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Long-lost ’32 Ford was drag-racing star

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Dog427435, Dec 13, 2012.

  1. Dog427435
    Joined: Feb 16, 2007
    Posts: 9,439

    Dog427435
    Member

    Thanks to Old Cars Weekly -


    Champion barn find: Long-lost ’32 Ford was drag-racing star<O:p</O:p

    <O:p

    Deuce was original champ of first World Series of Drag Racing<O:p</O:p

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    <O:p</O:p

    Story by Angelo Van Bogart
    Photos by Bob Chiluk<O:p</O:p

    A single shot from a BB gun may have saved one of the most historic 1932 Ford Deluxe three-window coupes in drag racing history from completely rusting into oblivion.<O:p</O:p

    In 1954, Francis Fortman and Kenny Kerr decided to build a car for the 1954 World Series of Drag Racing, the first such event hosted by the Automobile Timing Association of America. The event was held at Half Day Speedway in Lawrenceville, Ill., about 20 miles from Chicago, none too far from Fortman and Kerr’s home. Other young participants included Arnie “The Farmer” Beswick driving a new Oldsmobile, Art Arfons in the Allison airplane-engined “Green Monster” and Fred Lorenzen in a Cadillac-powered Ford convertible.<O:p</O:p

    Fortman and Kerr did not become big names like some of their fellow competitors that day. However, the 1932 Ford three-window coupe they built and raced for that event placed first in the A-B class with a 105.88 mph speed.<O:p</O:p

    <O:p</O:p
     
  2. Dog427435
    Joined: Feb 16, 2007
    Posts: 9,439

    Dog427435
    Member

    [​IMG]

    Surviving pictures show the &#8217;32 Ford at the 1954 World Series of Drag Racing. The car placed first in the A-B class with a time of 105.88 mph.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>

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  3. Dog427435
    Joined: Feb 16, 2007
    Posts: 9,439

    Dog427435
    Member

    After that day of racing, Fortman and Kerr hung up their helmets and parked the Deuce for good. As driver, Kerr took home the trophy from the track. As the builder, Fortman took home the Deuce as his own trophy. He then parked the car outside until fate intervened and the car became a bona fide barn find in 2012.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>

    &#8220;[Fortman] told me a &#8217;32 Ford race car was worth nothing in 1954, so instead of selling it, he put it in a field and put a tarp on it,&#8221; said Ken Robins, the 1932 Ford&#8217;s new owner. &#8220;So it spent 20 years under this tarp until one day, kids were shooting the windshield with a BB gun, so he put it in the barn. But from the day he brought it home in 1954 to the day I bought it, it was never touched or started.&#8221;<o:p></o:p>

    The Deuce Robins bought in the summer of 2012 is the &#8217;32 every hot rodder dreams of finding or building in their head while lying awake at night. The car is a simple, purpose-built car with several period go-fast tricks, and the fact it&#8217;s based on one of the rodding world&#8217;s most lusted-after cars is pure luck.<o:p></o:p>

    &#8220;He was just looking for a good car to race and it just so happened he found a &#8217;32 three-window,&#8221; Robins said.<o:p></o:p>

    &#8220;[Fortman] owned a frame repair shop in Chicago and Kenny Kerr came to him and said, &#8216;Why don&#8217;t we have fun and build a drag car?&#8217; Fortman was reluctant, but he said OK.<o:p></o:p>
    &#8220;[Fortman] purchased the car in Chicago, made a deal and put down a deposit and when he came back, he found the seller had taken the radiator out of it. He got back in his car because he told him he wasn&#8217;t going to buy it without a radiator, but he reluctantly went back and bought the car.&#8221;<o:p></o:p>

    The car was brought back to Kerr&#8217;s shop, where it was channeled over the original frame. An alcohol-burning flathead Ford engine with four Strombergs was mated to a stock Ford three-speed crash box that led to a standard 1940s Ford rear axle welded to make it a &#8220;locker.&#8221;

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    In 2012, builder Francis Fortman said goodbye to the &#8217;32 Ford he built in 1954. Fortman never had the urge to start or run the car after it was built for the 1954 World Series of Drag Racing event.<o:p></o:p>
    </o:p>
     
  4. Dog427435
    Joined: Feb 16, 2007
    Posts: 9,439

    Dog427435
    Member

    The car had other modifications standard to hot rods of the day: a 1940 Ford steering wheel and a filled roof and cowl vent, a rollbar, custom interior door panels, and a metallic red spray job with a white-painted grille insert and firewall. It was a race car, however, so a rollbar was installed and the deck lid was secured using screws. A hand-operated fuel pump and fuel tank were installed in the passenger compartment, next to the single driver’s bombardier seat obtained from a salvage yard.<O:p</O:p

    “The fuel system by today’s standards is absolutely suicidal,” Robins said. “Keep in mind, they had nothing to go by. This is just what they did.<O:p</O:p

    “I have a couple hot rods, and people have now built ’32 Fords with the bomber seats designed just like this car is designed, but when [Fortman] did it, he didn’t have a car to by. It just all fell into place.”<O:p</O:p

    A search for the car also fell into place for Robins. His friend, a fellow Model A enthusiast, stopped by Robins’ business at Restoration Plus in Cary, Ill., and mentioned he knew of an old Ford race car in the area, although he wasn’t sure of the type of Ford or exactly where it was parked.
    <O:p>“We went in the area and we knocked on doors,” Robins said. “At the third door, an elderly gentleman came to the door and I said, ‘I don’t mean to bother you, but do you have an old race car?’ and I asked if there was any way we could see it.”<O:p</O:p

    The gentleman was Francis Fortman, and since he was acquainted with Robins’ friend, Fortman showed them to the barn where the Ford had been parked since the mid 1970s.<O:p</O:p

    “We went into the barn and we go in the back corner and there was a 1932 Ford drag car with an alcohol-burning flathead,” Robins said. “Because my buddy was into Model A’s, he said, ‘I have no interest,’ so I took him home. I asked the gentleman if I could come back, so I came back and he pulled out the original sheet from the first World Series of Drag Racing, and in it he showed me how he had won his class with another gentleman.”
    <O:p
    [​IMG]


    The 1932 Ford Deluxe three-window coupe as OCW reader Ken Robins found it in a barn in 2012. The coupe body was channeled over the frame and didn’t run headlamps. Power came from a later Ford flathead that burned alcohol. To save weight, builder Francis Fortman installed a lightweight seat found in a salvage yard.<O:p</O:p

    </O:p
     

  5. Dog427435
    Joined: Feb 16, 2007
    Posts: 9,439

    Dog427435
    Member

    While Robins and Fortman visited, Fortman told of how the Deuce would not start once they arrived at the track. A fellow racer noticed their troubles and explained the problem was the ignition. He happened to own a shop that sold the parts Fortman and Kerr needed and would supply it.<O:p</O:p

    “They drove to Iowa that night, bought the ignition and they installed it the next morning,” Robins said. “It got the car running and they ran it twice down the track. When Fortman built the car, it had all new gauges in it, and the odometer now shows 8/10 of a mile because the car went down the track twice.”<O:p</O:p
    Robins eventually asked if the car was for sale, and after Fortman conferred with his wife — “She said, ‘Absolutely don’t let the man out of the house,’” according to Robins — a deal was made for Robins to buy the car, but he had to wait until after Father’s Day.

    <O:p

    [​IMG]</O:p>
    <O:p
    <O:pSince purchasing it, the only work Robins has completed on the car is a tire change and a thorough cleaning. Despite the deterioration the car suffered while parked outside, Robins said the crowd “went nuts” over the car at the Iron Invasion traditional hot rod show in Woodstock, Ill., the only place the car has been shown.<O:p</O:p

    “This is a true time capsule,” Robins said. “Basically, this car is the Holy Grail of hot rods, but to Francis, it was just another car. He was actually a pioneer that built the car that everyone tries to copy today, which is really amazing.”<O:p</O:p

    Although the car is certainly restorable, it has considerable rust in the lower portions of the body. Robins has no plans to restore the body or make it run.<O:p</O:p
    </O:p
     
  6. Dog427435
    Joined: Feb 16, 2007
    Posts: 9,439

    Dog427435
    Member

    [​IMG]

    <O:p</O:p

    “I would never restore this car. It should be untouched, because if it is restored, it’s just another ’32 Ford,” Robins said. “Where are you going to find a car from the first World Series of Drag Racing?<O:p</O:p

    “It is more of a piece of Americana and artwork and hot rod history than it is a car.”<O:p</O:p

    While Robins has realized the dream of many hot rodders, he has hopes the dream lasts long enough for him to find the trophy from the car’s day at the track, and to perhaps find it a more suitable home.<O:p</O:p

    “I would like to find a museum interested in it. This is a true time capsule that should go down in history as drag racing folklore.”<O:p</O:p
     
  7. Speed Gems
    Joined: Jul 17, 2012
    Posts: 3,851

    Speed Gems
    Member

    There's a whole article on it in last months Hot Rod Deluxe as well.:)
     
  8. and it has already been posted here
     
  9. What a find! You have to tell us more about the BB gun thing.:cool:
     
  10. Dog427435
    Joined: Feb 16, 2007
    Posts: 9,439

    Dog427435
    Member

    Enjoy more photos of Robins’ 1932 Ford....<O:p</O:p

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  11. Fenders
    Joined: Sep 8, 2007
    Posts: 3,922

    Fenders
    Member

    "........ Robins has no plans to restore the body or make it run."

    Great find !!!!
    But with minor non-destructive additions, it could be made street legal as is.
    <O:p</O:p


    </O:p<!-- / message -->
     
  12. Nobey
    Joined: May 28, 2011
    Posts: 1,248

    Nobey
    Member

    How cool is that !!!!!!!!
     
  13. desotot
    Joined: Jan 29, 2008
    Posts: 1,899

    desotot
    Member

    WOW! what a great story.
     
  14. Mopar Jack
    Joined: Jan 24, 2010
    Posts: 1,363

    Mopar Jack
    Member

    What a cool story...
     
  15. Jalopy Joker
    Joined: Sep 3, 2006
    Posts: 27,728

    Jalopy Joker
    Member

    .....have a link to thread? do not always buy Hot Rod Delux. so, this is new Kool stuff to me.
     
  16. Don's Hot Rods
    Joined: Oct 7, 2005
    Posts: 8,319

    Don's Hot Rods
    Member
    from florida

    Great story. What is odd that they took it home after racing it and had no more interest in ever doing anything with it again. If I won that award I would have been out the next week racing it again. :confused:

    I think the current owner is making a mistake in not bringing it back to it's former glory. The car looked great in those early pictures (I didn't know they had color photography in 1954) and the car deserves to be brought back to that condition. It would not be "just another 32" IMO, with the early pictures and history to verify it's pedigree.

    Don
     
  17. Smokin' Joe
    Joined: Jul 4, 2006
    Posts: 1,000

    Smokin' Joe
    Member Emeritus

  18. 40 & 61 Fords
    Joined: May 17, 2006
    Posts: 2,000

    40 & 61 Fords
    Member

    He's already reving up the sales pitch:

    "I would never restore this car. It should be untouched, because if it is restored, it&#8217;s just another &#8217;32 Ford,&#8221; Robins said. &#8220;Where are you going to find a car from the first World Series of Drag Racing?<O:p</O:p

    The reality is, the guy will probably be flipping this car on Ebay or somewhere like that soon. It seems like that's how most of these stories end these days. Too bad an old man hangs on to a car like this for so many years only to be talked into selling them to someone who's more interested in making a buck rather than the history they claim to interested in.

    I honestly hope I'm wrong in this case................
     
  19. Thompson Speed Shop
    Joined: Jul 3, 2009
    Posts: 212

    Thompson Speed Shop
    Member

    What a great story! Thanks for sharing.
     
  20. Mr48chev
    Joined: Dec 28, 2007
    Posts: 30,190

    Mr48chev
    Member

    I agree with Don 100% letting the car rot into the pavement isn't preserving it as it raced. Taking it apart, repairing it and putting it back with the exact but reconditioned pieces it has but with the same appearance that it had when it was raced would be having it in as raced condition. It really gripes me when I see some people let a car rot while parading it around because they claim they don't want to disturb the "original build" the original build has long rotted away on many of those.
     
    volvobrynk likes this.
  21. rottenleonard
    Joined: Nov 7, 2008
    Posts: 1,975

    rottenleonard
    Member

    Where there is documentation of the car in its original glory I see no harm in restoring it as it was and making it drivable. I wouldn't hold any value in the deterioration. jmho
     
  22. titus
    Joined: Dec 6, 2003
    Posts: 5,094

    titus
    Member

    I think its should be made to run, just dont dig into making anything super pretty.
     
    volvobrynk likes this.
  23. Skoty
    Joined: Aug 2, 2012
    Posts: 54

    Skoty
    Member

    thats amazing! i wouldnt want to restore it either. id just have it in my front room to look at. haha
     
  24. Sparkswillfly
    Joined: Oct 25, 2006
    Posts: 1,066

    Sparkswillfly
    Member
    from Colorado

    Killer story and car!
     
  25. Fedcospeed
    Joined: Aug 17, 2008
    Posts: 2,011

    Fedcospeed
    Member

    Doesnt get any better than that!!!!!!
     
  26. richie rebel
    Joined: Oct 8, 2007
    Posts: 1,184

    richie rebel
    Member

    its a shame the present owner doesn't want to bring the car back the way it was
     
    volvobrynk likes this.
  27. ynottayblock
    Joined: Dec 23, 2005
    Posts: 1,954

    ynottayblock
    Member

    100% bang on!

    by preserving the rot they are preserving the neglect the car endured after racing, not its racing history. It should be restored to it former glory with pride the way it was originally built.
     
    volvobrynk likes this.
  28. I am with Don 100% on this very cool old deuce.........Sure wish I would have found it...It would be back on the road in true race form as it was in the day by next summer.
     
  29. coopsdaddy
    Joined: Mar 7, 2007
    Posts: 883

    coopsdaddy
    Member
    from oklahoma

    That's great that he would leave it alone for us to study and enjoy , thanks.
     
  30. tfeverfred
    Joined: Nov 11, 2006
    Posts: 15,792

    tfeverfred
    Member Emeritus

    Study the rust?
     

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