Run by Julian Balme
Owned since May 2014
Total mileage unknown
Miles since acquisition 56
Latest costs #Ford
OUR YANK0PHILE BUYS A HOT ROD
I’ve worked out that on the few occasions in my life that I’ve been hit by a cataclysmic emotional tsunami, my instant reaction is to buy a car. At the age of 11 when my father suddenly died, my collection of Corgi cars swelled overnight as I tried to compensate for the chasm left in my childhood. My mother had always assumed that once she passed on, I’d buy an #Aston-Martin-DB5
with the proceeds of her house sale and, though she’d underestimated the stratospheric rise in that particular car’s value, she wasn’t far off - the #1940 #Lincoln-Continental
arrived shortly after her death. And now with the criminally premature passing of my wife Karen, I find myself with the keys to another new motor car.
Maybe it was a sense of ‘doing today rather than waiting for tomorrow' that precipitated the purchase, but when Billy at NAMCO mentioned to me that he knew of a 1932 roadster for sale, I was actually interested to the point of going to see it. Prices for genuine #1932
Fords have sky-rocketed and I'd rather given up on the idea of ever owning one, but curiosity got the better of me. The vendor, Paul Hobby, had found the car last year at the LA Roadster Show in California, brought it to the UK thinking he was going to incorporate it into a hot rod he was building, then changed his mind.
There was little history with the car, so I’d be grateful if any American readers could shed any light on its background, but what I do know is that it has been a hot rod for over 45 years. It was built by a father and son in Selma, California, and I’d like to think (fancifully) that the senior partner was the same John Ohlsen who worked for Ian Walker and Shelby American in the ’60s. It then passed to Parvin Rusell in Carlsbad, CA and it was from him that Hobby acquired the car.
When the rod was first modified in the late 1960s or early 70s, the fashion for ‘resto rods' was to keep as much of the original car as possible, so things such as the cowl vent, running boards, bumpers, rear and sidelights have all been retained. The only body mods are the filling and peaking of the radiator grille shell and the top half of the hood being swapped out for a louvred Rootlieb item. Other than that, it is all genuine #1932 #Henry-Ford
steel, though sadly in #2007
it was painted a pinky-orange that makes the body look like glassfibre anyway.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the drivetrain - a 1980-1985 Buick V6 engine coupled to an automatic transmission - is not to my taste at all. It goes really well, but GM parts in a Ford is just wrong. And proper hot rods should have three pedals. Rusell obviously used the car a lot (reputedly more than 80,000 miles) so he probably enjoyed the economy of the six-cylinder motor and the comfort of the radial tyres. I hate radials on older cars, so the first change I made was to fit 1in whitewall BF Goodrich Silvertown biased-ply tyres. That and the fitting of ’60s-style California licence plates.
Apart from the attractive price, scarcity, and the fact that no one in the UK had seen the car, the deal clincher was a cutting found among the photos and receipts that came with it. A local paper had published a picture of the roadster parked up in a Californian street-probably to fill space rather than to relate worthy news (see inset). The location was Hermosa Beach in the South Bay of Los Angeles, the very first place Karen and I visited on the West Coast of the US and from where we set out together on our 27-year love affair with California. Its climate, geography, architecture, history, films, music, art, car culture and... its hot rods.
A long way from CA: with the ex-Dean Lowe roadster pick-up, a former #Hot-Rod