Just t’other day I was looking through an issue of the Goodguys Gazette and there it was. Right there on the printed page. A picture of my old ’34 tub. You remember, the one I built back in the Sixties as a kind of finger signal to my fellow LA Roadster Club members. The guys who were at the time debating whether an early folding top Ford (or Chevy, or whatever) with more than one seat was eligible to be in the club.
“Hey,” I had exclaimed, “a roadster can have a rumble seat, and you still accept that!” I was incensed, mostly only because it helped to incite a riot.
As a club, we knew precious little about old car production histories. We had railed against convertibles, and someone noted that Ford had made a roadster in 1937, to which we all boo’d and hooted. 1937 and ’38 Fords were considered non-hot rods no matter what. Then someone produced a photograph of a ’37 roadster, leaving us to mumble and bitch about the parenthood of certain people. It was into this clime that I decided to introduce a Model 40 phaeton/tub/touring ad neauseum. Kind of like why I built old Walter P. Chrysler so many years later.
I was between projects at the moment, and the Lakeview Terrace attached two-car held nothing but my Lincoln arc welder and her washer/dryer combo. I checked out the LA Times classified on occasion, and one propitious day in the Sixties, there appeard the words “FOR SALE: 1933 Ford touring car hot rod project. Disassembled. $900.”
I called the number to learn the car had been built back in the Fifties, and maybe the owner would take a little less. Same day I drove over to Santa Monica, to find a primered and upholstered but engine-less thingie perfect for what I had in mind. Delivered to my twice car garage, with dozens of cardboard boxes full of parts.
Really interesting thing was, the complete early Ford running gear was freshly chrome plated. The dropped front beam axle was of unknown origin, but it was a full 5-inch drop. And, the windshield was chopped a full 4 inches. It was lowdown low. So I went to work making it what would scorch some feathers in the club. First off, I definitely did not want a FoMoCo flat motor. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt! What I had in mind was an Olds chugger with an automatic, one of those then-hot 4-speed B&M Hydro’s. Which meant the shiny Ford rearend assembly had to go. Found an open drive and made up a pair of semi-ellep’s from a Chevy pickup frontend. Worked just fine.
Dropped in the Olds and HydroMatic to note only a bit of trimming needed on Frame X-member and I could even run the Olds fan with the original radiator (which was a re-core), although the fan bolts cleared the fins by less than an inch. This turned out to be a great combination, as the engine never overheated, ever. I had gotten C-T automtive (Don Clark and Clelm Tebow) to build the engine out to something like 410 cubes. With dual quads I got around 24 mpg, and enough grunt to pull tree stumps.
From the git-go I knew a top would be needed, and through the grapevine I found a guy over in Pacoima who could make up a set of folding top irons and bows. All cut down to fit the lowered windshield. Made it slightly lower in the front, so that wind on the fabric would push the top down rather than try to billow upward. From there it was over to Tony Nancy who stitched up some canvas. Nancy could drive the straightest sewn line I ever saw, and he could do it in no time. The car had been done in wide pleats sometime past, which I left in place.
Got the car on the road one Saturday morning about 3 am, thanks to help from Neal East, who had volunteered assistance if he could ride to the Roadster Roundup up north of Bakersfield for the weekend. A couple hours sleep and we were off. The rig worked just fine, thank you, and we even gained a couple ladies for the return home Sunday, thanks to that long (and cooler) top.
I can never remember if I had the car painted red or blue first time around. I think Bill Hines did the blue color, Junior may have done the red. I know I had found a full metal spare tire cover down at an LA custom parts supplier (Cal Custom), which helped the overall appearance, in either color. Whatever, I used that car for several years as my daily driver, and other than those crummy early Ford drum bakes up front, it was flawless in LA traffic.
Now, all this was well before the restored thingie, but significant was that this car was reputed to have been used in the Ford display at a World’s Fair (Chicago?) Most unusual, it had come to me with a dual cowl second windshield configuration. This was sort of neat looking, but it was bulky and heavy, and I have no idea what I did with that. I just never used it. I can report that the addition of front windshield wind wings reduced the amount of interior wind considerably.
Family coming first, the tub eventually went to someone on the west side of town for the princely sum of $1800. Turned out the fellow who bought it from me eventually ended up working for me at Street Rodder magazine, but by then he had passed the tub along to Mel Taormino from the NorCal bay area. Mel dispensed with the radical front end drop, and the deep top chop. And that is how the car remained for many years, until Mel had it redone couple of years back. Which is where I saw it at the Goodguys Pleasanton run, which I think is just about the most perfect real rod run going, and after Ron Ceridono and I had arrived following a drive from Bonnevile in the unpainted ’34 Phaeton that was being toured through the States by Roadster, Inc from Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia. Which is where I am writing this column.
Anyway, Mel has made the old tub gorgeous with help from (I seem to recall) Roy Brizio’s digs. Talk about a car with a pedigree!!! While the car always had decent sheet metal and the frame had never been butchered (before I did all the whacking), from Brizio the thing was flawless. In black black black. Right there on the gardens of Plesanton. I was gob smacked!
And the car looked even stronger in the Gazette event coverage. But I can’t help but wonder how it would look with the dual cowl windshield, with some of that masterful massaging from Brizio’s bunch. Anyway, you see Taormino’s iteration of that car, take time to pick it apart. You will be amazed at how an old work horse has become such a silk purse.