Ron Cherry: It’s her ’46 Ford business coupe
One thing Ray Abreu makes very clear about the ’46 Ford business coupe, if you talk to him about it, is that it belongs to wife Maxine. Although he has his own hot rods, this one is hers.
“Whenever Ray takes it to Cars and Coffee on Saturday mornings, guys kid him saying, ‘You must have been a good boy,’” Maxine said with a laugh.
Although not a life-long car nut, she had fond memories of her older brother’s car when he was at Nevada Union. It was a black Olds that he took to Tijuana, Mexico, for inexpensive black tuck and roll upholstery. (If you remember those days, you’re as old as I am.)
He was artistic, so he painted a pair of eyeballs with the motto “Searching.”
Maxine liked the car and said, “I was such a good sister that I used to wash and wax it for him.” Then she added, “Of course, I knew his buddies would stop by to check it out.”
Good motivation for a teenage girl. Then she married a car guy.
“Ray had four cars already and I thought, ‘It’s Mama’s turn,’” she said.
So she started looking for a car she liked. And in 1989, she found it.
Love at first sight
It was at Andy’s Picnic Car Show in Vallejo that Maxine spotted her car. That legendary annual car show that was organized by Andy “Rodfather” Brizio lasted over 50 years and was a great place to find a rod.
“I found it while just walking around at Andy’s Picnic,” she said. “Ray kept talking about getting a sedan, so he thought I wanted a sedan. But when I saw this car it was bing! I loved it.”
So she asked Ray, the family hot rod expert to check it out. She recalled his report.
“He was not in love with this car. He said, ‘It’s okay. But I thought you wanted a sedan.’ I said, ‘No, you wanted a sedan. I love it.’ I had him check it again and he only said it was okay again,” she said.
The Ford was running and drivable, with an older Corvette engine and auto trans. It was painted black with a grey interior.
After the deal was made, Maxine took her Ford home. However, an indication that she got a good deal was that the seller offered to buy it back at more than she had paid for it.
“Ray wanted to sell it to him for a profit,” she said. “But I said, ‘No way.’”
Then Maxine set about to make her Ford even better.
“It was a nice car,” she said. “Now everything is different, nicer.”
Putting all the pieces together
Since she had paid for the car and planned to redo it with money she had saved over 12 years of employment, she made all the decisions. She had Haus Norquist do the rebuild, having him decide how best to accomplish her goals.
“Ray would make suggestions,” she said. “But I let Haus handle it. He stripped it down to a bare frame and rebuilt the whole thing.”
He installed a new 350 cubic inch engine with a 350 Turbo auto trans. For a front end, he went with a Heidts Mustang II-type front suspension with rack and pinion steering and front disc brakes, using Aldan coilovers.
In the rear, he opted for a Ford 8 inch rearend with Posies leaf springs and a Chassis Engineering rear anti-sway bar.
For wheels, he used stock-type 15 inch rims with 9 inch wide ones in the rear and 5 inch wide in the front.
Inside, Haus chose an ididit tilt steering column and Dakota gauges.
For comfort and convenience, he added air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, power windows, a power front vent and cruise control. An AM/FM/Cassette provided sounds. Sadly, Haus is physically no longer able to build cars like Maxine’s.
“It’s one of the last ones he built,” she said. “I wouldn’t change a thing. I love it.”
Maxine chose Frank Thomas to do the upholstery.
“I picked the material and told him, ‘Do what you do.’ I trust you. That’s the way it ended up the way it did. I never saw it until it was done,” she said.
The car’s interior is done in grey tweed and some matching leather. The carpets are also grey. The door panels have a custom rounded design to match the shape of the car.
Frank had some concerns that Maxine wouldn’t be happy with what he did.
“He asked Ray, ‘What happens if she doesn’t like it?’” she said. “Ray said, ‘Then I guess you’ll have to do it again.’”
But she liked it very much and no redo was needed.
While the body is stock, the emblems were shaved off the hood. Van’s Auto Body repainted the car the same black and the wheels red.
In all, it rook about 10 years to finish the Ford. Since then, Maxine has not put all that many miles on the car.
“I’m not afraid of it or anything,” she said. “I just don’t drive it. Ray told me I don’t have a hot rod attitude.”
However, she does let Ray drive it places like Cars and Coffee, an informal gathering of car lovers which happens every Saturday from 8 till 10 in the morning at the K-mart parking lot off McKnight.
If you see him there in Maxine’s Ford coupe, ask him if he got to drive it because he’s been a good boy that week. I’m sure he’ll appreciate the humor.
Ron Cherry’s books, including the Morg Mahoney detective series, are available on Kindle and in print copy at Amazon. His new book, “The St. Nicholas Murders,” is a Christmas mystery that takes place in a small town in the Sierra Foothills that is remarkably similar to Nevada City and is now out in paperback and Kindle on Amazon. Check out his website at http://www.rlcherry.com.
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