COVER STORY: “FOR DIS­POSAL”

Hot Rod Deluxe - - Contents - • WORDS: DREW HARDIN • PICS: WES AL­LI­SON • CAR: BILL & MIKE MCGRATH

The quin­tes­sen­tial hot rod barn find.

CRUSTY. You would think with all the car col­lec­tors and au­to­mo­tive prospec­tors out there scour­ing the world’s barns, garages, stor­age sheds, fields, and the like for hid­den au­to­mo­tive trea­sure, that the sup­ply of “barn find” cars would, at some point, dry up.

Maybe so, but as this car proves, they are still out there.

And un­like some of the “barn finds” we hear about these days that re­ally aren’t—mom’s old Mus­tang that’s been in the garage since the 1980s doesn’t count—this ’32 stan­dard road­ster was found in an ac­tual barn, parked since 1955.

“It’s amaz­ing to find a ’32 road­ster at all, but to find one like this…,” said Mike Mcgrath, who with his fa­ther, Bill, are the car’s cur­rent care­tak­ers.

“It’s amaz­ing to find a ’32 road­ster at all, but to find one like this…” —Mike Mcgrath

If you’re into old Fords, you likely know the Mc­graths as the pro­pri­etors of the Early Ford Store in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s pic­turesque San Di­mas. They live and breathe Fo­moco prod­ucts from the 1920s to the late 1950s and knew ex­actly what they were look­ing at when they first laid eyes on the road­ster.

Mike’s “like this” com­ment de­scribes the old Ford on sev­eral lev­els. That it’s a Deuce road­ster makes it the Holy Grail for many hot rod­ders. It’s also an early ’32 road­ster, with de­tails that “real sickos,” as Mike de­scribed him­self, will just geek out over. It has the early sin­gle-fin­ger-hold hood hooks, for ex­am­ple, very de­sir­able pieces for pe­riod-cor­rect rod builders. “We just sold a set like them for $700,” Mike says. It also has early doors, with ex­tra holes to at­tach the side cur­tains.

The cur­tains and the top are orig­i­nal. “They’ve never been off, I’m sure,” Mike states. “They’re bolted to the doors, and you couldn’t get them off if you wanted to.”

The leather up­hol­stery, or what’s left of it, is orig­i­nal, too. The car’s hot rod roots show in the old Ste­wart-warner gauges in the dash. It also has a gaso­line-fu­eled South­wind heater un­der the dash, and a Fire­stone af­ter­mar­ket ra­dio, some­thing Mike says he’s never seen be­fore.

“Like this” also de­scribes what is a largely in­tact car. Though it was a hot rod back in the 1940s, it was a mild one. Its fend­ers are still on; and though the cowl vent is filled, the grille shell is not. The grille is still topped by the ’33 Ford pickup ra­di­a­tor cap vis­i­ble in old pho­tos of the car. The front axle and rearend are “bone stock,” Bill says. The wind­shield stan­chions are un­chopped, though they have been ro­tated to al­low the wind­shield to lay back some. That change, plus the laid­back top bows, gives the roof line a chopped look.

The pho­tos of the hot rod “when it still shined,” as Bill de­scribes it, show the car with a four-banger un­der the hood, topped by a pair of two-barrel carbs. At some point in its life, the road­ster was up­graded with a bunch of parts from a ’39 Ford, in­clud­ing its hy­draulic brakes, trans­mis­sion, ped­als, tail­lights, and even the horns un­der­hood. The en­gine in it now is a 59A flat­head, too new to have come out of the donor ’39 but prob­a­bly trans­planted at the same time.

“It’s free, it turns, the oil in it is clean, and it’ll likely start, though we haven’t tried to yet,” Mike says about the flat­head.

The road­ster also ex­hibits some clues to its use prior to go­ing into Rip Van Win­kle mode. It lived on a ranch in Eureka, a ru­ral town along North­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s coast. A crude an­gle-iron bumper hitch is fixed to the back, likely used to tow a trailer haul­ing wood, dirt, or other ranch de­bris. The tail­panel be­low the rum­ble seat lid was cut out of the body, and the rum­ble seat re­moved, mak­ing more room to haul some sort of pay­load.

The Mc­graths have the 1946 pink slip the Eureka rancher got when he bought the car. The road­ster still wears its li­cense plates, the rear one show­ing a 1955 tag—the last time it was regis­tered.

That the car had out­lived its use­ful­ness to the rancher is ev­i­dent on a note writ­ten on the bill of sale he gave to the man who took possession from him: “Ve­hi­cle given to new owner for dis­posal.”

That new owner was Ron Cochran, a Cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia col­lec­tor who had heard of the car and be­came its new owner in 2015. As it turned out, he was a cus­tomer of the Mc­graths, “and he knew we’d be re­ally into it,” Mike says. “We’re ap­pre­cia­tive that he called us. He knew it’s junk we like.”

Free­ing the car from its 60-year hi­ber­na­tion was quite a chore. “Took us all day,” Bill re­mem­bers. The tires were a ruin and the brake shoes locked solid, so there was no rolling it. “We used a fork­lift with 10-foot forks,” Bill says. Once they got the car to their shop, they took the wheels off and found the brake drums so full of mud they had to use ham­mers to knock the gunk out. Re­mark­ably, though, “the brake shoes were brand new,” Mike says. “You wouldn’t even need to re­line them.”

The road­ster now sits on wheels the Mc­graths had in the shop “with tires good enough to roll,” Bill says.

Is a restora­tion in the car’s fu­ture? No. “I wouldn’t want to re­store it,” Bill says. “I want to en­joy it as it is.” Mike even joked—we think it was a joke, any­way—about mist­ing the car with hair­spray be­fore they dis­played it at the Grand Na­tional Road­ster Show—where we first saw it, in the Suede Palace—so passersby wouldn’t rub off the dirt ac­cu­mu­lated on the sheet­metal’s crusty sur­face.

As luck would have it, within two weeks of buy­ing the road­ster, the Mc­graths bought an­other sur­vivor Deuce, this one an un­chopped three-win­dow that was last regis­tered in 1954 and has been garage-bound since 1961. “It’s a per­fect body, the nicest I’ve ever seen,” Bill says. Ev­i­dence of its hot rod past shows up in a white Nau­gahyde roof in­sert and chromed win­dow frames. Mike be­lieves it was parked dur­ing the mid­dle of an OHV con­ver­sion that was never fin­ished.

That car is cur­rently blown apart, and the fa­ther-son team hopes to dis­play it at next year’s GNRS. It paired with the road­ster in ar­rested de­cay would make quite the show­stop­per.

> This sur­vivor ’32 Ford stan­dard road­ster looks right at home in the Mcgrath’s Early Ford Store, sur­rounded by the vin­tage parts and mem­o­ra­bilia Bill and Mike have col­lected over the years.

> When its black paint still shined, the road­ster was pow­ered by a Model B four-banger with two twos. Note that the ’33 Ford pickup ra­di­a­tor cap seen on the car in these pho­tos is still on it. “It’s amaz­ing it wasn’t stolen over all those years,” Mike says. > It took a full day’s work, and a fork­lift, to free the road­ster from its tomb-like barn.

> The known his­tory of this road­ster starts with a 1946 Cal­i­for­nia pink slip, the year a Eureka, Cal­i­for­nia, rancher bought it. Mike guesses that, like a lot of young men in those days, he bought it right af­ter re­turn­ing to civil­ian life af­ter the war.

> Mike fig­ures around the same time the car was up­graded with its ’39 equip­ment (note the ’39 horns and ’39 volt­age reg­u­la­tor on the fire­wall), it also re­ceived this 59A flat­head. It’s ba­si­cally a stock en­gine, though it is fit­ted with head­ers. The hard­line run­ning from the fire­wall to the car­bu­re­tor is the fuel source for the South­wind heater.

relic road­ster other The Mc­graths have no plans for the > that it is, and dis­play than to ap­pre­ci­ate the time cap­sule back in time, too. it oc­ca­sion­ally so oth­ers can travel

> Note how the tail­light panel was cut away from the body. It and the rum­ble-seat lid were re­moved to im­prove the road­ster’s haul­ing ca­pac­ity when it was put into ser­vice at the ranch. The an­gle-iron trailer hitch would in­di­cate the car towed, too. > Some­one strung a wire from the trail­ing edge of the left rear fender to the hitch. That one’s a head-scratcher, though Mike be­lieves it was done to lash down the rat­tling fender. “It looks like the car was used around the ranch as a farm implement,” Mike says. “And that’s what started to kill it.”

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