Monday, May 20, 2024


Rolling off the production line for the first time in Dearborn, Michigan, the impact that the 1932 Ford V8 would create on a subculture known as hot rodding in California, would not be fully recognised until decades later as it spawned a billion dollar industry for aftermarket speed parts. More than 80 years on, there’s probably more 1932 Fords in the world than were ever actually produced, yet every one that’s been hot rodded is as unique as its owner and can be looked upon as an extension of their personality.

Mario Sammut’s baby blue three window coupe, while following the traditional styles of the sixties hot rodding era, has embraced the craftsmanship found in today’s aftermarket catalogues while still retaining the old school rules. Was it a childhood dream of Mario’s to own a hot rod?

“Not really, I had three Chevys originally. I have a ‘57 Bel Air hardtop, and while I was building that one I bought a sedan as a daily driver. I also had a ‘55 that needed a full restoration. Then I thought, “why do I want three Chevs?” so I got rid of the ‘55 and that’s why I went to a hot rod, something different than the Chevs.”

“Once I started looking around, I knew I wanted a ‘32 in a traditional style.  My wife, Lynette wanted a tudor, but it wasn’t the style I was after, so I went this way with the dickie seat in a coupe.”

“From day one it was supposed to be a simple build, it wasn’t supposed to be as glossy as this, a bit more of a rat style rod. Because I’m so particular with my Chev, I wanted this to be the car to not worry about and have fun. But once I started, I found I just couldn’t build a rough car, I just couldn’t do it.”

Hunting around, Mario came across a So-Cal chassis and Deuce Customs body up for sale that was to be someone else’s traditional hot rod. Mario saw the potential for a great starting block to build on and the price was right so he jumped on it.

“I wasn’t supposed to buy this car until I sold the ‘55. I went and looked at the body and chassis and thought “I’m gonna save money by buying them both together” so I went ahead and bought it. While I was driving home that day, could you believe someone rang and asked to see the ‘55 Chev that I had for sale. They came out that afternoon and bought it. It worked out perfectly for me!”

Knowing in his mind what he wanted, Mario took his find back to Deuce Customs to have the dickie seat and cowl vent added. A friend offered him a set of hinges which would allow for the screen to open. “I liked the idea but was unsure about how to fit them, I ummed and erred because I didn’t know how to do it, I’d never built a hot rod before. I looked around at other rods to see how the hinges worked, I spoke to Deuce Customs who talked me through it and afterwards I sat there and worked it out. I’m wrapped I did it and I love it. It’s one thing I really love about the car!”

Slotting in a V8 was mandatory but going the 350/350 path wasn’t. Mario opted for a 307 Chev unit beefed up by a 350 crank mated to a Turbo 700. Good friend, Noel Ingrim, who most would know by his 1928 black centre door T model sedan, built the motor and helped him set up the trio of 97s to run sweet on the street. Mario built his own dual 2 1/4” exhaust from the headers rearward. Down back, the limited slip 3.7:1 geared nine inch puts the power down nicely via billet axles.

That sixties old school rodding theme can be found throughout the interior as well, from the contrasting red tuck and roll interior through to the perforated white vinyl headlining and piping. An aftermarket 1940s column and wheel create that hard line style while So-Cal gauges fill the baby blue dash.

“I like the So-Cal Speed Shop products,” says Mario, “Its got a lot of So-Cal gear on it as you can see.”

The more unique details of the interior and testimony to Mario’s tastes, are the ‘57 Chev handles and winders, as well as the old drive-in speaker covers. Pat Mesiti from Sunshine Motor Trimmers who expertly stitched the interior came up with the idea. “I had them at home and Pat said they’d look good as speaker covers. I painted and polished them and Pat put them in.” The rest of the stereo is tucked away out of sight.

The three year build concluded with the fitment of the traditional Ford badge atop the grill with what else but a So-Cal version. “I saw it on a car and I thought that looks better than a Ford badge, well for me anyway!”

While Mario’s wife might attest to preferring their ‘57 for cruising on long trips, due to extra leg room, his boys who helped in the build reckon the deuce is cool and it’s not leaving the family any time soon. Mario even lets his wife drive it from time to time and that’s how the bug bites as we all know.

Mario would like to thank his wife Lynette for her patience, support and ideas, sons Caleb and Lachlan for their help and motivation, Noel Ingrim from Aus Den and Pat Mesiti From Sunshine Motor Trimming.

As featured in Cruzin #178. Story by Greg Forster, Photos Greg Forster / Caprice Photo

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