Ron Cherry: Deuce Roadster — classic ’60s-style hot rod
When it comes to hot rods, the first thing that comes to mind for most people is the Deuce, the 1932 Ford. One of those people is Ken Stephens.
“If you grew up in the ‘60’s, they were the car to have,” he said. “They were a one-off car, the first Ford V-8 and the only year for that body. When they started racing out at El Mirage (dry lake), hot rodders loved them because of their slimmer, lower body.”
By the late 1930s, the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) organized the races at El Mirage into single-car timed events and they continue to this day. For a great look at what they were like in 1946, check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXkVsC2CmpY. You will see a number of ‘32 Ford roadsters in this movie, much like Ken’s.
Ken’s love affair with cars started early. He got his first car at 14 years old, a ‘52 Plymouth his dad had parked behind the house because the dealer wouldn’t give him anything for a trade-in on his new car. When he was a junior in high school, he got a ‘40 Ford that was all in pieces. After he rebuilt it, he drove it his senior year. And he’s been building cars ever since.
“I’ve been doing it all my life,” he said.
His first “fast car” was a ‘57 Chevy with a 283 CID engine. He bored it to 301 CID, put in a 4-speed trans and 4.11:1 gears in the rear end.
“It ran pretty good,” Ken recalled. “Not so much by today’s standards, but pretty good for then.” When he moved up here in 1989, he built a shop to work on cars, calling it Kenny Ray’s Hot Rod Shop. “I’m a hobbyist,” he said. “It’s not a business. I only build cars for myself and my friends.” He has built a number of cars. “I’ve lost count. In the last 20 years, I’ve built maybe 16 or 17 cars.” Although he’s built many Fords and Chevies during that time, Deuces are his favorites. He particularly likes roadsters, taking them to the monster L.A. Roadster Show in Pomona when he goes.
“I haven’t missed one in 20 years,” he said. “You get in for free if you have a roadster, you’re their guest and you get dinner on Saturday. Otherwise you have to pay.”
In 2006, Ken was finishing a red Deuce roadster and took it to the renown upholsterer, Sid Chavers of Santa Clara for the interior work. Sid liked the car so much he made Ken an offer he couldn’t refuse. The only problem was that Ken found he really missed the car. He built a ‘32 Ford roadster pickup that he thought would replace it, but wasn’t happy. “It was great to look at, but I was afraid to put anything in the bed because it would get scratched. I put on a tonneau cover, but I had to unsnap it to put anything in. I missed having a trunk.” So last winter Ken built another red Deuce roadster, much like the one he sold.
There are more ‘32 Fords registered in California than Henry Ford built, thanks to a plethora of reproduction parts. Many of those parts are far superior to the original, cheaply made ones. Ken’s car is an example of that. Starting with a SoCal Speed Shop Step-Boxed frame, Ken dropped on a Brookville steel body, with a trunk. For an engine, Ken had a 327 CID Chevy block that he used with Air Flow Research aluminum heads with roller rockers, a roller cam and dual quad Edelbrock carbs on an Edelbrock intake. “I always liked using a 327 because I can use the old Corvette valve covers without drilling any holes for a breather,” Ken said. “It’s the old school look.” Power goes through a Turbo 350 auto trans to a Ford 9” rear end. For the suspension, Ken went with coil overs (coil springs over shocks) with ladder bars in the back and a split wishbone that used the old-style buggy spring in the front, with a 4” dropped axle. For stopping, he opted for C-4 Corvette disc brakes in the front and drums in the back. Don’t look for a lot of creature comforts, however. “My cars have no stereos, A/C or heaters.” Ken said. He had Sid Chaver do the upholstery, but this time did not sell him the car.
Since finishing it, Ken had a chance to take it to the L.A. Roadster show in June. “It’s a weekend away,” he said. “And I get to see my friends.” Of course, he also gets to see his friends on Saturday mornings from 8 ‘til 10 a.m. at Cars and Coffee at the K-Mart parking lot off McKnight.
It’s a lot like hanging out with fellow hot rodders was in the ‘60s.
Ron Cherry’s four books, including the Morg Mahoney detective series, are available on Kindle and in print copy at Amazon. His next book, a mystery that takes place in a small town in the Sierra Foothills, will be out by Christmas. Check out his website at http://www.rlcherry.com.
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