Gor­don Le­land’s ’32 Ford road­ster

he Cruzer’s Cus­toms trailer left New Braun­fels, Texas, on Sun­day, Jan­uary 21. The car in­side, Gor­don Le­land’s ’60s-style ’32 high­boy road­ster, had to be at the Grand Na­tional Road­ster Show on Wed­nes­day for pre­lim­i­nary judg­ing for Amer­ica’s Most Beau­ti­ful Road­ster. There was only one prob­lem; the car wasn’t fin­ished.

“The car was still miss­ing its hood, grille, and rear wheels. We were re­ly­ing on UPS to de­liver the miss­ing parts to our ho­tel in Cal­i­for­nia,” builder Brian Cruz said. “We fin­ished the car in the park­ing lot. The ho­tel staff kept ask­ing us, ‘What are you guys do­ing out there?!’”

On Wed­nes­day morn­ing the road­ster drove into the Pomona Fair­plex where it was pre­sented to the AMBR judges.

When Gor­don, Brian, and the Cruzer’s Cus­toms team started build­ing the road­ster about three years ago they weren’t think­ing about com­pet­ing for the AMBR award. Gor­don has had plenty of au­to­mo­tive com­pe­ti­tion in his life. He started drag rac­ing as a teenager in the ’60s and was rac­ing a Top Fuel drag­ster at 21. He con­tin­ued with Fuel drag­sters and Al­co­hol Funny Cars be­fore get­ting in­volved in stock car rac­ing. In re­cent years, he has part­nered in a ’29 Model A road­ster Bon­neville car. The Deuce wasn’t built for rac­ing on a dragstrip or an oval track or run­ning 228 mph on the salt. It was built for driv­ing on the streets of San An­to­nio.

“Most of Gor­don’s cars are knock­down-drag-out hot rods,” Brian said. “The ’32 was built tra­di­tional, old-school style, but with a lit­tle more flair—like chrome, nice paint, leather seats, and air.” The Brookville body and var­i­ous chas­sis parts had been in Gor­don’s shop for sev­eral years, torn apart and wait­ing for the right op­por­tu­nity.

Phil Flem­ing and David Evans at Cruzer’s Cus­toms han­dled most of the body­work. In keep­ing with the tra­di­tional style, mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the Brookville steel body were lim­ited to fit­ting gaps, fill­ing seams, and fill­ing the cowl vent. The grille shell and four-piece, 25-lou­ver hood are Brookville steel. Dan Fink sup­plied the grille insert. Gor­don had re­ceived the win­dow posts and frame from the late Barry Lobeck. The road­ster is the per­fect ap­pli­ca­tion for them. Head­lights are ’32 Ford com­mer­cial and the tail­lights are ’41 Chevy.

David Evans painted the car us­ing BASF Gla­surit prod­ucts. Brian said the Blue Crys­tal Metal­lic is a lat­er­model color, but the flake size gives it the look of a ’60s paintjob.

The style es­tab­lished by the body and paint is per­fected by the wheel and tire choice. Gor­don and Brian in­jected some of the “knock-down­drag-out” fla­vor from Gor­don’s race cars by choos­ing vin­tage cir­cle track–style Se­bring wheels from E-T Mags with gen­uine knock­off caps. The 16- and 18-inch wheels wear Fire­stone Dirt Track tires from Coker. The tra­di­tional looks were fur­ther pre­served by back­ing the wheels with SO-CAL Speed Shop front disc brakes with finned drum cov­ers and rear 9-inch Ford “Po­lice Spe­cial” rear drum brakes, plumbed to a Wil­wood mas­ter cylin­der and pro­por­tion­ing valve.

The foun­da­tion of the road­ster is a ’32 frame from Kiwi Kon­nec­tion. Cruzer’s Cus­toms boxed and smoothed the ’rails. Pete and Jakes pro­vided much of the tra­di­tional front sus­pen­sion, in­clud­ing the

Su­per Bell drilled I-beam axle and spin­dles. Hair­pins main­tain the ’60s style, along with buggy springs, RideTech Street Rod tubu­lar shocks,

and a SO-CAL Pan­hard bar. Steer­ing du­ties are han­dled by a Mullins box. At that other end, a Ford 8-inch is packed with 3.50:1 gears in a lim­it­ed­slip dif­fer­en­tial, lo­cated by Pete and Jakes lad­der bars with Al­dan coilovers smooth­ing out the ride.

By the time Chevy in­tro­duced the 350, the small-block was al­ready pop­u­lar with rod­ders. The 425-horse Edel­brock Per­former 350 in Gor­don’s road­ster was dressed with retro style, but with a car show fin­ish. Edel­brock Clas­sic finned valve cov­ers and breathers top the alu­minum heads. In be­tween, a Per­former RPM man­i­fold and EFI four-bar­rel throt­tle body are crowned by a Cal Cus­tom Cadil­lac air cleaner, mod­i­fied by Cruzer’s Cus­toms. Edel­brock also sup­plied the ser­pen­tine belt sys­tem and com­po­nents. A U.S. Ra­di­a­tor and SPAL elec­tric fan combo keep the small-block cool. MSD pro­vides ig­ni­tion and the ex­haust ex­its through cus­tom stain­less head­ers and pipes built at Cruzer’s Cus­toms, corked with Mag­naFlow muf­flers. Paul Truax at Cruzer’s Cus­toms built the GM 4L60E trans­mis­sion with a Yank Per­for­mance SS torque con­verter. Not many en­gines from the ’60s shone like the 350 in Gor­don’s Deuce. What wasn’t painted or pol­ished was chromed. Ad­vanced Plat­ing in Nash­ville han­dled the bright­work on the road­ster.

The in­te­rior was de­signed and built ex­actly as Gor­don asked—hot rod sim­ple with no elab­o­rate flour­ishes. “Not even door pock­ets,” Brian points out. The re­sult is sim­ple, but with no com­pro­mises on qual­ity. The steel dash fea­tures an en­gine-turned insert hous­ing Ste­wart-Warner

Wings gauges. The LimeWorks shifter col­umn, col­umn drop, and

’40 steer­ing wheel per­fectly suit the tra­di­tional hot rod cock­pit. Robert Her­nan­dez at Gabriel & Son Cus­tom Auto In­te­ri­ors built the bench seat on a Glide En­gi­neer­ing frame and cov­ered it with dark blue Rel­i­cate leather. Ger­man square-weave car­pet cov­ers the floor. There is no stereo, but there is A/C from Vin­tage Air, be­cause even road­sters need A/C in cen­tral Texas. Don’t bother look­ing for con­trols and vents though; they’re hid­den.

Jes­sica Cruz, Brian’s wife, is the one who came up with the idea of en­ter­ing Gor­don’s road­ster into com­pe­ti­tion for Amer­ica’s

Most Beau­ti­ful Road­ster, and who sub­mit­ted the ap­pli­ca­tion and pho­tos. At the end of Jan­uary, the just-fin­ished Deuce took its place of priv­i­lege in the main build­ing of the Grand Na­tional Road­ster Show. Since then, the Deuce has been mak­ing the rounds and col­lect­ing awards. If you missed it in Pomona, you might have seen it in Del Mar, Nash­ville, in the Builder’s Show­case in Louisville, or in the Brookville dis­play at the re­cent SEMA Show in Las Ve­gas. Catch it while you can be­cause the car won’t be on the show cir­cuit for­ever. Gor­don Le­land’s Deuce wasn’t built for pos­ing on the floor of a fair­ground build­ing. The tra­di­tional, old-school ’32 was built for driv­ing on the streets of San An­to­nio.

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