Sunday, July 14, 2024
FEATURES

CULT FOLLOWING – DALE FRENCH 1932 FORD COUPE

Anyone with a remote interest in old cars is well aware that the ’32 Ford possesses a following of cult status. Many worship the one-year only offering from Henry Ford and it is often referred to as the Holy Grail of hot rods. Like irresistible tunes played by the pied piper, the lure of the deuce coupe has seduced thousands of men (and women) of all ages since it first rolled off the assembly line. Its not surprising that the vintage aftermarket industry has invested heavily into the iconic Ford offering a plethora of reproduction items throughout the world. From the revered grill shell to complete all steel turn key vehicles we now live in a world where your dream deuce is only a phone call away… if you have the cash! 

But as we all know bucket loads of money just doesn’t buy cool. Take any street rod show or hot rod run and study the form guide on the ’32 Fords that usually outnumber any other manufacturer present by 2-1. It takes a keen eye and a well executed plan to stand out in a crowd with a deuce. Get it right and you’re the crowd favourite, get it wrong and it’s just another ’32. 

For Dale French, he got it right! Lucky? I don’t think so. Hard work with attention to detail and a well thought out plan? Definitely.

Dale’s odyssey to own the ultimate started with purchasing a three window body from Rod Bods Downunder back in 2006. 

“I have always liked the ’32 and I made my mind up on the coupe because Melbourne’s weather is either too wet or too cold for a roadster”, he says with justification. 

As Dale’s master plan was penned around a hoodless highboy in the traditional sense he wanted a car with character. After looking at what was on offer in the reproduction marketplace he settled on one of Elvis’s nostalgia bodies which feature external door hinges, working cowl vent and original swaged firewall. Add a steel repro grill and insert from Vintique and Dale had one major puzzle piece nailed. Next on the wish list was a suitable frame to attach the body and as this was Dale’s first attempt at building a hot rod from the ground up, he wisely chose a chassis put together by Tony and Paul at Tudor Automotive. Dale informs me that the deuce frame was categorised as a roller without the hardware, allowing him to add his own components when time and money permitted. He also revealed that not only did he receive a chassis that he knew would track right and perform perfectly but gained valuable advice that helped him immensely during the entire eight year project. 

The list of underpinnings is nothing new to traditional rodders and that was exactly Dale’s intention. Transverse sprung dropped I beam with four bars, disc brakes and tube shocks from Rod-Tech set the front end stance while out back a 9” third member is cushioned by Avgas coilovers. The stock drum binders work in unison with the finned front callipers via an XA master cylinder and Gemini booster. Pretty standard stuff for a rod of this calibre but Dale added his own personal refinements like the de-burring the heavy forged axle before sending it out for a coating of HPC. He also stepped up when it came time to paint the coupe, joining forces with mate Max Maginnis at G&A Automotive where the pair prepped the body and chassis before applying the subdued Colourbond Bushland hue. To achieve the desired look flattener was added to the clear during the final stages of painting.

Highlighting the external appearance a quartet of Radir Tri-Rib III mags are also downplayed with Dale sandblasting the centres whilst retaining the highly polished rims. Antique Tyres got the nod for the round rubbery stuff who supplied the perfect complement of Cocker Classic white walled hoops to the 15×5” and 15×7” rolling stock.

After seeking advice from seasoned rodders the original intention for this novice builder was to run a tried and true small block Chevy, turbo 350 and 9” combo, but that just didn’t sit well with Dale. He researched alternatives such as a Hemi, Chevy 409 and even a Nailhead, but he just couldn’t shake the sight of the W motor from his mind. A few phone calls later he was put in touch with Chris Day who made his vision a reality by hooking him up with a 348. Although he says that it’s pretty stock internally he has spent a good deal of time (and coin) on making it the crowning jewel in the overall package. Over the rail headers, metal flaked finned valve covers and a half dozen Stromberg’s certainly scream for attention. 

With the plan starting to gel like BBQ and beer, the cool exterior was completed with Pontiac taillights positioned above a Vintique deuce fuel tank and same year commercial headlights at the nose. Interestingly, the addition of the cowl lights were a diversion from the original plan and were included after Dale was admiring a similar powered coupe owned by Greg Hardy. “We were at this run one night and when Greg hit the light switch they lit up the W headed motor and it was then and there that I knew I wanted cowl lights.” 

Illuminated like a gallery art piece it’s easy to understand his decision. “I just love the way the big block heads hang outside of the grill when viewed from the front,” he says, and we agree. It may not be a performer powerhouse but man, isn’t it cool!

Continuing the classic approach to the coupe, Dale formulated an interior design that is stunningly simple and simply stunning. When he was done crafting the bench seat he handed over the stitching duties to Pat Mesiti at Sunshine Trimmers who created an outstanding interior that pays homage to tuck ‘n roll jobs of the past. The rich ox blood vinyl and carpet ensemble is enhanced by reflected light from the perforated white hoodlining, providing a clever balance of ambiance to the confined cockpit. A Limeworks column capped with a ’40 Ford steering wheel is complemented by the matching faced gauges from Classic Instruments. The cluster of mint motor monitors are highlighted by perfect lines laid down by the super talented Doug Dorr who was visiting from the USA to take in Chopped 2013.

“I enrolled in one of Doug’s pinstripe workshops and had the foresight to take the dash panel with me,” Dale explains, “at the end of the session I left it with him for a couple of days and that’s how it turned out, I was stoked!” Another individual item that carries on the cool factor is the sound system that is ingeniously pumped through a pair of vintage Drive In movie speakers. Pat Mesiti receives the credit with sparking the idea and it was just coincidental that Dale had a pair in his man cave collection. A lick of matching ox blood paint and the install was complete. 

Providing electrical life to the various components is another item that this resourceful gear head can tick off his internship, confessing that it relatively easy thanks to a Rebel wiring loom. One area that Dale felt he had the upper hand with was tackling the glass, as his stock and trade is a glazier.  A good tradie knows where to find the best product and after making the templates he contacted Australian Glass Group to slice out the appropriate pieces in tinted green. For the front screen Dale was more than happy to use one the superb offerings from Red Fox Frames.  

 “I tried to build a car with the wow factor and keep it simple”, he concludes. 

At the end of the long journey, Dale should be justifiably proud of his killer accomplishment which I’m sure will conjure its own contingent of devot ed followers, no luck necessary.  

Staying true to the plan after eight long years with a couple of other toys infringing along the way, Dale would like to thank the following people for helping him through; Sam’s Automatics, Teddy, Max, Tony, Paul, Pat, Steve, Neville and partner Melissa, for all her patience.

BY DALE HABERFIELD, PHOTOS MILLBROOK STUDIO, FULL FEATURE CRUZIN #171
It's only fair to share…