001 Geoffrey Skene found this 1932 Ford roadster at the L.A. Roadsters Father’s Day Swap Meet _ Car Show
Geoffrey Skene found this 1932 Ford roadster at the L.A. Roadsters Father’s Day Swap Meet & Car Show. A deal was made and the car was off to Ionia Hot Rod Shop (IHRS).

Vintage Ascestics With Father-and-Son Team at Ionia Hot Rod Shop

By Ron Ceridono

It’s often said there’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything. While that may hold true in many instances, when it comes to building hot rods there is a third option, the Dennis and Matt Lesky way at Ionia Hot Rod Shop (IHRS).

002 Matt Lesky began installing Ionia’s trademark boxing plates and cross members
With the frame rails refurbished, Matt Lesky began installing Ionia’s trademark boxing plates and cross members.

Read More: Pieced Together ‘34 Ford Highboy Coupe

We first met Dennis in 1994 at the National Hot Rod Association’s 40th U.S. Nationals. He had driven his chopped 1932 sedan to the event, the former B/Gas drag race car was unmistakable with its vintage orange finish and the name “Regret” emblazoned on both doors. Over the next few years we followed some of the hot rod projects Dennis was involved with while still working at General Motors as a journeyman welder and realized he was creative and immensely talented. Perhaps owing to his familiarity with production parts, Dennis was becoming known for creating early chassis parts that looked like they were original equipment.

003 Note the holes in the boxing plate and cross member have been dimpled to round their edges
In the rear the ’rails were C’d for axle clearance. Note the holes in the boxing plate and cross member have been dimpled to round their edges.

When Dennis retired from GM he decided to pursue his passion for creating unique hot rods along with his son, Matt. Evidently in the Lesky family tree this acorn didn’t fall too far away as Matt’s interest in hot rods started early in life. After high school his abilities were honed by working in tool and die and fabrication shops and those skills would prove to serve him well when he began working with his father in 1999. Together the talented father-and-son team opened Ionia Hot Rod Shop in 2000 and quickly developed a reputation among hot rodders in the know for innovation and craftsmanship.

004 Here the cross member has been blended into the front boxing plates
Here the cross member has been blended into the front boxing plates, giving it that built-at-the-factory look.

IHRS has developed a number of signature accents that can be found on everything they build, such as the “dimpled” holes in their frame boxing plates and cross members. The rolled edges of the round and oval holes have a finished, factory look. In addition, a great deal of effort is applied to blending welded components like the boxing plates and cross members to make them appear as one piece. Of course the use of solid rivets really adds to a frame’s vintage aesthetics.

005 The tops of the cross member legs required notches to accommodate the genie body’s floorpan
The tops of the cross member legs required notches to accommodate the genie body’s floorpan. Note how the exhaust is hung and runs through the rear leg of the cross member.

Over the years a number of high-profile hot rods have rolled out of the IHRS doors. One such was Geoffrey Skene’s 1932 Ford roadster that was a magazine cover car. As a loyal customer who appreciates talent, Skene decided to have IHRS build a stablemate to that award-winning Ford Highboy. A second car is now under construction, the Skene 2.0, so to speak. This new car is loaded with vintage appeal, including a Flathead Ford V8 with Dixon F heads (intake valves are in the block, exhausts are in the heads) from H&H Flatheads at one end and a Cyclone quick-change at the other. There are other vintage tricks as well, such as the steering box. While it looks similar to the original, Neal Jennings supplied a modified worm and roller unit from a Nash that is vastly smoother and easier to steer than the original Ford worm and sector design.

006 This is a portion of the original floorpan from under the seat that requires the notches in the cross member
This is a portion of the original floorpan from under the seat that requires the notches in the cross member.

Of course the foundation for it all is a frame built in the unique IHRS style.

Read More: 1932 Ford Highboy Roadster New Zealand-Style

As Matt explains it, the intent for this new car was to build a 1932 frame with a later-style cross member and make it look like it left the factory that way. Take a look at the following photos and see if you agree that is exactly what has been accomplished.

007 This view from the bottom shows how the floorpan fits the new cross member
This view from the bottom shows how the floorpan fits the new cross member. As the stock frame didn’t have a cross member, floor clearance wasn’t an issue.
008 Neal Jennings modified a steering box from a 1937 Nash to fit the 1932 Ford frame
Neal Jennings modified a steering box from a 1937 Nash to fit the 1932 Ford frame. Note the hole in the bottom of the box. It’s for the original headlight switch operated by a knob in the center of the steering wheel.
009 Matt retained the stock Ford front cross member
Matt retained the stock Ford front cross member. The two dimpled holes are for the original 1932 engine mounts.
010 As the original holes in the cross member won’t be used to mount the engine they were filled
As the original holes in the cross member won’t be used to mount the engine they were filled.
011The front cross member was modified to lower the front of the car 1 inch and then reinstalled
The front cross member was modified to lower the front of the car 1 inch and then reinstalled. Note the wishbone has not been split; it attaches to the transmission cradle in the cross member.
012 New front engine mounts were made from sections of a 1946 Ford front cross member
New front engine mounts were made from sections of a 1946 Ford front cross member—they will attach to the frame rails.
013 Here are the new engine mounts for the Ford Roadster viewed from the rear
Here are the new engine mounts for the Ford Roadster viewed from the rear. Note they wrap up over the top of the frame rails for added support.
014 One of the unique features found on many builds from Ionia Hot Rod Shop are the solid 5_16-inch solid rivets
One of the unique features found on many builds from Ionia Hot Rod Shop are the solid 5/16-inch solid rivets used here to attach the engine mount brackets to the frame.
015 The Flathead Ford V8 was dropped in place for a test-fit
The Flathead Ford V8 was dropped in place for a test-fit. The unique heads are Dixon’s from H&H Flatheads.
016 The engine mount cushions are the original Ford style
For added strength the engine mount brackets have tabs on top of the frame rails—they will be riveted in place. The engine mount cushions are the original Ford style.
017 The steering gear box is bolted to the outside of the frame and for a clean look a two-piece cover attaches to the inside boxing plate
Another view of the Nash steering box. The steering gear box is bolted to the outside of the frame and for a clean look a two-piece cover attaches to the inside boxing plate. That’s real attention to detail.
018 The brake and clutch pedal assembly is from a Lincoln Zephyr
The brake and clutch pedal assembly is from a Lincoln Zephyr. The shaft with the hole passes through the brake pedal to operate the clutch.
019 Typical of the Ionia Hot Rod Shop craftsmanship is this bracket to mount the master cylinder
Typical of the Ionia Hot Rod Shop craftsmanship is this bracket to mount the master cylinder. It could certainly be made much more simply but it wouldn’t be as cool.
020 Here the bracket is in place mounting an early Ford master cylinder
Here the bracket is in place mounting an early Ford master cylinder. The Lincoln Zephyr pedals required minor modifications by heating and bending the arms to make them fit.
021 A a stock 1934 Ford center cradle (left) was heavily modified (right) to fit the new cross member
To mount the transmission and provide a mounting point for the wishbone, a stock 1934 Ford center cradle (left) was heavily modified (right) to fit the new cross member.
022 Viewed from the rear of the frame the modified transmission cradle has been riveted in place
Viewed from the rear of the frame the modified transmission cradle has been riveted in place.
023 Another rare vintage piece is the 1939 Lincoln Zephyr transmission
Another rare vintage piece is the 1939 Lincoln Zephyr transmission. It connects to a modified Ford torque tube. Note the unique location of the shift lever.
024 A custom arm on the pedal assembly activates the original clutch release arm on the transmission
A custom arm on the pedal assembly activates the original clutch release arm on the transmission. A threaded link will allow for clutch adjustment.
025 Matt installed an often overlooked item, the anti-chatter rods (arrow)
Matt installed an often overlooked item, the anti-chatter rods (arrow). As the engine and transmission are solidly attached to the rear end by the torque tube, as the name implies, these rods eliminate chatter when the car begins moving from a standstill.
026 a Ford emergency brake handle is attached to the Zephyr transmission with a custom bracket
Another unique vintage touch, a Ford emergency brake handle is attached to the Zephyr transmission with a custom bracket.
027 he parking brake handle will connect to the modified shaft and arms
The parking brake handle will connect to the modified shaft and arms that once operated the 1932 Ford’s mechanical brakes.
028 A rod from the parking brake handle (on the right) attaches to the modified shaft
A rod from the parking brake handle (on the right) attaches to the modified shaft; a pair of rods (only one can be seen here) activate the parking brakes.
029 Here the rear end can be seen with the parking brakes, hydraulic brake lines, and the Panhard rod
Here the rear end can be seen with the parking brakes, hydraulic brake lines, and the Panhard rod.
030 The Panhard rod bracket on the frame looks cast
The Panhard rod bracket on the frame looks cast—it isn’t. It’s a typical Lesky trick, the result of lots of welding and even more grinding.
031 A test-fit of the grille shell and body on the frame with the engine in place provides a hint of what’s to come
A test-fit of the grille shell and body on the frame with the engine in place provides a hint of what’s to come.

Sources:
Ionia Hot Rod Shop
(616) 527-5051
ioniahotrods.com

H&H Flatheads
(818) 248-2371
handhflatheads.com

Neal Jennings
Neal’s Hot Rod Parts
nhrp@att.net

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