Vintage Vibes, Fighter Plane Style, & Hot Rod Performance
By Brian Brennan – Photography By John Jackson
Hot Rods and fighter planes for as different as they are also have a great deal in common. Both are compatible. There are pilots and some fly using wings while others “fly” piloting hot rods. They both feel the “need for speed.” Virgil Winland has long wanted a hot rod with a vintage fighter plane theme. Garret Kitchen of Garrets Rod Shop (GRS) presented it to him in this ’33 Ford Speedstar roadster known as the “P-33.”
The basis of this ’33 Ford roadster is the Speedstar body originally manufactured by Rat’s Glass exclusively for Alloway’s Hot Rod Shop. While the body supplied the foundation for the build, Virgil still wanted the vintage warbird look to tie in the overall theme. This is where Kitchen and the remainder of the staff from GRS stepped up and brought it all together. Kitchen tells us there are hundreds of custom-made pieces to make the transformation come to life. The roadster is often referred to as the P-33. The “33” should be obvious, but did you know back in the day the “P” stood for “pursuit” and was assigned to such iconic warplanes as the P-38, P-51, which were long-range fighter escorts. This warbird-themed roadster has plenty of “pursuit” in it.
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First look at the roadster and you can see themed modifications, but what really ties in this hot rod with warplanes of the past is the air intake peeking out of the hood side panels. On vintage warcraft these sheet metal “bubbles” or “blisters” allowed items normally hidden within the engine compartment but because of tight “packaging” protruded out from the confines of the engine compartment. They now “peek” out while maintaining a good dose of the original aerodynamics. The same can be said for our hot rods. One of the most common uses of a bubble or blister on a hood side panel is to allow the oversized cylinder heads of modern-day V8 engines to pop out. Or, in some cases, the multi-header tubes of an exhaust system. Here our vintage warbird and hot rod share the same need for added space to accommodate its powerplant. On this P-33 it allows the cold air intake tube to snake up front to a filtered ram air system. Kitchen tells us it’s “fit and function” at its best. There are numerous one-off pieces; Kitchen tackled this project by working with EVOD Industries as they had the parts designed in CAD (computer-aided design), then 3D printed, and then a CNC machine carved out the product in aluminum.
To get a good view of the 6.0L, or 376-inch, LS Chevy V8 engine is tough. It is packed into a compact engine compartment where there is little extra room and the engine cover itself is a work of art. The all-steel engine cover was made from 120 handmade pieces by Kitchen’s GRS staff. They used literally all the sheet metal machinery in the shop, beginning with an English Wheel, a slip roller, bead roller, Pullmax, louver press, and a KF800 Kraftformer. There is a lot more to “bending metal” these days! The engine cover was painted in beautiful flat-finish PPG Army Olive Drab. On the other hand, all the stainless steel pieces were polished.
The exhaust system was beautifully handled through the expertise of Ultimate Headers for the stainless steel manifolds. From here the GRS fabricators made a one-off full-length system that runs through Flowmaster mufflers and dumps beneath the polished Heidts Independent Rear Suspension. The vintage-looking plug wires come by way of Lokar Performance Products, Cooling Components supplied the electric fans, a polished Vintage Air alternator, and an Optima battery (trunk mounted).
Backed up to the 6.0L LS engine is a GM 4L70E transmission that feeds the power rearward to the fully polished Heidts Independent Rear Suspension Superride. It features a Strange Engineering center section with 3.73 gears, Wilwood Dynalite inboard calipers, and 11.5 rotors. The brake system is pressed into service by a combination of a Wilwood master cylinder and a Lokar pedal assembly. You can also see the Strange shocks in place and ready to go.
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The frame is based on Heidts ’rails put together by GRS. From here it utilizes a Heidts Independent Front Suspension, Wilwood 11.5 drilled-and-slotted rotors with polished Dynalite calipers, and Strange shocks. Steering chores fall to the Mustang-style Flaming River rack-and-pinion, which is controlled by an ididit steering column. More corner appointments include the rolling stock comprised of Raceline Billet Bandits with painted centers by GRS that measure 17×7 and 20×10. The rubber comes by way of BFGoodrich, measuring 225/45R17 in front and 295/45R20 in back.
The body is an Alloway ’33 Ford Speedstar roadster (originally laid up by Rat’s Glass) that has undergone hundreds of hours of modifications. A great deal of this time was dedicated to the bodywork to ensure a smooth, well-fitting body. The body gaps throughout tell the story of how much attention was paid to the build detail. Note the “humps” added to the rear of the body in the decklid area to give aero shape to the headrests, the external race car–style gas filler, door openings that are reshaped, and the bobbed lower rear valance. The one-off steel hood features several blisters that accommodate the fresh air package. The copious amounts of bodywork were handled by Chris Hayes of GRS, and he also sprayed on the PPG Olive Drab Green (Army color) in a basecoat/clearcoat combination.
Inside the cockpit you will immediately be looking at the vintage airplane influence. The steering wheel is patterned after the airplane-style control yoke and column (hidden within is the ididit pillar). The custom steering wheel itself was designed by Kitchen with Autodesk Inventor software and 3D printed for the test-fit. Next up, a block of 6061 billet aluminum was CNC machined at the Metal Brothers Hot Rod shop to bring the wheel to life (no strangers to several amazing builds have rolled out their doors). You will also see the use of Spanish Cedar that is used in the steering wheel, shifter, pedal pads, and floor inserts. The dash is fitted with a winged-styled insert that houses the Moal Bomber Series gauges that come from Classic Instruments who also printed the GRS logo onto the speedo face. Steve Holcomb of Pro Auto Interior made the custom buckets and handled all the stitchwork you see throughout the interior and trunk area. The trunk, besides being the home for the Optima battery, is also the dwelling for the Rock Valley 15-gallon gas tank that is neatly covered by what appears to be a leather chest.
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You may have seen this roadster at any one of several places this past year, such as the Detroit or Chicago Autoramas, the Builder’s Showcase at the NSRA Nationals, several Goodguys events, SEMA, or the Hot Rod Roundup (Shades of the Past) where it won one of the Magnificent 7 awards while in competition for the Triple Crown of Rodding. Viewing this roadster is time well spent. MR