A Closer Look At Jack Chisenhall’s Champ Deuce

Indy Influence & Hot Rod Styled 1932 Ford roadster

By Ron Ceridono   –   Photography By Jack Chisenhall & George Hagy

Jack Chisenhall is probably best known as the founder of Vintage Air, but he is also a hands-on hot rodder who drives the wheels off the cars he creates. His ’39 Ford sedan has racked up close to 200,000 miles and he’s gone 240 mph at Bonneville in his ’53 Studebaker with the air conditioning on. Chisenhall’s automotive interests are best described as varied, his collection has included everything from vintage race cars to a French Facel Vega sports coupe. But it’s safe to say that the inspiration for his latest creation, and the winner of the 2023 Grand National Roadster Show’s America’s Most Beautiful Roadster trophy, came from Chisenhall’s fascination with the Indianapolis 500.

- Advertisement -
02 Power for Chisenhall’s America’s Most Beautiful Roadster winner comes from a ’56 Dodge Hemi with custom aluminum heads and electronic fuel injection
Power for Chisenhall’s America’s Most Beautiful Roadster winner comes from a ’56 Dodge Hemi with custom aluminum heads and electronic fuel injection. Check out details like the expansion tank on the radiator shroud and the milled firewall with three master cylinders–two for the brakes and one for the clutch.

Interestingly, the name “Champ Deuce” was bestowed on Chisenhall’s ’32 long before winning the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster trophy. The origin of the name is from what many consider the heyday of the Indy 500, the front engine roadster era from 1952 to 1966. The term “champ car” came from the United States Auto Club (USAC) sanctioned open wheel events in its Championship racing division, which included everything from dirt ovals to the bricks of the Indianapolis 500. (Two-time Indy winner, Bill Vukovich, came up with the term “roadster” to describe a front engine race car with solid axles on both ends, and it stuck). Chisenhall combined history, his passion for Indy, and love of hot rods, and the result was named the Champ Deuce.

Read More: 1949 Cadillac Sedanette With State-Of-The-Art Performance

03 Chisenhall was actively involved in the roadster’s construction
Chisenhall was actively involved in the roadster’s construction; here he does a test-fit of the Hemi block after the extensive frame modifications. Note the tubes from the firewall to the front of the frame.

Planning the construction of the Champ Deuce began in Chisenhall’s imagination almost five decades ago and was followed by years of collecting rare parts like the Halibrand magnesium knockoff Indy wheels, pin drive hubs, New Old Stock Halibrand Indy fuel tank cap, and an original ’32 Ford roadster body, frame, and grille shell. After years of planning and searching for parts, construction began in earnest in 2017. The frame was mounted on a salvaged Amarillo railroad station depot cart modified with the addition of a 5-foot by 10-foot by ½-inch steel plate covered by a ¾-inch aluminum plate surface ground to make it completely flat. With the talented George Hagy as principal fabricator, he and Chisenhall began construction of the chassis with the frame rails secured to the cart. To ensure absolute accuracy, it would remain there until all the suspension work was done, the running gear was put in place, and the body was mounted.

- Advertisement -
04 The front of the original ’32 frame was Z’d then the ’rails were fully boxed with 0 125 inch mild steel
The front of the original ’32 frame was Z’d, then the ’rails were fully boxed with 0.125-inch mild steel. As the cars use torsion bars, there is no conventional front crossmember for a spring.

Modifications to the original Ford frame rails included replacing original buggy spring suspension with custom torsion bars on both ends. Up front, the arms for the longitudinal torsion bars attach to the tops of the kingpins with custom shackles that allow the axle to move up and down and the wheels to turn. In the rear, the transverse torsion bar is inside the rear crossmember with the arms running forward to the Winters quick change rear end. Gary Gates was responsible for machining the splined torsion bar arms and other parts.

Read More: Hellcat Swapped 1955 Chrysler 300

05 Before the frame was boxed tubes with tapered ends that protrude above the ’rails were installed
Before the frame was boxed, tubes with tapered ends that protrude above the ’rails were installed. They serve to attach the body to the frame, essentially making the car unitized.

Inside the body is a tubing framework designed to stiffen the frame and secure the body to the rails with a clever system of tapered pins and bolts. The attachment bolts run through vertical tubes in the frame and thread into the ends of the reinforcement framework inside the body. The effect is to sandwich the sills of the body between the tubing and the frame rails, which essentially makes the body and frame one unitized assembly. An additional benefit of the internal framework is that it provides side impact protection for the driver and passengers (the framework also accommodates a removable rollbar).

06 Inside the body is a tubing structure that attaches to the tapered pins in the frame with bolts from below
Inside the body is a tubing structure that attaches to the tapered pins in the frame with bolts from below. Note the tube at the top of the firewall that ties into the tube on the engine side.

It goes without saying that the guy who developed air conditioning for hot rodders in 1976 would install a custom climate control system in his own car. And before anyone questions the wisdom of the AC system in a roadster, we’ll point out this car will be equipped with a top and unique Lexan side curtains that swing into place.

- Advertisement -

Read More: Finishing The Tribute 1959 Thunderbird

07 The front suspension is a combination of the conventional a Ford V8 60 tube axle hairpin radius rods and New Old Stock Vega cross steering
The front suspension is a combination of the conventional, a Ford V8-60 tube axle, hairpin radius rods, and New Old Stock Vega cross-steering, with the unusual; a wishbone to locate the axle side to side.

The powerplant in the Champ Deuce is another example of Indy’s influence. Chisenhall was inspired by the late Tony Capanna’s 270ci Dodge Hemi-powered effort in the 1955 race. Unfortunately, although the little Hemi engine performed extremely well when qualifying began, an errant rivet from a baffle in the dry-sump oil tank caused an oil pump problem and the engine seized, causing the car to spin; the resulting damage meant that Capanna’s car did not make the field. With Capanna’s attempt in mind underhood the Champ Deuce is a Dodge 354 Hemi. It has a host of custom parts, including heads Chisenhall had cast in aluminum and a throttle body fuel injection built by Cody Chapman. Behind the 354 Hemi is a six-speed Tremec transmission.

08 All the steering connection points have been modified to include double shear attachment points
All the steering connection points have been modified to include double-shear attachment points. Note how the new machined end fits into the Pitman with a “key” for additional weld area and strength.

To fully appreciate the Champ Deuce, we will be presenting a feature on the completed car in an upcoming issue of Modern Rodding and follow that up with a detailed look at the modifications and assembly of the 354 Hemi. Stick around and you’ll see why the Champ Deuce is indeed a winner. MR

09 The front suspension utilizes custom torsion bars that are supported at the front of the chassis in bronze bushings
The front suspension utilizes custom torsion bars that are supported at the front of the chassis in bronze bushings and anchor to the 3/8-inch aluminum firewall.
10 On the inside of the firewall are torsion bar adjusters that allow the roadster’s ride height to be fine tuned
On the inside of the firewall are torsion bar adjusters that allow the roadster’s ride height to be fine-tuned.
11 Here the torsion bar links that attach to the tops of the spindles can be seen
Here the torsion bar links that attach to the tops of the spindles can be seen, along with the shock mounts and the hoop over the radiator that ties the front frame rails together.
12 They’ve been equipped with 11 inch Wilwood drilled and vented rotors and six piston Wilwood brakes
Up front are Halibrand pin drive, knockoff hubs. They’ve been equipped with 11-inch Wilwood drilled-and-vented rotors and six-piston Wilwood brakes. Wheels are 16-inch knockoffs with 5.50×16 Excelsior Vintage Tires.
13 The dual brake master cylinders are activated by a balance bar that allows brake bias to be adjusted
Activating the master cylinders are custom investment cast brake and clutch pedals. The dual brake master cylinders are activated by a balance bar that allows brake bias to be adjusted. The throttle pedal is also cast stainless.
14 Rather than a simple C notch the rear of the frame was modified with a two piece hoop on each side
Rather than a simple C-notch, the rear of the frame was modified with a two-piece hoop on each side. The bottoms of the hoops are removable to allow the rear end to drop out if necessary.
15 The rear axle is a beefy Winters quick change rear end with steel tubs and bells
The rear axle is a beefy Winters quick change rear end with steel tubs and bells. Suspension is by way of a torsion bar in the rear crossmember with tube shocks that attach to axle housings and a tubular crossmember.
16 Locating the rear axle are four bars (only the top two are in place) along with a Watts link
Locating the rear axle are four-bars (only the top two are in place) along with a Watts link that attaches to the pinion housing on the center section.
17 Two of the subtle body mods are the filling of the rear wheel wells and the removable panels above the axles
Two of the subtle body mods are the filling of the rear wheel wells and the removable panels above the axles. The arms for the rear torsion bars can also be seen.
18 The beautifully crafted rear roll hides the torsion bar arms and blends into the wheel well
The beautifully crafted rear roll hides the torsion bar arms and blends into the wheel well insert and belly pan that is yet to be installed.
19 In the rear is another set of Wilwood 11 inch rotors with six piston calipers and pin drive hubs
In the rear is another set of Wilwood 11-inch rotors with six-piston calipers and pin drive hubs. The rear wheels are 18-inch Halibrand magnesium knockoffs with Excelsior Competition 7.00×18 Sport Racing Radial tires.
20 Ahead of the rear wheels are a pair of custom fuel cells equipped with race style safety bladders
Ahead of the rear wheels are a pair of custom fuel cells equipped with race-style safety bladders.
21 The pipes and mufflers are wrapped with insulation and there are two flex couplings in the tailpipes
To allow the belly pan to flush the frame rails the exhaust system tucks into recesses built into the fuel tanks. The pipes and mufflers are wrapped with insulation and there are two flex couplings in the tailpipes.
22 The flex couplings allow the exhaust pipes to be rigidly mounted to the frame making the tight fit with the holes in the roll pan possible
The flex couplings allow the exhaust pipes to be rigidly mounted to the frame, making the tight fit with the holes in the roll pan possible.
23 Inside the trunk is a Halibrand Indy Car fuel filler two fire suppression bottle
Inside the trunk is a Halibrand Indy Car fuel filler, two fire suppression bottles (one for the engine compartment and the other covers the fuel tanks). That box in the center houses the custom Vintage Air climate-control system.
24 An aluminum center console that houses the climate control system controls
An aluminum center console that houses the climate control system controls and some of the outlets fit over the driveshaft tunnel between the two custom aluminum bomber-style bucket seats.
25 Sid Chavers of Sid Chavers Co was responsible for the custom upholstery
Sid Chavers of Sid Chavers Co. was responsible for the custom upholstery. Here is a look at the final AC vent layout and the finished center console.
26 A partial bellypan extends from the front of the engine and stops just short of the mufflers to allow heat to escape
A partial bellypan extends from the front of the engine and stops just short of the mufflers to allow heat to escape.
27 Roy Brizio of Roy Brizio Street Rods and his team for final details and assembly
With the major construction complete, the car was off to Jimmy Shine of Shine Speed Shop for louvers in the hood and belly pan then to Roy Brizio of Roy Brizio Street Rods and his team for final details and assembly. Darryl Hollenbeck of Vintage Color Studio was responsible for the final bodywork and paint.
- Advertisement -

Related Articles

Search Our Site

More Modern Rodding

2024 Detroit Autorama Ridler Winning ’53 Corvette

Owned by Dave & Tracey Maxwell & Built By...

First Look 2024 Detroit Autorama Great 8

The 71st Annual Detroit Autorama & The Competition For...

A New Suspension on Jason Scudellari’s Brookville Model A

By Ron Ceridono   -   Photography By Jason Scudellari Over the...

Classic East Coast Styled 1934 Channeled Ford Coupe Personifies Kool

By Chuck Vranas   -   Photography by the Author With regard...

1955 Thunderbird With Shocking Looks & Performance

Coral Orange Ragtop Ford Thunderbird By Brian Brennan   -   Photography...

Dual Master Cylinder Conversion For Your Classic Car

Improving Braking Performance on a 1963 Impala With Classic...
More Modern Rodding

How To Fix Quarter Panel Rust

Patch Panel Install For Rust Repair on Your Vintage...

Hemi Swapped 1932 Ford Roadster

Dave Gray’s Deuce Roadster Built In only 5 Months By...

Under The 1965 Buick Riviera Detroit Speed Chassis

Unmatched Street Performance & Sixties Style By Gerry Burger   -  ...

Rodding Around

Goodguys 2023 Chevrolet Performance Builder of the Year Awards By...

Parting Shot

Gene Winfield Moves From His Longtime Home and Shop By...

MR’s Featured New Products For Your Hot Rod – 2024

Easy Passage This wire pass through kit (billet cover, custom...

Our digital and print versions offer tons of exclusive content not offered here. Click here to subscribe >