars out back keep everything located, and the four-inch drop axle gets the front down nice and low over the skinny 165/SR15 Michelins wrapped around the black steelies. The rears have been widened to eight inches and wear 255/70/15 BFG radials for the perfect hot rod rake.
When it came to the interior, while most people would have headed straight for the roll of white or red leatherette, Les wanted something a bit different. The pearl blue trim is called Jetstream Cool Blue – about the coolest name you’ll hear for a roll of vinyl – and it complements and contrasts with the Washington Blue exterior of the car.
Here's how the coupe sat for about 20 years before the build started. Although it was unchopped it had been channelled in a previous life as a hot rod
Like all of the cars Les builds, this hot rod is tasteful, simple, and – in this case – understated. It might not have whitewalls, lots of chrome or a crazy paint job, but this one’s been built to drive – and to keep.
LES'S EARLIER RODS
Here are just a couple of Les’s earlier rods, both of which were instrumental in me catching the hot rodding bug. The tall T coupe was powered by a quad-Weber 289 and was one of the wildest things on the streets of Perth at the time. It’s still around somewhere on the east coast.
I still clearly remember following the flat black roadster on a car cruise. Watching it peel out from an intersection – fenderless, with the perfect hot rod rubber rake — I was caught hook, line and sinker.
1932 FORD five-WINDOW COUPE
Paint: Washington Blue
Type: 258ci flathead Ford
Inlet: Camden blower
Carb: Edelbrock 500cfm four-barrel
Valves: Chev 1.6in
Cam: Isky 400 Jr
Pistons: Ross Racing
Exhaust: Twin exhaust with glasspacks
Box: World Class T-5
Diff: Halibrand V8 quickchange
Front end: Dropped I-beam
Shocks: Tube (f & r)
Steering: HZ Holden box Flaming River column
Brakes: ’48 Lincoln with Buick drums (f) Ford drums (r)
Rims: Steelies 15x5.5 (f), 15x8 (r)
Rubber: Michelin 165/SR15 (f) BF Goodrich 255/70/15 (r)