A rodder’s reverse restoration

Pinup model Bekki LaBine and daughter Amelia pose with the mysterious 1940s-built 1932 Ford roadster at Symco.


By Angelo Van Bogart

The Symco Shakedown traditional hot rod show in Symco, Wis., gets all varieties of old iron, but all the cars and trucks have one thing in common: they all appear to have been built by the factory and modified by the masses before 1964. Some of those rods and customs were built today to look like yesterday, while a handful of them are true built-in-the-day machines.

One of those honest-to-goodness early hot rods that snapped necks at this year’s show was a subtle black 1932 Ford highboy roadster owned by a Wisconsin man who prefers to fly as under the radar as his Deuce. However, he agreed to give us the goods on his roadster:

“It was built in the Milwaukee area in the 1940s or ’50s,” he said. “It’s an original-bodied, 1930s roadster with typical ’40s features.”

Some of those features the Deuce retains from its early hot rod life include a 1932 Chrysler instrument panel, its 2-inch-chopped roadster windshield frame and the tossing of its fenders to build it into a highboy.

Reversing a trend of rodders finding restored cars to build, or original-condition project cars to modify, this highboy was being restored to original condition when the current owner bought it three years ago.

“A restorer got it after it was abandoned and started restoring it in 1970, but didn’t get very far. He unchanneled it and bought fenders for it, but never installed them.”

Fortunately for the period hot rod faithful, the current owner swooped in to save the piece of early hot rod history and worked to keep it as he thought it had been originally modified. Unfortunately, the previous owner didn’t know much about this hot rod’s history, so the current owner has been piecing it together.

“The headlamps on the car now were on the shelf, so I assumed they had been on the car,” he said. For the remaining aspects of the build, the owner looked to documents showing hot rod Deuces as they were in the 1940s and early 1950s, including Don Montgomery’s hot rod books.

The nature of the hot rod’s first powerplant has been lost to history, so a 1940s Ford flathead V-8 was righteously installed to keep it rolling. There’s also a set of 1935 Ford wheels at the corners, a 1939 gearbox, a ’47 Ford rear axle and ‘41 Lincoln front brakes.

When the owner re-assembled the car, he matched the body paint to the original black paint remaining on the Deuce radiator shell to keep it looking straight out of a black-and-white Montgomery hot rod book.

Now back on the road and looking like ’49 again, this subtle highboy roadster can’t get away with flying under the radar. Nor should it.




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