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Customs Rides

1932 Ford Hot Rod - Roaster!Another Long-Gone HOT ROD Project Car Makes a Smoky Comeback.From the November, 2011 issue of Hot RodBy David FreiburgerPhotography by David Freiburger

Rubber splattered off the tires like guts from a shotgunned gopher. With the TKO five-speed in Second and the 454 at 5,000, the Mickey Thompsons were making the ultimate sacrifice. This was the moment we'd been waiting for but one we didn't really deserve.

The HOT ROD Roaster '32 Ford project kicked off way back in 2004, getting ink in the February through May issues that year, including an April paint-and-body cover.

The claim back then: "We're gonna roast tires and get skin cancer. We're gonna be simple, be fast, drive it everywhere, laughing like fools, and we're going to look good doing it."

Man, that seemed like a plan! At this distance, it took a moment to recall our excuse for why it never happened, but here it is: We were working on the massive makeover of HOT ROD that launched with the July '04 issue, and 20-hour days with that project saw the Roaster pushed to the back burner. Soon the flame went out entirely.

Later, we did something very uncharacteristic: We sold it. It stayed in the family, though, as it went to Keith and Tonya Turk, our land speed racing partners.

The deal went down in Australia--on the wrong side of the road, which was America's right side of the road--when we went there in a failed attempt to race at Lake Gairdner in 2006.

The roadster's body came from Oz. Coincidentally, the Turks' brother-in-law is Sal Solarzano of TCI Engineering, which made the entire chassis for the '32. It all clicked in a warm and fuzzy way, and adoption papers were signed.

The Roaster is Tonya's car. Keith is the crew chief. When he took possession, we had the fiberglass Deuce Customs body and Brookville grille shell mounted on the TCI chassis, the 454 and the five-speed were in place, it rolled on American Torq-Thrusts, and everything was smooth in House of Kolors Tangelo Pearl.

Keith's first step was to accidentally stab a pocket knife directly into a quarter-panel. First gack, solved.

Next came wiring the whole deal from scratch. We'd ordered a stock-appearing firewall set back an inch, but the big-block was still a tight fit, so Keith slid the body aft by nearly an inch. He had the joyous job of making the clutch pedal work and plumbing the hydraulics to the throwout bearing.

Starter fitment proved a hassle, and the alternator mount we'd made ended up hitting the frame and had to be replaced. He finally gave up hopes of a mechanical fan and hit the U.S. Radiators unit with an electric sucker.

When the Vertex magneto- look-alike distributor fragged, a spare MSD unit from the Bonneville program was stabbed into the block, and we got a "listen to this" call late one night when the car finally cackled to life and became a living being. Finally, Bruce's Rods and Customs in Rehobeth, Alabama created an interior.

That was a nice and tidy paragraph to overview six months' worth of fiddling. The best part about it was that Keith was doing it instead of us, and the better news is that Tonya was able to use the car around town, sometimes showing up in it as the realtor at open houses.

The Roaster has been done for a couple of years now, but we first got to see it when the Turks drove it to the Mobile, Alabama, stop of the '11 HOT ROD Power Tour«--then handed over the keys.

We motored it cautiously at first, putting around the show grounds. With 3.50 gears in the Currie 9-inch rear, it chugs annoyingly at sub-1,000-rpm crawling, but that wasn't a problem when driving normally. Or irresponsibly.

After mere moments on the street, we set the twin Edelbrock 500s at full gulp. It's been long enough that we can't find the dyno sheet, but we recall around 480 hp and 500 lb-ft with 10.0:1 compression, Edelbrock roval-port heads, and a Comp XR276HR hydraulic roller cam. In a fiberglass highboy, that's somewhat jaunty.

We can't call it terrifyingly fast, but it definitely marches when you're on it, and generating tire smoke is never a chore. The little camshaft makes it super tame to drive anywhere, but it sounds good through the Flowmasters and has just enough scream at WOT. Unbelievably, it got almost 20 mpg during a 150-mile highway drive.

As for handling, the straight-axle front suspension and four-link/coilovers out back proved better than we'd anticipated. The body torques over pretty hard when you're really on the throttle, but in normal driving there's no objectionable bumpsteer.

The ride is also pretty nice and not skittish over bumps, though the steering effort is heavy at low speeds, thanks to that porky Rat. The combination of the fully boxed frame and the steel-reinforced body made the car feel as solid as a roadster can, with no rattles or cowl shake.

The bummer is the driving position. We'd desperately wanted a '59 Impala steering wheel, but it's just too large for the position of the Glide seat, and our knees were into the back of the wheel. Worse, the shift knob fell under our right leg. A small wheel and wonkier shift handle solve most of that, but the seat needs to be repositioned lower and back, or altogether reconstructed.

Aesthetically, it's a straightforward rod. On the upside, the color is amazing, and the Lobeck (RIP) chopped windshield is exactly right. Downside: The 28-inch-tall rear tires on 15x8.5s seem too small.

Shorter coilovers are needed in the rear so it can be lowered about 3 inches and then brought back up with taller, wider meats. Years ago, we abandoned a four-piece, 25-louver Rootlieb steel hood during the paint process, but the roadster would likely look better with it installed.

A picking of nits--all meaningless when tire rubber is pelting the dashboard and melting into the back of your neck as you send smoke signals with your finally- running-and-driving '32 highboy. Or Tonya's.Retrieved from online on 10/11/2011. Return from Custom Rides to Custom Trucks

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