A Per­fect Bal­ance

Tra­di­tion Meets Tech­nol­ogy in This Ul­tra-Black High­boy


Jeanne and Carl Booth’s ’32 Ford con­vert­ible

When it comes to strik­ing a per­fect bal­ance in a hot rod, there’s al­most noth­ing more dif­fi­cult than blend­ing tra­di­tion with moder­nity. Get the wheels, tires, or other de­tails wrong and you’ll be scram­bling to ex­plain a vi­sion that went off the rails. Get them right, how­ever, like Jeanne and Carl Booth did with their ’32 high­boy, and you at­tract all sorts of at­ten­tion and ac­co­lades; in­clud­ing a STREET ROD­DER Top 100 Pick at Louisville in 2017, as well as mak­ing our Top 10 list for the year.

To nail the blacker-than-black Deuce’s de­tails, the Booths struck a bal­ance with builder Bill Jagenow at Broth­ers Cus­tom Au­to­mo­tive in the De­troit area. He’s known for tra­di­tion­ally styled rods driven by old-school mills, but the Booths in­sisted their road­ster in­cor­po­rate a few 21st cen­tury el­e­ments.

“We wanted the worry-free drive­abil­ity of a modern car, but in a clas­sic-look­ing pack­age,” Jeanne says. “That meant an elec­tron­i­cally fuel-in­jected en­gine and an over­drive trans­mis­sion be­cause we planned to drive it as much as pos­si­ble.”

The Booths al­ready had a strong foun­da­tion in a set of Downs fram­erails and a rare Downs fiber­glass replica of the Dear­born Deuce steel body. They also had a new Chevro­let Per­for­mance LS3 at their dis­posal, along with a GM 6L80 six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. That was back in 2012, when the idea for the tech­nol­ogy-in­fused, tra­di­tion­ally styled high­boy was hatched.

“It doesn’t seem all that long ago, but at the time, the LS in­stal­la­tion trend was re­ally pick­ing up steam with resto­mod mus­cle car builders, but it was just start­ing to catch on with street rod­ders,” Jagenow says. “There weren’t nearly as many op­tions for hot rods and no­body, not even the resto­mod guys, had any ex­pe­ri­ence with the 6L80 trans­mis­sion. It was a real learn­ing curve.”

Adding to the chal­lenge was the de­ci­sion to ditch the LS3’s orig­i­nal plas­tic in­take man­i­fold and go with an In­glese eight­stack in­duc­tion sys­tem. Thanks to its eight throt­tle blades, it en­ables con­sid­er­ably more air­flow than the LS3’s orig­i­nal throt­tle body, am­pli­fy­ing even the slight­est twitch of the throt­tle.

“With the fiber­glass body and no hood or fend­ers, the car is so light that it takes al­most no ef­fort to get the car mov­ing quickly,” Jagenow says. “Con­se­quently, we found that even cruis­ing at 40 mph the en­gine uses such lit­tle air and fuel that the con­troller thinks it is idling. It was an un­ex­pected twist that we ad­dressed with new en­gine map­ping.”

Sim­i­larly, the Booths in­sisted on an elec­tronic push-but­ton trans­mis­sion shifter, which came from PCS, which would push up and out of the way when not in use, keep­ing the cabin clean and clut­ter-free. Theirs was one of the first matched with the high-tech 6L80 and the LS3 en­gine, re­quir­ing some cus­tom con­troller work from au­to­matic trans­mis­sion guru Mark Bowler.

“It was an all-new com­bi­na­tion in need of

an all-new con­troller so­lu­tion,” Jagenow says. “Mark Bowler re­ally came through on that one and as a re­sult, the drive­abil­ity of the car is sec­ond to none.”

There is no power steer­ing or air con­di­tion­ing be­cause a car like this just doesn’t need them; and along with the cus­tom tun­ing, the en­gine also wears finned valve cov­ers from Green­ing Au­to­mo­tive that hide the LS3’s un­sightly ig­ni­tion coil packs, as well as cus­tom, in­side-the-frame head­ers.

“The valve cov­ers and head­ers just didn’t ex­ist when we started the project,” Jagenow says. “So many of the de­tails on the car were cus­tom made as much for ne­ces­sity as they were for aes­thet­ics.”

And speak­ing of aes­thet­ics, there’s no ar­gu­ing with the car’s tra­di­tional high­boy stance. Jagenow kept it sim­ple and dev­as­tat­ingly ef­fec­tive, bob­bing the frame to move the fuel tank into the trunk and cre­at­ing a rear roll pan to clean up the rear ap­pear­ance. Up front, there’s a stock-ap­pear­ing Deuce grille and ’34 Ford com­mer­cial head­lamps. That’s all.

Next, the Downs body was painstak­ingly block­sanded to cre­ate the im­pec­ca­bly smooth sur­face on which was laid a few coats of what’s now known as “Bill’s Road­ster Black” from PPG. Rather than straight black paint, his mix is pretty much the car­bon black toner used to blend with other paints. It’s an in­tense black that shows a mile deep, and be­lieve us, we know. The mir­ror­like fin­ish re­flected ev­ery peb­ble for 100 yards in ev­ery di­rec­tion dur­ing our photo shoot, mak­ing it one of the more dif­fi­cult cars we’ve pho­tographed lately.

“The paint is so deep and smooth that peo­ple at shows can’t tell whether it’s a fiber­glass or steel body,” Carl says. “Those who are con­vinced it’s steel are floored when they hear the truth.”

The car was so very black that the de­ci­sion was made to add a pair of par­al­lel pin­stripes that fol­low the up­per body side mold­ings, giv­ing the car a sub­tle yet ef­fec­tive ac­cent. Jagenow also in­sisted the black paint be com­ple­mented with black steel wheels and black­wall tires, go­ing against his cus­tomers’ orig­i­nal wishes.

“I had al­ready pur­chased white­walls for the car be­cause that’s what I re­ally wanted, but some­times the cus­tomer isn’t al­ways right,” Carl chuck­les. “As soon as I saw it all-black, with the black­wall tires, I knew Bill was cor­rect. I’ve now got a set of white­walls for sale!”

In­deed, the Booths’ Deuce is as hand­some as any high­boy we’ve en­coun­tered lately; and its deftly in­te­grated tech­nolo­gies only en­hance the hot-rod­ding ex­pe­ri­ence. For those who’d rather hit the open road than re-jet a car­bu­re­tor, it strikes the per­fect bal­ance.

For the dig­i­tal ex­pe­ri­ence: https://bit.ly/2K9mIkx

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