Media Coverage on Specialty Cars

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My 1932 Ford Hot Rod, the “L. A. Sedan” began as a dream when I was approximately 12 or 13-years old. Until that time, I had built plastic models of airplanes, ships, and other things, but someone gave me a model car kit (it was a Lincoln by AMT) and from that point on, I was building only car models.

I soon realized that you could mix ‘n match parts from other car kits and create something new and unique. Shortly thereafter, I discovered Hot Rod Magazine, along with Rod & Custom and Car Craft, and my world was rocked and changed forever. I got the car bug long before I could drive.

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The L. A. Sedan is the realization of my long-held desire to build a true ‘60’s era period-correct Hot Rod, like I had built as model during my pre-driver’s license days. I have carried the vision of a period-correct early 60’s era street/strip/show car in my mind from the first time I ever attended a Rod and Custom Car Show at the former Great Western Exhibit Center, and the Trident’s Show at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. The L. a. Sedan is the car I have built in my dreams over and over again from the time that those model car kits and the Petersen magazines first ignited my passion for nearly all things automotive.

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Approximately two years ago, I opened the newest issue of The Rodder’s Journal and found a series of Hot Rod sketches by Steve Stanford, the well-respect Hot Rod artist. One of them depicted a ’32 Ford Hi Boy Sedan, which encapsulated the Hot Rod that I had always dreamed of building. I also knew that the sketch was consistent with Tom Otis’s artistic and historical perspectives as a Hot Rod builder. I showed him the sketch and he loved it.

Approximately two years ago, I opened the newest issue of The Rodder’s Journal and found a series of Hot Rod sketches by Steve Stanford, the well-respect Hot Rod artist. One of them depicted a ’32 Ford Hi Boy Sedan, which encapsulated the Hot Rod that I had always dreamed of building. I also knew that the sketch was consistent with Tom Otis’s artistic and historical perspectives as a Hot Rod builder. I showed him the sketch and he loved it.

During the several years during which Tom and I had become friends I also became friends with Rick Cresse of Tri-Engineering in Valencia, which had done all the fabrication and some of the design and conceptualization work on the L. a. Hi Boy Roadster. I also had available to me the skills of my longtime friend Michael Grella, who is also crew chief for my vintage racing endeavors and a wiring wizard, and Phil Cocuzza, my partner in our racing team, who owns California Muscle Cars in Van Nuys, where my cars are stored, tuned, and maintained. Thus I had a circle of friends who had enormous capabilities and resources, so I decided to build my dream Hot Rod, with Tom Otis providing the project management, quality control and his incredible flame and pin striping art on the car. It was a two-year labor of love among a group of friends. We successfully met our goal of debuting the car at the Grand National roadster show this January, where it won first place in the Altered Street Sedan Class—its very first show!

We were lucky enough to locate an original steel, full-fendered ’32 Ford Hot Rod, apparently built in the 1980’s, to start the project. It had the most atrocious pink paint job, with turquoise accents and wheels and a white interior; in fact the car looked like it came directly our of the old “Miami Vice” television show. But it had a 392’ Hemi that I wanted to use for the look of the motor, and a four-speed, and it was represented to be in sound shape. The car was on the east coast, but Art Regan, one of Tom’s good friends who has an auto-body shop in Danbury, Connecticut, was located close to the seller and he volunteered to inspect the car and let me know whether it was as represented. In the meantime I negotiated my deal, subject to Art Regan’s inspection and approval. When I heard that the car was as represented I completed the purchase and the car went directly to Art’s body shop, where it received a 3-inch top chop. What is unique about his chop job is that the entire back window as removed. It was proportionately chopped and then reinstalled as a unit, so that all the spacing would be proportional to how it was originally, and we did not end up with a “mail slot” for a rear window.

The car was shipped to my buddy Phil Cocuzza’s California Muscle Cars in Van Nuys, where it arrived with that awful pin and turquoise color combination, but now had a top in flat black primer, looking from a distance like it had vinyl roof! It was completely disassembled, and the original frame, front and rear suspension, fenders, running boards and gas tank were sold to another friend in exchange for money and the original radiator from the Boyce Asquith (Top 75 Deuces) roadster. What was left of the car (the body itself, the radiator shell, the Hemi motor and the four-speed) was then shipped off to Tri C Engineering in Valencia to begin the build. New frame rails were acquired and bobbed, Model A cross-members were installed and the car took shape on a surface table that had once been owned by the late, great, Doane Spencer, adding to the car’s historic DNA.

>We installed a 5-inch dropped and drilled front axle and modified Pete and Jake’s radius rods, with fish plates added in the middle to emulate the look of the Steve Stanford sketch. We popped on Buick finned drums all around, using a so Cal brake kit in front, and installed a Speedway Engineering quick-change rear instead of a Halibrand for safety and durability. The car uses a TCI monoleaf spring in the front and a Posies stack in the rear. It rolls on period-correct Radir wheels and Firestone bias-ply tires (“cheater slicks” in the rear).

The steering gear is an original Schroeder Sprint Car box with a new production prototype steering reducer to both reduce the steering effort and slow down the steering. It runs a Tri-C 1-_” diameter steering column containing a prototype self-canceling turn-signal unit. The steering wheel is a Moon 15-inch dished-and-drilled wheel, which is period-correct, and the throttle pedal is a Moon polished-aluminum piece, also period correct.

Because the car was built as an early street/strip (A/Gas) car, there is no rear seat, that area being occupied by a fuel cell for safety along with the battery and a period-correct roll bar made of 4130 chrome molly tubing. The interior was done in merlot naugahyde tuck and roll in the legendary “Eddie Martinez” style, with black carpeting and a white Tonneau cover by Albert Lara of North Hollywood. Steve Warner provided all the instruments. The body and paint work was done by theatrical Auto body in Hollywood. Tri-C recessed the license plate and the “Poncho” taillights, and created the gas-filler door below the rear window. Original King Bee headlights are mounted up front.

The engine is an original 392 Hemi, running a somewhat aggressive street cam and a compression ration that allows it to operate on unleaded fuel. It was built by Ollie’s Machine Works in Van Nuys, California, where it was dyno tested and broken in. It uses an original (rare) Edelbrock X3 ram-log manifold, running six Stromberg 97’s and an original Scintilla Vertex Magneto by Joe Hunt, with mechanical tach drive.

Rather than using a throttle cable which, although very easy to install is not period-correct, the throttle pedal links to a bell crank and hard linkage, operating all six carbs on a non-progressive set-up. Behind the motor is a McCloud Street/Competition clutch and pressure plate, and the original Muncie four-speed that came with car rebuilt by Stick City).

I used a chrome firewall to reflect the beauty of the motor, particularly the induction system which was built by Chad Blundell of Blundell Speed & Machine in Orange, California. I used a Magneto so that there would not be any coil or coil wire attached to or protruding from the firewall. It was also consistent with the street/strip theme of the car. I also wanted to use swing pedals, but did not want to have a master cylinder mounted on the firewall where it would be visible and interrupt the mirror effect of the chrome firewall. A custom-fabricated unit was built using Kugel components, which mounts the master cylinder, vacuum booster and clutch master cylinder sideways up under the cowl. The car has a Tri-C fabricated rolled rear pan with “sugar scoop” outlets for the exhaust pipes, and louvers by custom car great Gene Winfield, further adding to the car’s DNA.

I designed the exhaust system so that I could use both open pipes (and what a set of pipes they are!) or run the exhaust through the mufflers. Because of my commitment to keep the car early-‘60s period-correct, we could not use either the commercially manufactured exhaust manifold slider cutout or the flapper cutout in the main pipes, because they would be visible and immediately identified as not period correct. Instead, I designed a unique system, which was magnificently fabricated by Tri-C. It consists of a custom exhaust manifolds, which are bolted directly to the cylinder heads to which the headers, in turn, mount. Each bank of headers is removable as one unit, with seven bolts, and a thin copper plate is installed between the fabricated exhaust manifold and the headers to force the exhaust gases down inside the frame, through the mufflers and out the tail pipes. This system was recently featured in Rod & Custom magazine.<

The car was finished to show-car standards, featuring Tom Otis’s outstanding flame job and Ed Roth-style pin striping, (including an adaptation of the pin striping on the rear of the famous Tom McMullen Roadster), but was always intended to be driven. Although it will be entered in a number of shows this year, don’t be at all surprised to see it on the street in the near future. In fact I drove it to Bob’s Big Boy in Toluca Lake so that George Carroll could take the great photos which accompany this article. This is truly my dream Hot Rod, finally realized. I deeply appreciate the support and encouragement of all of my friends who participated in making this dream come true.

Thank you Finish Line Magazine for the article.