Phil Cer­cone’s Radical 1932 Dodge Coupe

Hot Rod - - Contents - Chuck Vranas Wes Al­li­son

Much like a mad sci­en­tist an­a­lyz­ing parts laid out on a table, a sim­i­lar scene was play­ing out at Wil­son & Steely Kus­tom Coach­works, the for­mer Hud­son deal­er­ship in Athol, Mas­sachusetts. In­stead of a table, the shape of a 1932 Dodge coupe body lay in wait, im­me­di­ately rec­og­niz­able in bare metal and perched atop a moun­tain­ous chas­sis look­ing like it was ready to take on the end of days.

Shop co-owner Steve Wil­son ex­plained what led him to cre­ate such a radical hot rod for long­time client Phil Cer­cone. Steve ac­tu­ally found the Dodge lurk­ing in the base­ment of a di­lap­i­dated house wait­ing to be torn down, and strangely enough, the coupe had seen plenty of duty on the streets in the early 1960s. This hap­pened to co­in­cide with Phil hav­ing re­cently seen Mad Max: Fury Road. Mak­ing one of his reg­u­lar vis­its, he saw the hulk and made an im­me­di­ate con­nec­tion to it. A ghoul­ish aura flowed across the weath­ered sheet­metal body, taunt­ing him to make a de­ci­sion to save it from its cur­rent state and give it another chance—this time, with a twist. That twist

would lead Steve down a path of fus­ing a vin­tage body with that of a mad sci­en­tist’s vi­sion of cre­at­ing a pre­run­ner-styled hot rod ca­pa­ble of hard-core off-road­ing. “I ap­proached Steve with a rudi­men­tary draw­ing of what I wanted to build and his crazy—yet ge­nius— mind brought it all to life,” Phil said.

Wil­son de­signed the radical con­cept with just the right amount of at­ti­tude, start­ing with a set of stock outer ’rails. Th­ese were in­cor­po­rated from the fire­wall back, then shaved and boxed for added strength us­ing plate steel. For added clear­ance, the rear ’rails were kicked 10 inches, bobbed 10 inches, and tied to a cus­tom rear cross­mem­ber that also func­tions as a spare-tire bas­ket. There’s also an up­per rear cross­mem­ber act­ing as a ra­di­a­tor sup­port and a rock-solid cen­ter cross­mem­ber fab­ri­cated from rec­tan­gu­lar steel, clocked flat to the ground and se­cured in place. For­ward of the fire­wall, Steve fab­ri­cated cus­tom ’rails from 2x6-inch rec­tan­gu­lar steel and grad­u­ally ta­pered them to look stock in ap­pear­ance while also kick­ing them 8 inches and bob­bing them 9 inches. It’s all tied to­gether by a cus­tom front cross­mem­ber fabbed from rec­tan­gu­lar steel that also in­cor­po­rates a D-style shackle re­cov­ery point. Steve added even more cre­ativ­ity by bend­ing up a cus­tom stinger. This acts as a sup­port for the front up­per shock mounts from Ruff Stuff Fab­ri­ca­tion and the head­lights. A cus­tom mount for the Smit­ty­bilt X20-10K winch is a per­fect an­chor for the unit. Other cus­tom ac­cents in­clude one-off side rock

rails with dim­ple-die plate steps and a six-point rollcage, plus roof rack.

Out back, the team started with a Dana D70HD rearend hous­ing

(73 inches wide) packed with all the right bits. To han­dle the abuse, a Yukon Gear & Axle 4.56 ring and pin­ion was com­bined with a Pow­er­trax Lock­Right locker linked to stock axles and spin­dles, du­ally hubs, and a Rok­men Off-Road Rid­dler bomb-proof dif­fer­en­tial cover to keep all the guts. It’s set in place with a pair of Ruf­fStuff 48-inch Ul­ti­mate Rock Crawl­ing Trail­ing Arms fea­tur­ing a ¼-inch-thick main plate bent in three places for max­i­mum strength. It’s cou­pled to tri­an­gu­lated up­per links with chro­moly Heim joints and a pair of ORI STX struts with 12 inches of stroke. Th­ese fea­ture du­al­pres­sur­ized cham­bers and three-stage, ve­loc­ity-sen­si­tive com­pres­sion damp­en­ing with a pair of Fox 2.0 Fac­tory Se­ries By­pass Pig­gy­back shocks.

Up front, there’s a cus­tom axle with Dana 44 forged in­ner Cs and Crane Axle forged chro­moly outer Cs matched to 1978 Chevy Blazer six-lug hubs and spin­dles. W&S de­signed the ra­dius-arm sus­pen­sion from scratch. The up­pers are an­chored with front forged chro­moly Bal­lis­tic Fab­ri­ca­tion Heim joints with poly bush­ings; the low­ers wear front forged chro­moly Bal­lis­tic Fab­ri­ca­tion Heim joints with poly bush­ings. Rear chro­moly units are all se­cured with Bal­lis­tic Fab­ri­ca­tion tube adapters and welded to the chas­sis us­ing Artec In­dus­tries ra­dius-arm brack­ets. Fi­nally, a cus­tom Pan­hard bar with chro­moly Heim joints is se­cured us­ing Artec In­dus­tries Pan­hard mount brack­ets. ORI STX struts with 12 inches of stroke soak up the bumps.

The nav­i­ga­tion setup in­cludes a PSC Mo­tor­sports dou­ble-ended hy­draulic ram cylin­der with 2.5-inch bore and 8-inch stroke, deftly matched to a Char­lynn Ea­ton load-re­act­ing steer­ing or­bital valve. Fluid moves through a PSC Mo­tor­sports P-se­ries pump with a re­mote can chilled by a Derale Elec­tra-Cool cooler. To tame the beast, a Corvette dual mas­ter with a dou­ble 8-inch booster linked to a Speed­way Mo­tors uni­ver­sal frame-mount pedal as­sem­bly pushes fluid through stain­less lines to GM ¾-ton truck vented discs with two-pis­ton calipers. The rears were an­chored, thanks to a Ruf­fStuff disc-brake con­ver­sion kit and the sys­tem also fea­tures a Sum­mit Rac­ing vac­uum pump, resid­ual valves, and an ad­justable pro­por­tion­ing valve from Speed­way Mo­tors.

A set of KMC wheels help get it through the muck while still mak­ing a state­ment. Up front, 16x9 KMC XD300 Pul­ley model wheels wear Nitto Trail Grap­pler LT285/75R16 rub­ber com­bined with rear 18x9 KMC XD129 Holeshot wheels topped with Nitto Trail Grap­pler LT 37/12.50R18 rub­ber.

To pack a punch be­tween the ’rails, Steve con­tacted Blue­print En­gines for one of its 383ci GM long-block V8s packed with a speed shop full of go­fast goods that gen­er­ate 430 hp from 10:1 com­pres­sion. A four-bolt main block was filled with a new cast-steel

crank linked to forged con­nect­ing rods capped with forged pis­tons. The mill gets a heavy thump from a hy­draulic-roller cam with added gusto from a pair of Blue Print Mus­cle Se­ries alu­minum cylin­der heads. Up top, Wil­son added a Weiand Hi-Ram tun­nel-ram in­take with FiTech’s Go EFI 2x4 dual-quad sys­tem com­plete with eight high­flow in­jec­tors, built-in pres­sure reg­u­la­tor, and in­ter­nal MAP sen­sor. A rear-mounted Cham­pion Cool­ing Sys­tems dual-pass alu­minum ra­di­a­tor was matched to twin 16-inch cool­ing fans, along with a cus­tom alu­minum ra­di­a­tor shroud to keep it cool. It all sparks to life through an MSD Pro-Bil­let ready-to-run dis­trib­u­tor with spent gases dump­ing through a set of Speed­way Mo­tors fend­er­well head­ers with insert col­lec­tors from Car Chem­istry. Power moves rear­ward through a TCI Au­to­mo­tive TH350 StreetFighter packed with its Break­away 2,500-rpm stall con­verter linked to a cus­tom drive­shaft from Mitchell Driv­e­train.

The body­work started with a well­bal­anced 33/8-inch chop, a 2-inch chan­nel, and shaved door han­dles and cowl lights. The rear valance was then re­moved and the rear quar­ter-panels were boxed for strength. A cus­tom fire­wall and floor panels were made to be re­mov­able for ease of ser­vice, and a trans­mis­sion tun­nel was fab­ri­cated from 1/8-inch steel to add pro­tec­tion from the drive­shaft. For color, Phil wanted some­thing that would suit the ad­vent of the apoca­lypse and be durable enough to sur­vive it, so Steve coated the body in Mon­staliner. Once ev­ery­thing was prepped, the coat­ing of Py­ro­clas­tic gray was ac­cented by the chas­sis’ SEM satin black.

The stock dash is re­worked with a cus­tom flat panel to house a Dakota Dig­i­tal VHX1100 gauge clus­ter with four pro­gram­mable dig­i­tal mes­sage cen­ters. Ad­di­tional data is mon­i­tored through a FiTech touch­screen to keep track of fuel in­jec­tion and ig­ni­tion, while an sPOD Uni­ver­sal eight-cir­cuit pro­gram­mable touch­screen power-con­trol cen­ter han­dles all lights and ac­ces­sories. To com­plete the electrics, an Amer­i­can Au­towire Se­vere Duty Uni­ver­sal Kit fea­tures a fully sealed 22-cir­cuit fuse box.

Steer­ing moves through a cus­tom col­umn topped with a light­weight 14-inch wheel from Lon­gacre Rac­ing Prod­ucts and shifts pull from a Hurst Quar­ter Stick unit. A pair of Smit­ty­bilt XRC Sus­pen­sion seats are cov­ered in black and matched to Cor­beau three­p­oint, 2-inch, dou­ble-re­lease har­nesses.

Any way you look at the coupe, it oozes at­ti­tude. But it’s one thing to have the look and an en­tirely dif­fer­ent mat­ter to back it up. We were treated to an ex­hi­bi­tion of its capabilities by Steve, and rest as­sured, it’s as evil as it looks. This war ham­mer can take on ev­ery­thing from off-road­ing to driv­ing to the lo­cal cruise night, and we dig it!

01] To bring plenty of zoom to the party, a 383ci Chevy small-block from Blue­print En­gines cranks out 430 hp on the dyno. Cool bits in­clude Mus­cle Se­ries alu­minum heads, Weiand tun­nel ram, FiTech’s Go EFI 2x4 dual-quad sys­tem, and MSD ig­ni­tion.02] The in­te­rior fea­tures gauges from Dakota Dig­i­tal, a steer­ing wheel from Lon­gacre Rac­ing Prod­ucts, a shifter from Hurst, and a pair of Smit­ty­bilt XRC Sus­pen­sion seats.

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