Different Deuce: It's a '32 Coupe, Jim, But Not As We Know It.
By Kev Elliot, Photography by Bo Bertilsson
On paper Dave Houston's '32 could be mistaken for a formulaic traditional hot rod-'32 frame and body, Chevy engine, split 'bones, buggy springs, I-beam, and wires, but even the most cursory glance at the picture hereabouts will tell you it's anything but! That ain't no small-block and that ain't no Ford three-window body, thought they are bolted to a much modified '32 Ford frame.
Dave started this project in January 2006 with the engine, a '54 Chevy inline-six, and planned the car around it; drawing up plans for the chassis, which was built to his specs by Deuce Steel [Hot Rods & Custom Stuff] in [Escondido]. The '32 ford frame is stretched 9 inches to accommodate the longer-than-usual engine and is swept up in the front and rear, as opposed to being Z'd. This accounts for the low ride height without channeling the body, something that's accentuated by the stretched wheelbase. Tucked way up in the rear is a 9-inch Ford axle, which, with its 3.70:1 gears coupled with the tall tires, means Dave is cruising at 70mph Fourth gear, and the car is equipped with a Tremec five-speed! "It's geared a little higher than I'd like," he told us, adding, "Those are tall tires!"
Y'know, what with the popularity of eBay and the Internet these days, we sometimes wonder how cars ever got built before everyone had computers. See, Dave's based in northern California but found the body down in L.A. thanks to the Internet. However, it's a '31 and Dave prefers the grille and cowl of a '32 Chevy. The bodies are very similar, but he favors the '32 cowl for its cowl vent, so a little more World Wide Web research unearthed a collector back East who provided the necessary '32 parts in exchange for some fenders and panels that were surplus to Dave's requirements; the guy even delivered them while on a trip out West. Dave is quick to credit fellow Sidewinders CC members Steve, Mic, John, and Skot for helping him with the build, and in particular Danny Angel, who was responsible for much of the fabrication work and the 6.5-inch roof chop. All the wood framing in the body was replaced with steel tubing, and once the cowl sections were swapped over and the body prep complete, Skot Randall sprayed the PPG Black.
It can't be denied that the pièce de résistance is the powerplant, or more specifically the induction setup. Dave sourced the reproduction Howard five-carb inlet in Arizona, once again thanks to the Net, the quintet of Stromberg 97s all feeding the engine, which is bored from 302 to 310 ci. We're willing to bet he paid more than the $48.95 that intake cost new from Howard's Automotive in the '50s! The exhaust header was fabricated by Dave and a friend, and then chromed, and, yes, each pipe has a short baffle in it.
Nine months after starting the project, Dave had a driver, although the interior could best be described as minimal, and there was no roof insert. The latter has now been completed, with rubberized black simulated leather. The interior panels are next on the to-do list. Hey, a little missing upholstery doesn't mean it can't be driven, and Dave's perfectly comfortable racking up the miles with the sound of an inline-six for company. R&C.
Dave Houston, Livermore, California, '32 Chevy Coupe
Deuce Steel started with a '32 Ford chassis, stretched it to a 115-inch wheelbase and a swept up the front and rear sections to create a low ride height yet retain the classic lines of the Ford chassis 'rails. With chromed split bones locating the front end, a Pete & Jake's buggy spring suspends the dropped I-beam from the frame, with Delco Lovejoy hydraulic dampers keeping movement under control. Wilson Welding binders do a fine job of looking neat while scrubbing off the high speeds of which this coupe is capable.
Al Hubard bored the '54 Chevy six-cylinder from 302 to 310 ci, while the head was ported, polished, and treated to a three-angle valve job. The rods and crank remain stock, though JE 11:1 pistons now live in the rejuvenated block, kept company by a Sissell Automotive custom cam, one-off pushrods, and N.O.S. lifters. The Stromberg 97 carbs on that Howard intake are topped with air cleaners from O'Brien Truckers, and certainly make a statement, especially as they rise above cowl level. A Mallory distributor and custom wires light the fire. There's an aluminum flywheel, coupled with a Centerforce clutch, inside the '64 Vette bellhousing, which allows the inline motor to bolt to the Tremec five-speed. A 9-inch Ford rearend proved to be the right width to enable the tires to clear the low body. Dave runs his own company, Advanced Auto, so he tackled the wiring himself, using a 60-amp Powermaster alternator.
WHEELS & TIRES
Vintique Tru-Spoke wire wheels combine the early look with the peace of mind of new rims; the 16x4.5-inch front are wrapped in 5.25x16 bias-plies, and matching 8.25x16 wide whites are mounted on the 16x8-inch rears. Stainless rings and caps round out the timeless combo.
BODY & PAINT
You'd never know it now, but the body is an amalgamation of a '31 coupe and a '32 cowl section. All the wood was removed and replaced with steel, which significantly improved the structural rigidity, with a large amount of work going into the internal structure of the doors to mount the handles, window mechanisms, and hinges. The '32 Chevy grille now houses a Walker radiator, flanked by a pair of original '32 Chevy headlights. Repro '37 Ford lights bring up the rear.
The black paint is offset by a white vinyl bench seat and white accented stock dash, which holds a couple of vintage gauges, though the remainder of the interior is next on Dave's list. The LimeWorks steering column is topped and tailed by a '52 Chevy wheel and a Vega box. Air conditioning comes courtesy of the cowl vent that Dave went to all that trouble to fit, while in-car entertainment consists of listening to the bark of the six-banger and keeping the bias-plies between the white lines! R&C