*This great story was sent to me by Brian Nunez, (ene_garage on Instagram) who also contributed one a while back called "The Best Burger Ever" Go give it a read too! For now, check this one out, it rules!*
I have been asked where my love for early fords comes from, especially since the majority of my vehicles are Chevy’s. My response is that it happened in stages.
I grew up with a mother who worked graveyard shifts which meant my father cared for us at night. That also meant we got to hang out at local cruise nights in the Los Angeles area. The street rod scene was in full force during this time and as a kid I simply loved the cartoon look of the full fender early ford with billet wheels, excessive chrome, and “RAD” colors like pink, teal, candy red…. you get the picture.
As I got older, I considered myself a “car guy” since all I watched was SPEED TV and Discovery Shows like Overhaulin’, Monster Garage, Orange County Choppers, you name it. My TV teenage years prepared me for a high school auto shop class taught by a great teacher Mr. Chalupa (pronounced Kalupa). He understood and appreciated the Hot Rod and Custom scene, and part of his curriculum was watching American Graffiti. After watching that movie, I felt like I was born in the wrong era. I also made the connection that the high school kids portrayed in that movie were the baby boomers now responsible for the Street Rod phase. Although their tucked in shirts and new balanced sneakers looked funny to me, I envied these same guys for being part of those early day gatherings at El Mirage or Bonneville.
I was 24 when I discovered the Bob McGee Roadster and the documentary created by Hagerty. At the time I was mentally and financially primed for a project car and that 21-minute documentary was all it took for me to want a 32 Ford Roadster. During my search I quickly discovered the cost associated with building a 32 Ford. One solution was a fiberglass build which I considered buying an abandoned project car for $5,800 but since at the time I didn’t have a place to work on a full build I passed. Months later I came across a drivable fiberglass roadster for $17,000 but for some reason it didn’t feel right, and I made up my mind I had to have a steel body.
My search continued. I told myself it will happen someday when the time is right.
It was now September 2020, I am 28 and one Saturday I was hanging out on the couch at my brother’s house, when an Offer Up notification came up for a “1932 Ford all steel COMPLETE project”. I sent a message asking if it was available to see. I got a response almost immediately saying “yes, I am open tomorrow” … I looked at my brother and jokingly said “well my Sunday just got expensive.” And after I said it…it felt right… you know… that follow your gut feeling.
The next day, my girlfriend and I loaded up with our young pup “Patina” and headed to what ended up being Baldy’s in Montclair CA. Darren the owner opened the door to see me walking up and I immediately got the “damn it, it’s a kid” look. It deflated his hopes of selling the car that day. After he sized me up, he looked at my truck and saw my girlfriend and pup. And just like the “A Nod To Man’s Best Friend” episode says… “the one thing that seems to be the universal tough guy kryptonite… is dogs” and suddenly his “I don’t need to put up with anyone’s shit” look tuned into a “welcome in” and a quick tour of the shop. Towards the end of the tour Darren explained he was looking to make some room in his shop for a potential “lot” of vehicles he was going to purchase. The first car to get rid of was this Brookville body with a blank chassis and shelfs of parts that he had purchased but knew he would never use.
I am not well off by any means, but have always been good at saving money and hustling to get the things I wanted. The price tag was $21,500 which was about the value of all the parts but not a great deal by any means. It would be a huge hit to my savings not to mention the car was going to need another $20,000 and years before I drove it. Being the most amount of money I had ever considered spending, I quickly felt overwhelmed and felt like making this purchase during a home remodel was a mistake.
Darren was great and said “look, I need to get something done in the office, take some time to think about it” he walked away and I looked at my girlfriend and she must have seen the doubt on my face. She looked at me and said, “Do it, it’s something you wanted for a long time and if it’s about the money we will figure it out” That was the support I needed. Darren came back, I struck a deal I was happy with and gave Darren a $500 deposit. A few days later he loaded up his trailer with the body and frame and I loaded up my truck with all the boxes of parts.
Once delivered, I literally slept for about 4 hours total over the next 3 days. Not because I started building it immediately but because I could not shake off this feeling of regret for spending that amount of money. People who didn’t know much about cars were shocked that I spent that much for a non-running car. And people who knew about cars looked at me and said things like “cool, good luck” with this look of “yeah …you’re in over your head”.
I am usually good about turning people's doubt into fuel for my ambition but this time I started thinking they might be right.
On the 3rd sleepless night, I decided to write down my feelings, maybe a plan of attack, pros, and cons… anything in hopes to find peace and get some sleep! Minutes later, I recalled a list of goals I had made years ago, it had a “vision” of what I wanted in life. I realized everything on this list was completed or in progress except for one last thing. Building a Hot Rod.
I slept like a baby after that.
I spent the next month organizing and googling the parts I had. I would compare my parts to the roadsters that flooded the “images’ tab on google. I paid attention to all the subtle differences in headlights, wheels, tires, engine set ups, interiors you name it. I found out I loved 50’s era cars, but also love the Cheater Slick 60’s but man do those pre/post war cars get me going too! I quickly realized that I was getting paralyzed by my own ambition, so I decided to start building what I had to get the ball rolling. First, I mounted the doors, then set the trunk lid on top of the body…. screw it, the windshield frame should be easy enough to put on.
It felt like this build was going to be a breeze!
“This thing is just an expensive go-kart” is what I told myself…
I was right about the expensive, not about it being a breeze.
I consider myself a hell of a google researcher, but I quickly found myself overwhelmed by the amount of crappy information, minimal YouTube videos, outdated websites, you name it. I ended up buying 2 books. Street Rodder – A guide to building a 1932 Ford and How to Build a Traditional Ford Hot Rod. It would be almost 2 months later in November, after hours of research and planning I finally worked up the courage to officially start the build.
I started by prepping the original wishbones for bungs and that’s when the shopping spree began. I started looking for a set of bungs and ended up taking advantage of Black Friday deals and buying a 9in rear end, wheels, tires, and other misc. things I needed to get the chassis and suspension mocked up. I went to every Swap Meet with a list of non-critical parts I would eventually need and would buy them if the price was right.
As the months passed, I would get to a new step of the build and continued to search for all the right answers, I was looking for the right way of doing things, asking people for their input and opinion. One thing I will say is that the Hot Rod community especially on Instagram has been very helpful and supportive and after multiple conversations with multiple people I discovered one thing.
There is certainly a wrong way of doing a thing, but there are many ways of doing one thing right.
At that point I felt like a real “Hot Rodder”.
It’s now January of 2023, the first phase of this project is done. 100% mocked up and being taken apart for final welding. Next is the start of the second phase which is an unpainted assembly of the car so it can hit the road and fix any kinks. I really want to see what kind of character the car has and change its style accordingly.
The goal is to enjoy the car this summer and if all things line up I might even enter it to race TROG West in April, but don’t hold me to that. My day job has me traveling a lot till the middle of March and not to mention I am trying to get a new website CALIROD.COM off the ground. But that is another story.
The point is this…
Ignorance is Bliss.
If you want to get things done, stop worrying about what you don’t know and continue to do the things you do know. You might just find yourself on the journey…
And accomplishing things that your 7-year-old self would be proud of.