’32 Fords are played out. Sure, it’s the quintessential hot rod, but to me that just means everybody has one. In fact, I’m pretty sure there are more reproductions now than Henry Ford even built in 1932. So knowing how I really feel about the Deuce, why are you looking at a ’32 Ford on Speedhunters?
Take a quick look at this image and you will probably draw the same conclusion as I would: it’s just another ’32. From this angle you can’t quite make out which side that steering wheel is on though, can you?
Look a little closer and notice the driver sits on the right. That sets the tone: this is a new translation of the ubiquitous ’32 Ford.
It was only after sufficient schooling by our own Mr Jonathan Moore on the historic Brooklands race track that the concept for this ’32 fully sunk in. The car’s owner, Ron Lee, is apparently a fan of European classics, but he wanted Hollywood Hot Rods to build him a roadster. HHR knows how to build a roadster and if I know anything about proprietor Troy Ladd I’m sure he leapt at the chance to build one with vintage European DNA.
First you need to understand who Troy Ladd is. Owner of Hollywood Hot Rods, 2007 Trendsetter of the Year and 2010 Builder of the Year, Troy’s mantra is ‘Respect Tradition’. Not satirize, plagiarize or bastardize: only respect. A profound ethos to be sure; those two words have a huge impact on what comes out of his shop.
It seems like custom shops either throw tradition out the window or are slaves to it. Hollywood Hot Rods has built a slew of cars that respect tradition without being constrained by it, meaning Troy is not afraid to put a new Coyote motor in a hot rod and he will retrofit an old part with modern innards to make sure it’s reliable. Think of it as the best of both worlds, and tastefully done too.
The Brooklands Special is a nice illustration of everything that is right about Hollywood Hot Rods’ mission statement. By mixing in traditional American cues with touches from the other side of the globe, we get this brilliantly cohesive build. But what makes this car look so right?
To start with, it’s the section job they did on the new Brookville steel body. In the ’50s, custom shops tried to make thick-bodied American cars look more European by sectioning some sheet-metal out of the middle. Valley Customs was king at sectioning cars like the Dunn Shoebox to give a Euro feel.
Although this practice was used more on the full-size cars on the ’50s, HHR used the same technique here. A two-inch section streamlines the body, and the rear wheel arches have been moved up five inches to perfectly frame the rear tires.
Stretching the grille shell three inches rearward gives a whiff of 1920s Bugatti. In fact, Troy says he looked at a lot of Bugattis when researching this build, which clearly led to the choice of Bugatti lighting front and rear.
It’s common in hot rodding to select a simple, round tail-light from another car and french it into the rear panel, but the Bugatti tails are a new one for me. They follow the hot rod formula, but in a subtly different way.
Hollywood Hot Rods hand-formed the rollpan below the custom triple-blade rear bumper. I dig the license plate frame made of the same stock. If you find a picture of a stock ’32 you can spot the differences in the rear of the car: namely a complete relocation of the trunk.
Wood ribs hearken back to the racers that ran at Brooklands.
The extension of the grille required reforming the chrome around the radiator cap, but it looks so stock you would never know. And wait, weren’t Ford ovals blue? Not in Europe.
Heavy gauge stainless mesh, again inspired by early racers, was used on the hood, grille and front valance.
The valance is an interesting touch. All HHR did was fill the void between the frame rails, but it really looks the part. The cowl in the center is where a hand-crank would have gone if this was 1908, but luckily the Brooklands Special has an electric starter.
Moving around the front we get to see a lot of detail: Bugatti headlights on handmade stands, dropped and paint-filled axle and finned backing plates. There’s an electric fan hiding behind the mesh grille too… because they work.
The headlight stands look great from this angle.
Atop the Howard Alan Flathead sit Elco Twin heads with two spark plugs per cylinder. The finned motif picks up in other places as well, like the beehive oil filter on the firewall. Also notice the brass hose clamps, likely sourced from a European sports car catalog, and the modern alternator that blends in with its matching polished finish. Speaking of polished, look at the work that went into the head bolts.
The thing about doubling the number of spark plugs is that you have to figure out how to hook up 16 spark-plug wires! Troy sourced a 1929-1941 Nash Twin 8 distributor, then gutted it and added electronic ignition for better performance and reliability.
More cast fins are found on the Italmeccanica oil pan. According to the Orosco catalog (which the boys apparently raided), this was originally designed for a post-WWII Italian sports car that never made it into production. Besides looking the part it also doubles the oil capacity for the Flathead.
A single exit exhaust for a V8? Such restraint! I really like the mesh inserts too.
You might recognize the vintage Dunlop Racing tires from early Brooklands race cars. The Veda Spec centercaps are a traditional hot rod part, but they look Euro in this case, especially when mounted to 16” and 18” wire wheels.
Notice the paint detailing HHR did on the centercap and wheel hoop. It doesn’t jump out at you but it ties things together nicely.
The frame rails have been massaged to closely follow the body, and the gap between the frame and body is the same as the door gap! The brass door hinges coordinate with other hardware.
Leather boots act as grommets for the brake lines to pass through the body…
…and they match the boots around the pedals. The notch in the brake pedal caught my eye. Turns out it’s just to clear the steering column should the pedal ever go to the floor.
Another leather boot lets the vintage-looking shifter pop through, but the shifter actually controls a modern five-speed transmission. Remember, Troy Ladd knows when he can get away with using new parts.
Instrumentation looks like it was lifted straight from a Brooklands racecar, but was modernized by Redline Gauge Works.
I approached this feature with a certain amount of hesitation, simply because the car is a ’32 Ford.
The beauty of this build though is that when properly executed, a good builder can bring fresh appeal to any car – even one that has been overdone.
To me the Brooklands Special is much more about the DNA that Troy and Ron infused than the choice of bodyshell.
I leave you with a shot that’s not too different from the one we opened with. After seeing the details of the Brooklands Special and learning about the inspired design that went into it, I bet you see a different car now.