This '32 Ford Coupe Proves That Classic is Always Cool
Gary McCormick’s ’32 Ford coupe
What does Gary McCormick mean when he says, “I like the doing”? He means that his favorite part of this hobby is creating a car. Seeing a new project come together—from the day the raw vehicle shows up to the day the finished street rod rolls into the sunlight—is just as much fun as driving it on the street or showing it off at a fairgrounds.
We got our first look at Gary’s beautiful blue '32 Ford coupe at the NSRA Street Rod Nationals in Louisville in 2013 where we picked it as a STREET RODDER Top 100 selection (hotrod.com/articles/1932-ford-3-window-coupe). A few years before at the same event, we selected Gary’s 351-powered '49 Ford woodie for a Best Ford in a Ford award (hotrod.com/articles/1008sr-1949-ford-woodie).
There was hardly a time when Gary was not into hot rods. He was old enough to start getting interested in cars at a time when cars were especially interesting. The late ’50s and early ’60s were a golden era for rods and customs and a remarkable period for factory cars. He says that when he wasn’t watching the local iron cruising the streets of East St. Louis, Illinois, he was reading about them in his favorite car magazines.
In the lifetime since then Gary’s interest has grown—and so has the list of cars that he’s owned. That list includes a little bit of everything from various time periods. Gary likes them all, but the cars he loves the most are '32 Fords.
Gray’s Garage is located in Metamora, Illinois, and Gary has teamed up with Everett and Chuck Gray on many cars—including the Shoebox woodie, but mostly Deuces—and had developed a close relationship with the father-son builders and their shop. This time it was Chuck who contacted Gary. Chuck had found this three-window coupe for sale at a local rod show. It was an already-started project, but the owner had died and the car was being sold by his family. The solid original body was in pieces and needed attention. Once it was at Gray’s Garage, the body came off the chassis and was stripped to bare metal.
The plan for the full-fendered three-window was to seamlessly blend old and new elements. Most of the new parts are found in the drivetrain. The rest of the car was finished with an eye toward traditional style. Gary Hagel replaced any remaining original wood with steel custom reinforcing. The top was left unchopped and door handles and hinges were kept in place. A
25-louver, four-piece hood from Rootlieb replaces the factory piece. The stainless steel grille insert was ordered from Dan Fink Metalworks. Bob Drake Reproductions provided the front and rear bumpers as well as the repro headlights. The LED taillights are from Johnson’s Hot
Rod Shop. A pair of vintage Cat Eye foglights makes a fantastic finishing detail. Precision Plating in Quincy, Illinois, gets credit for the beautiful fresh chrome.
When Gary bought the car, it came with framerails and traditional suspension parts from Pete & Jakes, which were kept. Everett made some modifications to beef up the ’rails. P&J parts include the chromed, drilled, and dropped I-beam axle, spindles, front shocks, Panhard bar, chrome hairpins, and Super Bell rear triangulated four-link. Aldan coilovers smooth out the ride in the back where a Currie 9-inch Ford rearend is loaded with 3.50:1 gears. Steering was improved with the addition of a Unisteer Performance box. Efficient braking is ensured with Wilwood discs at all four wheels and a Ford Crown Victoria master cylinder.
When choosing wheels and tires, Gary went with aluminum Artillery wheels and '40 Ford Standard hubcaps from The Wheelsmith.
The style is nostalgic but the 18x8 and 17x6 dimensions are more contemporary. They have been matched with BFGoodrich radial tires measuring 235/65R18 and 205/45R17.
The wheels were painted brown to match the interior and to contrast with the exterior finish. Chuck Gray performed the metalwork on the coupe before shooting the Lombard Blue PPG paint, a '31 Ford color. Brad Grimm loaded his brush with the same color and contributed some low-key pinstriping to the wheels. Gary said that he loved that shade of blue when he saw it on Joe Kugel’s
'32 Fordor several years ago. “I asked Joe, ‘Do you mind if I steal that color?’ He said, ‘Go ahead. I stole it off a roadster.’” That sedan now belongs to Deuce collector Gary Matranga; see it at hotrod.com/articles/a-1932ford-sedan-that-loves-to-travel.
As we told you, things get a little more modern under the hood. Gary has used a variety of engines to power his street rods—old, new, Ford,
Chevy. This time he chose a Chevy ZZ4 crate engine because, as he put it, “I wanted to try it and see how it worked.” Gary and the Grays didn’t modify the long-block much from its out-of-the-box condition, but added a FAST fuel injection system topped with a Billet Specialties air cleaner to feed the 350ci engine. Taylor wires deliver juice from the MSD ignition, and a Be
Cool aluminum radiator keeps the temperature just right. Steve Menke built the mandrel-bent exhaust system, carrying the gases from Doug’s Headers, with custom stainless mufflers tuning the sound. A brand-new GM 700-R4 transmission and torque converter were picked for practical street use.
The car traveled to Schober’s Custom Hot Rod Interiors for upholstery. Dave and Sally Schober have stitched the insides of many award-winning and magazine-featured rods. For Gary’s coupe, the entire cockpit was covered in light brown leather—starting with the split-back bench from Wise Guys and continuing onto the door panels, rear panel, and headliner. Matching squareweave carpet covers the floor. Looking forward, the stock dash was enhanced with woodgraining painted by Tom Edwards, which matches the Juliano’s banjo steering wheel mounted on an ididit column. The Lokar shifter is capped with a commemorative Deuce 75th anniversary knob. Jeff and Becky Bertrand at J&B Microfinish created an engine-turned insert for the dash opening, filled with classic blackface Stewart Warner “Wings” gauges—a 3-3/8-inch 160-mph speedometer and four 2-1/16-inch gauges monitoring fuel, oil pressure, volts, and temperature. A Custom Autosound system is hidden but heard, and Vintage Air climate control cools the coupe.
As soon as Gary’s coupe was complete, it went from Gray’s Garage to the show circuit, earning attention and awards wherever it appeared. At the NSRA Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, Rod & Custom and STREET RODDER magazines both selected the car for top awards. All the honors, awards, and magazine stories mean a lot to him, but as we said before, Gary likes creating cars—what he calls “the doing”—more than anything. Once he finished building and displaying his '32 three-window coupe he got the bug to keep building. The coupe is now part of Gary Matranga’s collection, alongside Joe Kugel’s Fordor and many others.
So what’s Gary McCormick “doing” now? His new project is a '36 roadster. We can’t wait to see it.
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