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.