Hemi Swapped 1932 Ford Roadster

Dave Gray’s Deuce Roadster Built In only 5 Months

By Brian Brennan   –   Photography By John Jackson

It’s been said that 1932 Ford roadsters are plentiful and all that can be done has been done. Well, not so fast and don’t assume … it will get you in trouble. Dave Gray of Michigan is both a longtime hot rodder and shop owner of Gray’s Garage Hot Rods and Customs. He’s seen and owned plenty of early hot rods but the 1932 Ford roadster has always been high on his list as “most desirable.”

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03 The early Ford steelies and radial rubber forming the rolling stock of the 1932 Ford roadster

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Dave’s shop consists of one employee, Matt Vanderbush, and between the two of them the build began. As the coming deadline crept closer a good friend, Colton Leigib, helped throughout those rapidly accumulating midnight hours. When building a 1932 Ford roadster there are any number of acceptable power plants. But there is always one that is near the top of every hot rodder’s list: the Chrysler Hemi engine. For this build a 1954 Chrysler FirePower Hemi V8 engine was selected–a 331-inch variety (oftentimes referred to as a First-Generation 1951-58 Hemi). If you like “heft” then the early Hemi is for you, coming in at a not-so-svelte 700 pounds but did produce an era-impressive 180 hp. A few other internal “secrets’ ‘where it came with a forged-steel crank and large 1.81-inch intake and 1.50-inch exhaust valves. Now, history and experience has taught us that this venerable oldie but goodie can produce upwards of 400 hp with a compression jump to 10.0:1 and a good four-barrel. The hemi you see here does have an aluminum intake with an Edelbrock 650-cfm four-barrel. You will also find the use of a Holley electric fuel pump, a chrome vintage air cleaner, and valve covers. Bringing the Hemi to life is a Mallory Unilite distributor with a stock coil and Taylor spark plug wires. The custom headers are made from 1-5/8-inch tubing that dump into 2-inch exhaust pipes that run sans mufflers. Cooling comes by way of a finned aluminum water pump with a chrome factory-style four-blade fan. The Hemi is backed up to a T5 transmission that operates through a Mcleod clutch kit. The shift lever began life from Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop and then Dave heated, reshaped it, and afterward repolished it. A H.A.M.B. a limited-edition shift ball (number 42) is scripted with the H.A.M.B. “Twenty-Five Years of Speed & Power … Old News Travels Fast.”

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07 The ladder bar setup with ShockWave Ridetech coilovers forming the basis for the rear suspension

The frame was built by Brook Craft based on American Stamping Corporation ’32 Ford ’rails fitted with a Tanks Inc. early Ford gas tank. Look closely and you will see how the rear license plate is shaped to fit the contour of the tank as well as painted in body color. Anchoring the front of the frame is a Super Bell 4 inch drop axle with early Ford spindles (round back), SO CAL Speed Shop shocks, a Flaming River Vega-style steering box, and a 1940 Ford truck (modified) steering column. In back a Ford 9-inch rear end is tailored with 4.10 limited-slip gears and 31-spline axles. The basis for the rear suspension is a ladder bar setup with ShockWave Ridetech coilovers coupled with an RJay’s Speed Shop Panhard bar. Braking is an interesting touch from yesteryear with Ford F100 truck drums in front and Ford 11-inch drums in back all operated by a 1961 Chevy truck master cylinder pushed into service by BJ’s Speed Shop hanging pedal assembly. Rolling stock is a combination of early Ford steelies and radial rubber. The Ford steelies measure 15×4 and 18×5.5 and are covered with Michelin XZX 145SR15 radials in front and Excelsior Stahl Sport Radial by Coker Tire rubber measuring 7.00×18 in back. Note that the wheels themselves are covered with full aluminum discs fitted with stock Ford V8 engine center caps. The aluminum discs were originally made by Kevin Lee and available in 16 and 18 inches. From here Dave trimmed the 16-inch discs down to fit the 15-inch front wheels.

12 The 1954 Chrysler FirePower Hemi V8 engine the power plant for the 1932 Ford roadster

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The body is a Brookville Roadster 1932 Ford recreation that Dave then gave a great deal of attention to. He went on to properly gap the doors while the top of the doors and dash were “cleaned up.” You will notice custom hood sides and a many-louvered deck lid, while the fuel tank filler is relocated to the trunk. The taillights are custom as is the trunk handle. The windshield was laid back and a custom top fitted. All the bodywork was handled by Dave as was the PPG Ochre (a color that ranges from a pale yellow to a deep orange or brown).

15 The frame of the 1932 Ford roadster built by Brook Craft

Inside you will find a 1932 Ford roadster dash that is custom fit with a mother of pearl insert and a set of Classic Instruments speedometer and tach that is column mounted. The amps, water, gas, and oil gauges are 1934 Chevy trucks that Chris Wiggins, a friend of Dave’s, resurfaced to match as closely as possible to the Classic Instruments speedo and tach. They are reminiscent of early Stewart Warner gauges. Attached to the dash is a modified 1940 Ford truck column that has an early 1960s triumph steering wheel. The bench seat itself if a custom effort that was covered in black vinyl while the door panels have black and gray inserts forming the pocket flaps. All the handy stitch work and carpeting was accomplished by Leigib, who comes from a family of upholsterers. Beneath the cowl/dash and next to the traditional spoon throttle is a swap meet find vintage heater that along with the heated seats makes those cold morning drives “enjoyable.”

09 Vented trunk of the 1932 Ford Roadster

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Wanting to have his “dream” Deuce on the road this summer the project began in January of this year and by May, the 18th to be specific, it was on the road. At 4 a.m. he jumped in and drove the 650 miles to Nashville for the Good Guys event and competed in the Hot Rod of the Year competition and made the Top 5. Not bad for “first time” out. A few months later the staff of Modern Rodding would see this 1932 Ford roadster at the Triple Crown of Rodding event, proving to our own eyeballs this is really a great build and a fresh look. To date the roadster has rolled up 11,000-plus miles, not bad for its first summer on the road. MR


Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of Hemi Swapped 1932 Ford Roadster.

mr december 2023

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