DIS­TINC­TIVE DEUCE

Hot Rod Deluxe - - Contents - • WORDS & PICS: STEPHAN SZANTAI • CAR: LYNN BIRD

In­spired by a 1950s hot rod but with a look all its own.

One Deuce coupe fol­lows an­other, but not all play by the rules. Take the blue-green three-win­dow ex­am­ple here, the prop­erty of Lynn Bird. Be­sides the some­what un­usual color, the car stands out thanks to the fen­der treat­ment, with a bobbed pair fit­ted to only the rear. This look gained ac­cep­tance dur­ing the 1950s, due in part to projects such as the highly revered Lloyd Bakan ma­roon three-win­dow. It ap­peared in Rod & Cus­tom mag­a­zine in 1956 (fea­tur­ing mo­tor­cy­cle fend­ers in front) and on a mem­o­rable cover of HOT ROD mag­a­zine in Oc­to­ber 1957. Parked next to a swim­ming pool with two bathing beau­ties pos­ing next to it, the ve­hi­cle cre­ated quite a stir at the time. (Eric Rick­man took that photo stand­ing on a lad­der in the pool.) It was also se­lected to be dis­played at the 2007 Grand Na­tional Road­ster Show as part of a spe­cial ex­hibit cel­e­brat­ing the 75 Most Sig­nif­i­cant ’32 Ford Hot Rods of All Time.

Bird’s knowl­edge of the Bakan coupe is a tes­ta­ment to his ap­pre­ci­a­tion for tra­di­tional hot rods, not a big sur­prise con­sid­er­ing he has been wrench­ing on them since the 1960s. The for­mer build­ing en­gi­neer, now re­tired, re­calls, “I grew up in the South Bay [south­west of L.a.—ed.], grad­u­at­ing in 1967. The lo­cal scene was more about ’55 Chevys and such. There were very few hot rods, but that

was my in­ter­est, be­cause I started when I was 12 with car mod­els. They were re­ally big in the 1960s. They made ’32 Fords, coupes, and all kinds of neat kits.”

The South Bay of­fered a great car scene, and he re­mem­bers cruis­ing to an A&W Root Beer stand in Car­son, a hop­ping place at the time. Although hot rods re­mained a rare oc­cur­rence, the scene be­gan em­brac­ing them once again in the early to mid-1970s, with folks start­ing to build resto rods.

Bird’s jour­ney through our hobby in­volved a ’39 Ford coupe dur­ing high school, fol­lowed by many other in­ter­est­ing rides, such as a ’32 Ford five-win­dow coupe and a ’30 Dodge truck. Around 1990, he grew tired of the street rod/bil­let scene, so he went back in time and built a chopped ’56 Ford with no mod­ern ameni­ties. This led to con­nect­ing with the Chislers Car Club, which would even­tu­ally morph into the Bur­bank Chop­pers be­fore the turn of the cen­tury. Bird, who wrenched on friend’s cars as a side job, ended up help­ing such club mem­bers as Jon Fisher, Aaron Ka­han, and artist Keith Weesner with their projects.

Hav­ing de­vel­oped close ties with other like­minded en­thu­si­asts,

Bird also launched a pri­vate an­nual cruise called the Palos Verdes Hot Rod Run, gath­er­ing a who’s-who of the Socal scene. It al­lows him to en­joy his nu­mer­ous ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing three Ford pick­ups dated 1927, 1929, and 1932. But he has many other trea­sures in his garage, such as a ’32 Vic­to­ria, and a dozen cars wait­ing to be re­vived.

And then there’s the blue-green ’32 coupe on these pages. While the his­tory of its last four decades has been well doc­u­mented, not much is known be­fore that (see side­bar). Bird has per­formed the res­ur­rec­tion pretty much on his own, start­ing with the orig­i­nal chas­sis, fit­ted with a sturdy X-mem­ber. It then re­ceived a heavy Deuce dropped I-beam and a 9-inch Ford rearend, guided by ’36 Ford wish­bones and rear springs. Com­bin­ing a 3.55 ring-and-pin­ion and a 1963 Borg­warner T10 trans­mis­sion make for com­fort­able free­way drives, with the V8 hap­pily hum­ming at ac­cept­able revs.

Speak­ing of the engine, Bird se­lected a 270ci Dodge Red Ram

Hemi due to its good looks and fairly small di­men­sions, es­pe­cially com­pared to the larger Chrysler and De­soto Hemis. This pow­er­plant, which equipped a siz­able por­tion of the 1955 Dodge line, has been hopped up by our man with var­i­ous 1950s com­po­nents, the most ob­vi­ous be­ing the trio of Stromberg carbs sit­ting atop a 3x2 Of­fen­hauser man­i­fold. Check out the hand­some 1953-1954 Dodge Red Ram valve cov­ers, too, along with the Borg­warner coil and vin­tage Ech­lin volt­age reg­u­la­tor mounted on the cherry fire­wall. Other con­tem­po­rary, re­li­able parts hide in­side the block, in­clud­ing Ross pis­tons and an Isk­ende­rian camshaft, an ap­pro­pri­ate brand con­sid­er­ing Ed Isk­ende­rian founded the com­pany just af­ter WWII. Burnt fumes make their way out via a stain­less sys­tem crafted by Bird.

With the rolling chas­sis han­dled, he could then con­cen­trate on re­viv­ing the shell. The men­ac­ing hot rod at­ti­tude comes cour­tesy of a se­verely chopped top, re­spec­tively 3¾ inches front and 3¼ back. The rest of the body re­mains stock, in­clud­ing the three door hinges on each side. You might be­lieve the ex­te­rior color came from a 1950s au­to­mo­bile paint chart, but not so. Bird mixed his own hue and ap­plied it in a makeshift spray booth in his home garage, with ex­cel­lent results.

Other clev­erly picked parts dress the shell, such as ’48 Chevy tail­lights, owner-made rear nerf bars, and a pair of round vin­tage mir­rors of un­cer­tain ori­gin, typ­i­cally found on Bri­tish cars. A jack of all trades, Bird also han­dled the in­te­rior ameni­ties, start­ing with the seat cov­ers and door pan­els. It ul­ti­mately took more than four decades to re­vive this old hot rod, but Bird is pleased to now drive a rare Deuce, built en­tirely by him­self on a some­what lim­ited bud­get.

> An out­take from Eric Rick­man’s June 1957 photo shoot of Bakan’s coupe shows the sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween it and Bird’s Deuce. > Lynn Bird’s Deuce isn’t a high­boy, nor is it a full-fend­ered car. It hov­ers some­where in be­tween. The idea of in­stalling fend­ers in the back but not in the front isn’t new, as sev­eral hot rods built in the 1950s adopted this con­fig­u­ra­tion, in­clud­ing the Lloyd Bakan three-win­dow coupe.

> The use of 5.50-16 and 7.50-16 bias-plies con­trib­ute to the coupe’s rake. These Fire­stone tires fit over gen­uine 16x4 and re­versed 16x5 Ford wheels. In the back, note the bobbed fend­ers, though Bird is toy­ing with the idea of mount­ing four stock fend­ers.

> The front sus­pen­sion uti­lizes a mix of well-tried and time­less com­po­nents: Mor­drop beam dropped in the 1960s, Pete & Jake tube shocks, split wish­bones, 1932 spin­dles, and vin­tage Ford F-100 steer­ing box. The fac­tory grille in­sert painted off-white is a neat touch.

> A gen­uine South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Tim­ing As­so­ci­a­tion badge bolts to a chromed, dropped head­light bar, which also wel­comes a pair of BLC head­lights. This de­sir­able SCTA me­mento was given to Bird by a good friend.

> Bolted to the 1955 Hemi, the pol­ished Of­fen­hauser man­i­fold wel­comes a trio of Stromberg 97s. A Mal­lory dis­trib­u­tor dis­penses the sparks to the cylin­ders.

> Be­low: Within the 1950s Hemi fam­ily, Dodge’s 270ci Red Ram of­fers the ad­van­tage of be­ing fairly com­pact, thus al­low­ing builders to keep the fire­wall un­mo­lested on a ’32 Ford. Hav­ing no hood sides im­proves cool­ing, but Bird says he might in­stall them in the fu­ture— should they clear the valve cov­ers.

> The dash re­tains some of its stock ameni­ties, such as the en­gine­turned in­sert and glove­box to the right, the lat­ter be­ing unique to Deluxe (three-win­dow) Deuces, with the ex­cep­tion of Euro­pean­made ’32 sedans (but they did not fea­ture doors). Three Ste­wartWarner gauges re­side in the mid­dle.

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