Twist of Fate
Deb Start’s ’32 Ford Roadster Gets a New Lease on Life
Deb Start’s ’32 Ford roadster
There are always defining moments that can be attributed to someone gaining a particular passion for something. In the automotive world you can look at a car as merely four wheels for transportation or see far greater things depending on your own personal introduction into the world of performance. For Deb Start of Grand Rapids, Michigan, it all began in high school when she met her future husband, Rick, a guy who was driven by a fascination of everything automotive. It was the mid ’70s and during that time Deb’s ride of choice was a hopped-up ’70 Pontiac Tempest that held its own on the local streets, thanks to plenty of fine-tuning by Rick to squeeze every inch of power out of its V-8.
The pair experienced plenty of excitement through a shared windshield regardless of whether it was cruising to car shows, taking in nitro-fueled racing at US 131 Dragway, or walking the floor at Grand Rapids Autorama. From every angle they were immersed in a sea of muscle cars and hot rods as they settled into their life together. As the years passed they started a business and family, never forgetting their roots, and eventually gathering their own collection of cool cars, paying homage to their teenage roots.
Their shared mutual appreciation of traditionally styled ’50s and early ’60s-era Ford hot rods led them to becoming great friends with Mike Boerema, owner of Gas Axe Garage in Allendale, Michigan. Long known for his craft of turning out some of the most wicked, early styled builds in the country, they embarked on the build of a dramatic Olds-powered Deuce that first appeared on the pages of STREET RODDER. Rick’s passion for a chopped coupe with a defined early ’50s style nailed the perfect look and sparked Deb’s ignition to get involved next.
Initially, the plan was to locate a clean, full-fendered, traditional Deuce roadster that she could enjoy along with friends and family. Rick eventually found a nice Flatheadpowered early ’60s-era original steel car in Florida that fit the bill. Once the car hit the local streets, a minor accident uncovered some of the hidden truth about its past. A simple twist of fate showed that although everything looked great on the surface, there was plenty of hidden filler and other underlying issues with it. Getting together with Mike to examine the car eventually led to the decision to revamp it with a full teardown for a much more aggressive look, with a bevy of rare speed parts infused to make it a standout. Soon after, work commenced at Gas Axe.
In creating a perfectly balanced traditional spine, the original frame was stripped bare, boxed for added strength, and treated to Model A front and rear crossmembers. To plant the power a vintage Halibrand “Culver City” quick-change rear was filled with 3.78:1 gears, hung in place by a ’41 Ford wishbone matched to an original Model A rear spring with reversed eyes along with chrome Monroe tube shocks. For a true nose-in-the-dirt stance a gennie ’34 Ford axle was dropped 4 inches and drilled with lightening holes. It’s deftly matched to ’46 Ford spindles with ’37 Ford split wishbones matched to an original Model A spring with reversed eyes and chrome Monroe tube shocks. To cool the speed a
Mustang dual master pumps juice through stainless lines to ’39 Ford binders at each corner featuring classic drilled backing plates. For a bitchin stance, a set of ’35 Ford 16-inch wires wear big ’n’ little Firestone/Coker blackwall bias-plies accented with caps and rings.
Seeing that the car already had a nasty stroked 286ci 59AB Flathead mill, Mike freshened it up internally while also adding an Isky cam for a hotter beat. He upped the ante with a blast of vintage speed parts, including a set of rare Kogel Rocket Racing finned heads along with an E&S Custom blaster box intake breathing through a pair of Stromberg 97-series carbs topped by a neat finned air cleaner from O’Brien Truckers. A Mallory dual-point ignition lights the fire and spent gases dump through headers from Speedway Motors to a custom 2-inch exhaust complete with side cutouts. Power moves through a ’39 Ford trans packed with Lincoln Zephyr gears by Gas Axe to a traditional torque tube.
Stripping the body to bare metal revealed the original steel had seen its fair share of abuse, filler, and bodywork over the years. Mike contacted Brookville Roadster for lower body repair panels as well as a new trunk pan. Once all of the critical areas were freshened up he chopped the windshield 2 inches and then metal-finished the body and fenders while also setting the gaps to perfection. The completed sheetmetal was then sent over to the team at Those Guys Custom Paint and Fabrication of Wyoming, Michigan, to work their special voodoo. Deb picked a period-perfect PPG black gloss that was laid down by Joe Boerema, bringing the Deuce back to life. Cool bits like ’33 Ford headlights and ’39 Ford taillights add just the right touch to finish the exterior.
To bring distinction and elegance into the interior Mike installed a
’39 Mercury dash complete with restored factory gauges and clock. A ’39 Ford banjo wheel meets its original column linked to a ’40 Ford steering box while a custom shifter pulls the gears. The flawless pleated leather with matching running board covers accented by Vintage Blue German square-weave carpeting was the work of Moon Dog at Gas Axe who nailed the look. A cloth wiring harness by Mike was the final link completing the build. Seeing the car in person is breathtaking and we’re sure Deb is putting down plenty of miles by now, and to us that’s just too cool.