1932 Ford 3-Window Hot Rod
Original 1932 Ford 3-window hot rod
Featured in The Rodders Journal #39
5″ drop to the front axle for an aggressive raked stance
Custom-valved Bilstein shocks designed and installed by Canepa
Extremely comfortable long-distance driver
Equipped with modern comforts
The original Henry Ford ’32 has become a platform for so many award-winning hot rods that the mere search for one can yield hundreds of permutations, all with their own distinct and unique character. With countless ways of modifying and with more parts than anyone might know what to do with, the amount of customization able to take place is staggering. This 1932 Ford 3-window coupe began its hot rod journey relatively recently in 2006, undergoing a thorough restoration and modification that created a unique “Ohio-style” hot rod that is also an incredibly comfortable performer for long travels.
Larry Henderson of Waynesville, Ohio was the originator and builder of this stunning black ’32 Ford coupe, intent on styling his hot rod with the Ohio look. The Rodders Journal call this an excellent example of the “Ohio” look, a traditional hot rod styling with the emphasis on getting a heavily raked ground-hugging stance. Beginning with an original steel body from a 1932 Ford, Henderson and a number of his hot rod friends made one of the first primary steps ensuring that it would be low enough. A Magnum tube front axle was used which allowed a 5-inch drop of the front while at the same time being narrowed to 44 5/8th inches. Narrowing the axle this much allowed Henderson to really pull the tires in and hide them. To lower the car even further, the coupe’s headlight bar was completely taken apart and not only was drilled to run wires for the 1934 Commercial lights internally, but widened by one inch to push the front fenders a little further down over the tires. The front wheels are custom built, using 40 spoke Kelsey-Hayes wire centers and 15×4 Volkswagen outer hoops. The rear wheels are custom built as well, using Chevy 51×8 outer hoops to complete the heavily raked look of this hot rod.
With the aggressive rake taken care of, the rest of the ’32 Ford could be addressed. The tried-and-true formula of a Chevrolet 350 V8 with a GM Turbo 350 automatic transmission were used, with plenty of low-end grunt and comfortable to live with on long drives. A 625cfm 4bbl carburetor along with a ’55 Pontiac air cleaner dresses up the engine bay. The brakes are ’65 Buick finned aluminum drums, and a late 60’s Chevy half-ton pickup master cylinder was used. The interior is another example of the “Ohio” style. With the surfaces covered in Claret vinyl and leather, the seat uses wide pleated inserts along with big rolls on the seat back and bottom have been a part of the understated look since the 70’s. The dash is original, modified for the gauges to get the perfect fit. Autometer Phantom series gauges present the necessary info to the driver, while a Bell-style leather wrapped steering wheel sits comfortably in their hands. An excellent feature of the interior for shorter drivers is the 70’s Chevy tilt steering column, allowing the perfect driving position for anyone in the driver’s seat.
Larry intended to drive the hot rod quite a bit and focused efforts on everyday usability and comfort. Too often hot rods are excellent for short sprints to and from a location but spending more time inside them can cause unwanted discomfort. Not wanting anything like that, Larry set to work. For those hot Ohio summers Vintage Air GEN-1 air conditioning was added, keeping the occupants cool no matter what the temperature. The large ’65 Buick finned aluminum drum brakes are effective, the suspension compliant, the exhaust note is subtle (but not quiet!) and a reliable drivetrain allows the driver to enjoy stress-free miles.
Henderson finished his restoration in 2006 and drove the car for a little less than 2 years, putting on just under 8,000 miles. The longest drive, and the reason for the majority of the miles on the car, was when he took the car for a cross-country road trip to Pomona from Waynesville, Ohio.
In March of 2008, the hot rod would arrive at Canepa for its first time. With 7,978 miles on the odometer, the restoration was still fresh and presented as a new hot rod. The single-stage black paint was stunning, the auxiliaries all working correctly and car rode extremely comfortably. Not one to leave things alone, Bruce Canepa did his initial visual and driving inspection, citing that the car was comfortable but could still be improved. In addition to the “Canepa Difference” process, which consists of a full concours-level detailing and mechanical inspection and servicing, Canepa also added a few mechanical upgrades to the car. New custom-valved Bilstein shocks were designed and installed to improve the ride and handling. A Cardan U-joint was installed to improve driveline performance, a new speedometer was installed and the brakes were completely serviced, including turned drums matched to arched shoes with new linings for consistent quick stops.
The Ohio-built hot rod would remain at Canepa until April of 2009, where it would go to its new excited owner to add to his collection. Leaving Canepa with 286 miles on the new odometer, the owner would keep the car in his automotive collection for more than 9 years, driving the car in total less than 400 miles over that period of time. Now back at Canepa and looking as sinister as it did when it was first built, this Midwestern-styled ’32 Ford Coupe is a hot rod for the hot rod enthusiast than wants to travel for more than just a single day with plenty of stress-free miles.