Iconic ’32 Ford is a Hot Rodders Dream Platform

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Co-written by Graham Henderson and Stefanie Zalutko, the duo brainstormed about an “All I Want for Christmas is a ’32 Ford” theme that snowballed into a collaborative series dedicated to the desirable Ford Deuce. Such a topic all but guarantees coverage of epic proportions, including historic notes about the classic platform, uncovering an impressive ’32 Ford collection in the Tri-State area, and a heartfelt interview with Hall of Famer Bert Emick – former President of the All Star Circuit of Champions, an American motorsports sanctioning body of winged sprint car racing founded in 1970. Pour a cup of hot cocoa (or spiked holiday punch – whatever tickles your fancy) and prepare yourself for a memorable series like no other. But first, we lay the foundation for our “Vehicle Spotlight Sunday”.

A ’32 Ford, Who Knew…

Such timeless cars typically have three things in common: beautiful styling, thrilling performance, and a pristine level of innovation. We’ll argue this fact with anyone, there is practically no greater classic hot-rodding superstar than the ’32 Ford. The smooth American lines were attractive from the factory and downright sexy when tweaked by hot rodders. A flathead V8 engine finally gave the masses access to an affordable level of power. That’s a significant milestone in automotive history. Its powerplant served as the mechanical foundation for imaginative gearheads wanting to go after competition victories and all-out speed records.

The ’32 Ford was FoMoCo’s follow-up to the hugely successful 1927-1931 Model A. It was designated the Model 18 when equipped with a V8 and a Model B when fitted with a four-cylinder engine. While its platform was all new, the car’s biggest feature was its eight cylinders under the hood. Putting out 65 horsepower, the 221-cubic inch (3.6-liter) V8 may not sound particularly robust these days. But back in an era where a 40 horsepower four-cylinder was the norm, this was big news. And a brand new 1932 Ford Roadster started at just $495 ($8,479 in current USD). Even as America recovered from the devastation of the 1929 stock crashinduced Great Depression, Ford still sold 298,647 V8-powered cars during 1932.

The Gem of all Hot Rods

“That’s what really set it apart,” said Chuck Wanamaker, third generation owner of Waldwick Auto Service Center and Franklin Auto Care in Waldwick, NJ. “For one, the ’32 Ford is appealing to hot rodders because it was the first year of a mass produced V8 by Ford. Also, the doors closed flush like we know cars today. On the ’31, they overlapped. So, the ’32 is just a much cleaner look,” said Wanamaker. As with many highly-desirable models, the sky is the limit with potential mods—although not necessary with such a purist platform.

And no shortage of variety exits from which to choose, for Ford produced a two-door roadster, two-door cabriolet, four-door phaeton, two-door and four-door sedans, four-door ‘woodie’ station wagon, two-door convertible sedan, panel and sedan deliveries, five-window coupe, a sport coupe (stationary soft top), the three-window deluxe coupe, and a pickup. Some aspire their entire lives to own such a prestigious piece of hot-rodding history. Wanamaker is fortunate to own a handful: a red pickup and two-door soft top, a yellow two-door hardtop, a two-door brown hardtop, and a green two-door hardtop with the title of “project build”.

Mass Appeal

Thanks to both the stock flathead V8’s power and its responsiveness to performance upgrades, it became popular with both pre- and post-war enthusiasts. Hot rod ’32 Fords likely entered the Baby Boomers’ lexicon through pop culture references like the Beach Boy’s 1963 hit “Little Deuce Coupe” and a starring role in George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola’s 1973 film American Graffiti. Newer cars were certainly more cutting edge in comparison, but younger hot rodders embraced the attractive classic and carried its legacy forward. The post-war American manufacturing boom also contributed to the Model 18’s increased prevalence and iconic status. Many aftermarket suppliers made parts and accessories specifically for the ’32 Ford. And it was the choice during post-war land speed and drag racing.

On the National Stage

The 1932 Ford’s record at the acclaimed Grand National Roadster Show in California seals its fate as a hot rodders dream platform. Since 1950, twenty 1932 Fords have won the prestigious “America’s Most Beautiful Roadster” award. That’s double the number of victories by the second winningest model, the 1927 Ford. The tremendous impact of the 1932 Ford and its engine resonated through the 20th century and its influence continues to this very day. By the time the flathead Ford V8 went out of production after 1953, it had left a legacy so great that V8 engines became the standard for American performance. Through the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, V8s were the engines of choice for performance enthusiasts. Really, without the 1932 Ford and its early V8, American muscle cars of both past and present may have never come into existence.

Enthusiasts everywhere are gracious for classic car builders like Wanamaker who preserve the integrity of such an unforgettable period in automotive history. Join us next time as we get up and close and personal with his beautiful collection of ’32 Deuces.

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