Legendary hot rodder Dean Batchelor said, “The shape, the lines, and the proportions of the ’32 Roadster were almost perfect, by any criteria, but we reshaped it to become our car – it wasn’t Ford’s car any longer. It was the rodder’s version of a later Ferrari 250 GTO, a 427 Cobra, or a Corvette Gran Sport. With subtle changes we made the ’32 Ford Roadster ours.”
Built by The Rolling Bones Hot Rod in upstate New York, the #232B roadster was one of three foundation cars and was originally owned by founder Ken Schmidt. The car represents everything that was most desirable to Dean Batchelor and his peers in that golden post-war, pre-Elvis era, when cars were daily driven during the week, then raced at the dry lakes at weekends.
232’s Southern California roadster style is far more than just skin-deep – it has racked up well over 100,000 hard road miles driving from Sea to Shining Sea and more, in one year alone travelling more than 20,000 miles around America, looking for places to race.
The roadster has raced on salt, sand, dirt and asphalt – as well as Bonneville, 232’s races include The Race of Gentlemen (TROG) on the beach at Wildwood NJ, El Mirage dry lake, The Hot Rod Hill Climb in Colorado, The Maxton Mile etc.
232 has raced at seven Bonneville Speed Weeks, making over 80 passes with a best speed of 128 and change with a flathead V8 engine. The car raced in class XF/GR – Flathead Gas Roadster. Each of those hard-won blue decals on the frame rail represents passing Tech Inspection at Speed Week.
For two of those seven Speed Weeks the car was driven all the way from New York to Bonneville, stripped and race-prepared, hammered down the salt all week long, then turned back into road-form and driven home, a round trip of over 5000 miles.
The first time was featured in The Rodder’s Journal #32 and the second trip in 2012 was filmed as the movie “Three Mile”. The car has also featured in the film “Road to Bonneville” and countless books and magazines, notably “Art of the Hot Rod” (by Ken Gross and Peter Harholdt) and most recently “The Book of Gow” and “Gas – Oil – Water” (by Ken Schmidt and Jon Suckling).
No doubt Dean would approve of 232’s many changes, from the subtle reshaped cowl sweeping seamlessly into the modified doors, to the rather less subtle hammered roof. Engine is a 276 ci 1939 Ford 59A block with Offenhauser heads and manifold, twin Stromberg 97s, 4in crank, straight-through and lakes pipes exhaust system, backed by a five-speed transmission and Halibrand quick change. The dash includes a ’32 Chrysler gauge panel, early Cadillac fuel pressure hand pump, Waltham aircraft tach and bevel glass fuel pressure gauge. The number 232B on the car is derived from an original Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) brass timing tag on the dashboard, dating back to a 1949 meet at El Mirage.
The car has been exhibited at the Grand National Roadster Show several times, the first as part of a Bonneville diorama using genuine salt. It has also been shown at The Saratoga Auto Museum.
This year the roadster was privileged to be invited to the 25th Anniversary Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance where it was a huge favourite with the crowds. Not only did 232 win its class but it was selected to participate in The Parade of Significant Vehicles and was even voted “Cool” by The Hagerty Junior Judges – all three accolades were great honours and thoroughly appreciated by everyone who has been involved with the car.