It just recently dawned on me that all these early rod and custom magazines I have bindered, shelved, and catalogued, both in my office and in the garage, actually count as part of my historic hot rod archive. I always considered them simply as reference material. And to be honest, I figured that writers of articles or books who copied pictures out of old magazines (rather than having, or finding, the actual photos) were somehow cheating. Yes, I have tens of thousands of original old photos. But there are even more in all these early magazines, a whole lot of which I don’t have in print or neg form.
This brings me to the black lacquered, unchopped, full-fendered, Corvette-powered ’32 Ford Tudor sedan you see above. I have a thing for Deuce Tudors, and it derives largely from that profile, including both the raked angle of the full-fendered sedan and the low camera angle (too bad they cropped off the low front bumper, because it completes the image). But the proportions of that tall, long top is balanced by the long hood, offset by the rearward flowing fenders. And–especially contrasted to the previous Model A–all the smooth, rounded corners (starting with the grille) and sculpted body lines (especially around the windows), make for a beautiful, supple body. But the part that hooked me, and that I still love, is the way the back of the body curves down and in, below which the also-sculpted gas tank, frame-horn covers, rear bumper, and especially those rear fender lips all sweep down and back. I just love it. Always have ever since I saw the first one at about age 11 or 12 (it was metallic blue, full-fendered, same stance, with white upholstery and a chromed Olds engine we could spy through the louvers of the stock full hood).
But this isn’t just some Deuce sedan I picked out of a magazine as a handy example. In fact, I had totally forgotten it actually got featured in Hot Rod magazine. I shouldn’t have – since I was 13 years old then, had a full-time subscription, and nearly memorized its contents every month. However, as I say, I use these magazines today mostly as reference material, and I was looking up something else (Paul Chamberlain’s “Mysterious Model A”), turned the page, and there it was. I immediately recognized it, and it brought back a flood of warm adolescent memories. The problem was–as usual–I was looking up a bunch of stuff in different places, and I totally forgot where I had seen this otherwise indelible memory. The other problem–also as usual–was that I couldn’t remember the owner’s name. So it took quite a while going through binders I’ve made of cover photos, tables of contents, annual indexes, and so on before I finally found it–Aha!, the Sept. 1960 issue, right in the middle of the green-tinted “Roto Section.” There was even a small photo of the flat-topped owner, Fred Edsell, sitting at the wheel with his hand on the ’39 shifter.
Let me back up here and give a bit of explanatory background. I lived a lot of places in SoCal as a kid, but my most formative years (5th grade through high school) were spent in what was then a small, lemon-picker town called Corona. It had some auto-racing history, and we had quite a few good hot rods in town. But there was no cruising scene, no “hang out” drive-in to speak of, and by no means did any of our local cars get featured in magazines. For all that we had to drive 15 miles east to Riverside, which we did regularly on Friday or Saturday nights. Fortunately I had several older friends who had cool cars who would let me ride with them (I was a tall kid, looked older than I was, and I worked on their cars).
So that’s how I knew this beautiful, black Tudor sedan that was absolutely perfect in my adolescent estimation. Fred Edsell’s Deuce was from Riverside, and we’d see it cruising Market, Main, and Magnolia most any weekend, or maybe parked at Tuxie’s or The Grinder. Plus we’d see it at the Rickshaw’s car show on the grass at Evans Park, or indoors at the Orange Show in San Bernardino. And of course we all felt just a bit of pride when it got featured in Hot Rod magazine. Wow!
But my real point in this column is to flatly state that I still think this car is absolutely perfect. You might pass this off as the nostalgic memories of an impressionable youth. But I don’t think so. I think this car holds up. Agree?
In fact, if I were building this car today, there are only a couple of things I would change, and they are strictly personal nits. First, I would fill the grille shell, to perfect the rounded edges. And second, I’ve always preferred the stock, polished aluminum,
louvered twin 4-barrel Corvette air cleaners to the Cal Custom chrome ones. Plus, today, I might lower it a tad more at both ends. That’s it. But otherwise, if you know my modest hot rod history, you can see familiar elements, starting with the “baldies and beauty rims” (also known as “beanies”) with medium whitewalls (6.70×15 front, 7.60 or 8.20 in the rear), and proceeding to the all-white 1-inch tuck-and-roll, with white-bound black carpet and chrome window frames. Same goes for the white top insert, King Bee headlights, and lack of cowl lights or rear spare tire. I’ve always wanted a dual-quad, Duntov cam, 270-hp 283 (built a couple for those older friends), and you know I love chrome. And it’s no coincidence that I just painted my current ’33 sedan project black lacquer. What more can I say?
Just this. How come when a black lacquer, period hot rod ’32 sedan is mentioned, Fred Edsell’s name isn’t? When we were tasked with selecting the 75 most significant Deuce hot rods back in 2007, this car wasn’t even mentioned in the first round. It’s probably just too simple and subtle–but that’s what I love.
Instead, what initially came up were the Banker Brothers’ similar, twin black Deuces (featured in the Nov. ’61 Hot Rod). Being a bit newer, they had dark red upholstery, chrome wheels, and accessories like cowl lights, horn, and white-covered spare tires on the back. With identical dual-quad Corvette engines, they were certainly significant Deuces, but much more memorable for being two brothers’ twin hot rods.
What was perhaps more significant (or indicative), was that when it came down to the final tally, after several rounds of voting, it was brother Walt’s 3-window coupe that made the cut for the top 75, while Larry’s more-door Fordor was sequestered with the also-rans. And I have to admit I agree. I was one of the voters.
And since I’m easily diverted by similar side-topics, let me pursue this one of black Deuce pairs with another example I bet you don’t remember. Ron Hauk and Bob Trawick aren’t brothers, but they were both members of the same car club (which I also belonged to at the time), the Times Past of Orange County. Featured in the embryonic Nov. ’73 issue of Street Rodder magazine, these two black-lacquered beauties were well into the resto-rod era with their big headlights, Buick wire wheels, and taupe mohair matching upholstery. It was well past the era of white top inserts or running boards, and fortunately we have since learned that rear tires look and work better when they fit under the fenders. But slight foibles aside, this was another pair of excellent, award-winning, magazine-featured ebony black Deuce hot rods that have slipped through the sands of time.
If I remember correctly, Walt Banker and his 3-window coupe were both among the few we couldn’t locate for the big 75th Anniversary. In fact, I have no idea where any of these excellent Deuces have gone, or where they might be today. But for my money, I’d take the Fred Edsell “Factory Fresh ’32” from Riverside in 1960. If I had the money. And if I were going to build another hot rod. Which I’m not. The end.