Photos: Chadly Johnson Words: Bob Bleed
For years I’d heard rumors of an old hot rod in a small town a few miles away from my shop. A '32 Ford coupe! I mean, this is the stuff dreams are made of, right? In my head it’s in a chicken coop or a shed in the backyard. I drove down every road, creeping in people’s yards and open garages, but it never turned up. Years went by, but I never gave up, always thinking it would turn up somehow. The car became a legend to me… a lost treasure.
Then a couple of years ago, a guy stopped in the shop, looking at some of the hot rods outside, and said, “Hey, have you ever seen Cliff Lipovsek’s old hot rod up the street in Dousman?”
He went on to tell stories of the car being a street racer in Milwaukee in the 1960’s, and that no one could beat it. At this point I was thinking, "Ah… can we go look at it right now?"
I got in touch with Cliff and he said it was okay to come and see the car. It was so exciting! Turns out it was in a neighborhood I had driven through countless times in my quest for this treasure. The car was all apart and tucked way back in the garage, but there it was. I couldn’t believe it!
Turns out it wasn’t a 1932 Ford Coupe; it was a 1933 Ford Tudor, channeled, still wearing its old paint from the 1960’s. It was hard to see and had stuff piled on it, but I was sure this was the old hot rod I had heard about. At first, Cliff was a little quiet about the car, but after he saw our excitement he opened up and started telling stories of building and street racing the car with his brother. They originally built it with a 348 but changed to a 409 after they scored a wrecked police car. The '33 was channeled, had custom made headers and a roll cage… nothing fancy, but it was fast!
Back in the early 1960’s, almost every town in America had cruise spots; kids would find a strip, usually near an ice cream stand, and cars would cruise around having harmless fun. It was a golden era for sure. Milwaukee had several cruise spots, but probably the biggest was Wisconsin Avenue, the main hub of downtown Milwaukee. This was home for the little sedan, making countless passes and finding races. Sometimes guys would come from far away to race. The match would get set up on the strip and then they would head out of town to race. Sounds kind of like a movie, right? Man, it would have been fun to be part of all that, even as just a fly on the wall! Like all snapshots of life, this one came to an end when there was trouble with the 409. The engine was pulled with intentions of another motor going in, but it just didn’t happen. So the car pretty much sat apart for decades, preserving its past for us to resurrect.
I made a deal for the car and passed it on to a good friend and customer, Chris Carter. We got it back to the shop with the intention of putting it back on the road as if it was never taken apart. We located a 348, found a neat old chrome tri power intake, went through the brakes and did what we needed to make it run and drive. We made headers that mimic the ones it had and found some old seats similar to the ones Cliff had described, and soon it was time to fire it up again!
Bringing the car to life again was really exciting! It’s still crude in spots, and has things that a builder would never do today, but it has a purity that just can’t be denied. The craziest part is driving it! It’s a bruiser for sure; it just wants to go fast with no apologies! It completely rules. It’s like stepping back in time to those summer nights of street racing.
I can’t help think that maybe this isn’t the car I heard about - maybe there is another old hot rod in a garage up the street. As exciting as it was to find it, I can’t help but feel a little sad that the chase is over. So I guess I’ll keep looking, but I may never find a treasure quite like this one!