Photos by Trent Sherrill, words by Jake Steele ...............
It's a pretty specific thing, this hobby of ours. Honestly, it's a bit weird. I mean, it's one thing to be into old cars, that I understand and there are plenty of people who are. Maybe they like muscle cars. Or maybe they know about Model T's because their grandfather restored one when they were a kid. Now they like to tinker on their own Tin Lizzy, just enough to keep it ready for the 4th of July parade, or occasional ice cream trip. There are the guys that are into British sports cars, air-cooled Volkswagens, street rods and race cars alike. And on top of all of those things, the general public: those who have a passing fancy in the “idea” of classic cars: The guy that knows just enough to point at anything resembling a tri-five Chevrolet, nudge his wife and announce, “57 Belair,” as it passes them on the freeway. I can understand their interest.. After all, old cars are just that, interesting. They are beautifully designed and possess a certain sense of romance that is obvious even to the layperson. I get it.
But then there is The Hot Rodder. These are the guys, most likely just like you, who are specifically interested in the traditional hot rod. It is a different animal entirely, as are the people involved. It's something so specific that it even serves to drive a wedge between us and “regular car guys.” Guys who just can't understand how we aren't drooling over their restomod Mustang, the one sporting a modern drivetrain and big shiny wheels. Much the same way, they will never understand our desire to build cars with such antiquated technology, refusing to compromise, often at the expense of drivability and practicality. A niche within a niche, lost in the shuffle of an anecdote – that's what this whole hot rodding thing is in the grand scheme of things. But, this is our niche and our anecdote.
Within our little world exists a certain pecking order. Not necessarily with the people, but certainly with the cars. In my opinion, right at the top of this food chain of coolness is the 1932 Ford, specifically, the roadster. There are few cars that better exemplify the era of hot rodding we covet so much and try so hard to emulate and to celebrate. They were the hottest ticket back then, and are therefore the hottest ticket now. Everyone has their own opinion on this of course, but among those who I would guess would tend to agree with that statement is John Joyo.
John is an interesting guy. He is known in our hobby of course as the co-founder of Austin Speed Shop, an all-around nice guy and influencer within our community. But he will be the first to admit that he himself was, at one time, merely a casual observer and fan of antique cars. He says, “ I wasn't brought up in a hot rod family. Growing up, there was no real automotive influence in my life. It was something that developed much later for me.” He goes on to explain that as he began working, making and saving money of his own, that's when he began to get heavily involved with cars. “I was mostly a custom guy,” John explains. “I appreciated hot rods, but I just really preferred custom cars and the idea of building a hot rod was secondary. That all changed for me some years ago on a trip to Bonneville though...” On that fateful trip, John was accompanied by his good friend, Ryan Cochran, whose name is of course synonymous with traditional hot rodding. Believe it or not, even with a guy like Ryan for a friend, John had still not necessarily been bitten by the hot rod bug. Or was at least seemingly immune to it's bite. But, Bonneville has it's own influence.. and some would argue, it's own magic.
John says, “I don't know how to explain it, but being at Bonneville really changed things.” He goes on, “Everything about it, the history, the camaraderie, everything. It is a special place. And seeing those guys out there on the salt in their hot rods, that really got me thinking that maybe I would like to have one too. I filed it away and started formulating a plan.” That plan was set into motion by beginning the process of gathering parts. He knew he wanted a '32 Ford Roadster and that he wanted to build something as authentic to the era as possible. His goal was a tasteful example of a pre-war hot rod, something that looked like a guy would have built in the late 1930's, or very early 1940's.
The exercise of finding suitable parts took a little time and so for a year or two, that's the extent of attention that was paid to this particular project. John was in no real hurry and was plenty busy with his other cars, as well as his business. One happy result of the low-key approach to the timeline was the fact that he was able to pick and choose some extremely choice parts as they came along. A great example of this are the unique wheel covers. Believe it or not, these amazing covers are an original accessory offered by Stewart Warner in the 1930's. They were located in an unusual way: John had seen a hot rod advertised for sale. He had no interest in the car itself, but the wheel covers caught his eye.. After many months of back an forth, the car had not sold and John was finally able to convince the owner to remove the caps and sell them to him separately. How's that for patience and persistence?
The list of cool and exceedingly rare parts utilized on this hot rod goes far beyond the hub caps though.. and while the entire car is oozing with period awesomeness and tasteful touches, the unanimous crown jewel resides up front, snugly between the frame rails. One glance at this mill is enough to grab your attention and the closer you look, the more you find. This is no standard-issue 21 stud flatty. John began with a hard to find "service block," which was offered by Ford early on and is essentially a 21 stud block with upgraded internals. Rare? Yes. Did John stop there? Not even close.. The list of enviable rarities on this piece is extensive, but the highlights include a Potvin cam, Canadian heads and the use of Hexagon Tools intake and air cleaner, the latter of which sits proudly atop the backward facing carbs. This incredible early Indy Car setup is not only the equivalent of hen's teeth, it also absolutely tips the scales in the "cool factor" department. And when dealing with such rare and unique parts, who can you trust to handle them? None other than Keith Tardel, who carefully assembled the engine after Kevin Silva took care of the precision machine work.
The number of skilled hands that touched this car during the approximately two year build process is staggering. But, what do you expect when you have so many talented and influential hot rodders for friends - not to mention The Austin Speed Shop at your finger tips. With the exception of a few specialty items, the speed shop crew handled just every bit of fabrication and construction, with just about everyone there lending their talents along the way. All of the usual suspects were utilized to complete the package; '39 trans, juice brakes, dropped axle and black wall bigs 'n littles. It was then sprayed in "Medium Maroon," a factory color in 1932, before being sent to Cato's Custom Upholstery to have it's gorgeous and very tasteful interior stitched and installed.
So, has John Joyo been converted to a hot rod "guy" ? Well, yes and no. He is still very much into custom cars. But, it goes without saying that owning this beautiful example of a traditional hot rod has certainly changed things. It also definitely helps that this little roadster was built to drive, which he does often. John says, "I drive this car a ton and it really is a pleasure.. It just drives really well. I can't thank my friends and crew enough for all of their help and for putting together such a great car."
So, how does one go from casual hot rod fan to building one of the most striking and honest examples of an early hot rod around? I really don't know, you would have to ask John Joyo that question. But I can tell you this, I'm glad he did. This my friends, is the type of car that converts passing interest into full blown obsession.