1932 Ford – Grass Valley man builds old-time roadster from scratch
Joe Andre is a man who loves nostalgia, at least car nostalgia. Take his four hobby cars. They all hail from the era of the 1930s, he says, because they are the very cars he worked on, raced, and used for transportation in his youth.
“I lived in the country when I was in high school,” says the Auburn native. “At 16 I traded my horse for a 1938 Ford so I could drive the five miles into town.” And, of course, he had to learn to fix the cars he drove, which gave him the skills he needed when in 1999 he decided to build a 1932 Ford roadster from scratch.
He bought the fiberglass body from a company in Oregon, which shipped it to him in a truck filled with Christmas trees. He bought all the original Ford parts at swap meets (“The best one is Turlock,” he confides, “a whole fairgrounds of car parts”), through catalogs, and by just plain scrounging.
“I rebuilt everything I got. When you grow up in the ’50s, your learn how to do this.” And you have the tools for it. About the only thing he had to call in help for was a little bit of welding, the paint job, and the upholstery – pleated, if you please, in the style of the ’50s.
It took about a year to assemble the chassis. A ’48 Ford flathead 276 cubic inch engine went in, as well as two Stromberg carburetors, which were manufactured sometime between 1934 and 1938, and Offenhauser heads – perfect, he says, for a high-performance engine. The job was all finished in 2001 at a cost of about $20,000. “It was a lot of fun to put it together,” he says, “no hang ups.”
It all brings back memories of racing hard tops in the ’50s on dirt tracks in such towns as Grass Valley and Roseville and drag racing in Vacaville and Lodi. He was a member of the Foothill Roadsters then, as he’s a member of the Roamin Angles Car Club today.
Does he race today? No, he’s more of a race watcher now, going to Bonneville Salt Flats with friends to see others break records. He brings his weather instruments he manufactures with him to check temperature, humidity, and wind speed and direction, unofficially, that is. “I’ve had (the roadster) up to 75 mph and probably could go to 100 if I wanted.”
But, while the car “handles well and is fun to drive, it’s an open roadster so it’s windy.”
The car, with its rumble seat, gets its share of recognitions. “Lots of thumbs up,” from passersby, he says. “It’s the nostalgia thing.” Judges like it, too. In last year’s Grass Valley car show, it received the Roamin Angels’ Pick of the Cars Award. This year it was the President’s Award from the Newcastle Lions Club.
Andre has seen a lot of changes in this area since he was born in 1935, “from a rural community where you knew everyone to urban sprawl and increasing air pollution, which blows up from the valley.” The company he started with two other Aerojet employees in 1968, NovaLynx Corp., sells weather instruments that agencies use for such things as monitoring landfills and keeping track of chlorine spills, environmental concerns that started, he says, in the 1970s.
In 1972, he and his wife Fran moved to her hometown of Grass Valley. “We didn’t go very far, did we,” says Andre with a chuckle.
The four cars sit in the two garages Andre has, waiting to be either worked on or taken out for a spin. All of them are Fords because he was raised that way, brand identity at its finest.
One, a completely restored 1917 Model T roadster, is pretty much just for admiring, as Andre only “drives it around the block about once a year.” “My real love,” he says, “is ’34 Fords because in the olden days (a chuckle) I used to race these.”
One of his two 1934 cars he drives about once a week, the other he’s working on. Regarding any future plans, Andre says “I have to finish the ’34 sedan first.”
Of his reproduction 1932 Ford roadster body, Andre just says, “It looks like a hot rod a kid would make in the ’50s,” and that makes him happy indeed.
Pam Jung covers classic cars for The Union and welcomes suggestions for people and their cars to profile. She can be reached at 265-8064.
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