which appeared in my Instagram a few days ago. It is Bill Burke’s ’32 Ford Victoria that he photographed at the top of a steep hill in a fairly remote area of Los Angeles in 1934 or ’35. So the next thing I need to explain (or admit) is that I don’t actually do my Instagrams. You need some sort of iPhone for that, and I don’t have one. I work on a computer and take photos with a camera. But son Bill thought I needed to share some of my archive on Instagram, so he told me, “Email me a whole bunch of good photos from your files, with captions.” So that’s what I did. He posts whichever, whenever, and even adds some of his own (that’s why some are captioned in the 3rd person). It’s always a surprise to me to see what comes up. I assume a lot of you have figured this out already. If you aren’t aware of my Instagram, check it out.
OK, so back to the Bill Burke ’32. The amazing part is that this car was only 2 or 3 years old at this time. The next is how young Bill customized or “accessorized” (as I call it) this near-new car, rather than stripping it down and hopping it up, as he did with a previous ’32 Ford roadster. As I explained, he had a narrowed, hot Modified roadster to race at Muroc. This was his classier around-town daily driver. And I pointed out some of the bolt-on modifications such as ’34 bumpers, one Woodlight between the fenders, jumbo whitewall tires and chrome caps over wire wheels, and a greyhound on the radiator. Readers noted others such as windwings, chrome strips on the 25-louver hood, and a hard-to-see chrome “fin” in the middle of the hood top. Such parts would have likely come from Eastern Auto, and the cowl lights denote this is a DeLuxe Vicky.
These angles show the Woodlight (an accessory item used as original equipment only on the Jordan Playboy, as far as I know), the stock horn and headlights, and the art deco chrome fin in the hood top. It’s hard to tell exactly what size the wheels and tires are, and whether the car has been lowered any. Another mystery is the color. It’s not black. In my mind’s eye (having looked at so many B&W photos), it appears a deep metallic maroon. Was it repainted? Don’t know.
The bigger mystery that still baffles me is the location. I know where it is. In a couple of these photos you see a street sign. With a magnifier, I made out Hall St. and Barrett Rd. And after much searching, I finally found it in my Thomas Bros. L.A. map guide (pg. 595 F5). Hall is barely a block long and climbs a steep hill. Barrett runs along the top of the ridge and dead-ends. Of course I had to drive over there and take a look. It’s hard to get to, and even today there’s hardly anything up there. In the first photo the car is on Barrett, and we’re looking east, down into the San Gabriel valley. I never thought to ask Bill how he found this place, or why he took the photos there. But it’s just above Huntington Dr., which was a major drag (and led south to Legion Ascot raceway, not far away). And Bill lived in San Gabriel. Can’t tell you much more. But they’re cool photos.
This is a year or two later. Bill has added two fog lights, lost the right bumper guard, removed the V8 emblem and the dog, put Buick running lights on the front fenders, and changed the headlights to something smaller and more bullet-shaped. Can’t tell what the round metal piece at the back of the running board is.
The similarly accessorized ’31 Model A belonged to one of Bill’s fellow Road Rebels members. The near-bald front tires on it remind us that this is still the middle of the Depression. I’m not sure how Bill could afford these near-new cars, but I think he told me he had a good job at the Firestone tire plant. Of course Bill didn’t have a good camera, and the photos are a bit fuzzy. Someone guessed that the spare was a matching whitewall, which it is, chrome cap and all. But below it are a pair of muffler and tailpipes dangling low, with small accessory lights on the pipes. Another pair of lights appear to be mounted on small mudflaps at the rear of the front fenders. Hmm.
Not much later (the license appears to be 1937) this ’36 3-window appeared in the Burke driveway. It has similar whitewalls and caps, Buick fender lights, mudflaps and accessory lights at the rear, and tasty triple chrome strips on the lower front and rear fenders. The spare tire is covered, and it wears Bill’s Road Rebels plaque, with his member no. 3.
Now here’s the great photo that tells the story. By this time dapper young Bill has added a pair of solid hood sides from Eastern Auto, painted to match whatever stock color the car was. It also has a pair of fog lights. But the thing to realize is that young Bill is not only a good-looking guy, but he’s also nattily dressed for a night on the town…and so is his shiny new ’36 Ford coupe. That’s not his house in the background, and he’s got that big smile for someone else who’s taking the photo. I assume that would be his date for the evening, and they’re all quite pleased with the whole ensemble.