Like most hot rodders, John Massara enjoys building his own rods. He started young, with a ‘50 Pontiac given to him by his parents when he was only 12 years old. While he ended up blowing the engine, he was bitten by the car bug.
Since then, John has had a plethora of hot cars. He fondly remembers a ‘40 Ford with an Olds engine topped with dual quads (four-barrel carburetors). Back in the day, however, cars weren’t to be kept. They were to be sold, or horse-traded for a better one. Often it would take a little work to turn a profit, but that was fine. John expected that.
“I had a lot of parts (around), a lot of car experience,” he said.
So he would do the work necessary to trade up for his next car and be down the road. John followed that business plan for many years. Then he saw the Holy Grail of hot rods, the Golden Fleece of gearheads, a ‘32 (Deuce) Ford roadster that had been built to perfection, or nearly so.
John said that when he saw it cruising down the street he said to himself, “Wow! I want it.”
Owner Larry Klassen, known locally as an aircraft radial engine rebuilder and famous at the Reno Air Races, built it himself. As a classic plane enthusiast, he had painted his roadster School Bus Yellow and Road House Blue, just like so many racing aircraft of the ‘30s and ‘40s. John loved it and told Larry, “If you EVER sell it, I want it.”
About two and half years ago, Larry decided to sell.
John said that his Ford roadster has, “a lot of cool features.”
That is an understatement.
The roadster has an all-steel Rod Bods body with Carrera coil-overs front and rear. The front suspension is a Kugel with a Currie 9 inch Ford rear end mounted on a four-bar suspension. For a power plant, it has a detuned NASCAR Chevy 400 CID engine with aluminum heads that pumps out 385 HP with 374 ft. pounds of torque at 5,400 RPM. Way more power than needed for such a light-bodied car. Shifting is done through a Richmond four-speed with a Hayes clutch and flywheel. Suffice it to say that John’s roadster runs well.
While looks might not be everything, they do count for something. John said that Larry was meticulous in his work, looking to every detail. He hand formed the radiator shroud and hood to fit perfectly. Even the undercarriage is painted with the yellow and blue theme. With a rake-ish Duval windshield, John’s roadster has a low, mean look. It is the nature of a hot rodder to modify whatever he has, even if it seems perfect. He accentuated his roadster’s look by lowering it “a bit.” It did come with a ‘33 Ford removable hard top, but John seldom uses it.
“A roadster shouldn’t have a top,” he said.
John changed the wheels to nostalgic-style, yellow powder-coated “smoothies” with small V-8 Ford hubcaps. Although the leather interior is plush, the quarters are a little tight and he is considering changing the shifter for more knee room.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said.
While there will no doubt be minor things that John will tweak on his ‘32 roadster, he has nothing but praise for Larry’s workmanship. It’s not often a hot rodder is able to find a car that really needs nothing and John found it. He’ll do a minor modification here and a small change there, but the roadster is as close to perfect as possible. He cruises around town in his almost-perfect ‘32 Ford roadster, including to Cars and Coffee Saturday mornings in the K-Mart shopping center in front of Daily Donut. After all, cruising around and talking cars is what the hobby is all about.
Ron Cherry has published two books, a mystery titled Christmas Cracker and a noirish suspense titled Foul Shot. For more about his writing, go to www.rlcherry.com.