Twist of Fate

Deb Start’s ’32 Ford Road­ster Gets a New Lease on Life

Street Rodder - - Contents - BY CHUCK VRANAS PHO­TOG­RA­PHY & VIDEOGRAPHY BY THE AU­THOR

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.

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