Tom’s 1932 Ford Model B: little deuce coupe was born to run
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Tom’s 1932 Ford Model B: little deuce coupe was born to run

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By MarkOastler - 10 July 2023

Shannons Club member Tom Craig loves driving his sublime ’32 hot rod. Like, he really loves driving it and that’s pretty much everywhere, from local cruising in his home state of Queensland to long interstate runs, epitomised by a recent trip to Sydney for a big rod and custom show.

“I’m of the mindset that you build it, you drive it,” he says with conviction. “It can get a little uncomfortable on long drives as it’s not the world’s biggest car to sit in (Tom is 185cm tall), but for me it’s smiles-per-gallon that count most!”

Tom’s philosophy on building and driving is the essence of hot rodding. That meant pushing the boundaries of automotive expression in designing and hand-building his dream car from scratch. And, of course, cruising the open road in it, chasing endless horizons.

Hand-building a hot rod from scratch is incredibly rewarding – particularly when you get to drive it!
Images: Tom Craig

Tom was clearly destined to create this hiboy, which won the ‘Best American’ category in the 2022 Shannons Club Show & Shine competition. You see, he’s a third-generation hot rodder, having helped his dad Jamie for more than a decade building a '48 Vauxhall Velox to an elite level. Tom’s grandfather also owned a '23 T-Bucket, so you could say it’s in the blood.

Sadly, his dad’s Vauxhall - known as Veloxity in the show scene - was destroyed in a transporter accident (the truck driver fell asleep at the wheel) and with that went the enormous combined effort of the father-and-son team that created it.

So, when Tom wanted a hot rod of his own, Jamie was keen to return the favour and do another father-and-son build. Although Tom initially had his heart set on a classic 1960s Ford or Chevy pickup, a ’32 Ford proved irresistible given its reverence as the quintessential hot rod.

The 1932 Ford coupe is a hot rodding legend. It was available with four-cylinder (Model B) or flathead V8 power (Model 18).
Image: Ford

Tom is an RAAF aircraft structural engineer by profession, so combined with experience gained during his dad’s Vauxhall project he certainly knows how to create a quality piece of machinery. And this ’32 only took two years from start to finish.

As a point of difference, Tom wanted a five-window coupe (that’s excluding the front windscreen) instead of the more common three-window. He also loved the deuce’s nostalgic links with the legendary US dry-lake racers of the 1950s, when Model B’s were still cheap and plentiful, so the build would in his own way pay tribute to them.

The five-window body, finished in the same Highland Green metallic that adorned Steve McQueen’s famous ‘Bullitt’ Mustang, is a US-made fiberglass replica that Tom snapped up at a Queensland swap meet.

What a great stance. Tom’s coupe makes us green with envy - Steve McQueen's Highland Green in fact!
Image: Tom Craig

It’s a quality job, with internal steel reinforcement and a lay-up that’s 10mm thick in places. The doors and boot-lid swing and shut with precision, such is the rock-solid build quality. Darren Cahill at Cahill’s Speed Shop perfected the body hardware while Glenn Enticknap at Killa Kustoms did the same with the paint.

Underneath is a US-made reproduction ’32 chassis with Tom’s engineering enhancements, finished in black powder-coat and well equipped for road duties with a dropped and drilled I-beam front axle suspended on a transverse leaf-spring. Longitudinal location is by ‘hairpin’ control arms.

Under the tail is a multi-Iink live axle with coil-overs and there’s a disc-brake inside each of those nostalgic chrome-capped 15-inch steel rims with bias-ply Firestone rubber.

Tom’s tall frame is a comfortable but cosy fit. We love the classic look of that long shifter for the auto trans.
Image: Tom Craig

Given Tom’s intention to venture far and wide, he needed a drivetrain that was as robust and trouble-free as the chassis it was mounted in.

That’s why he went for a mild 283cid (4.6-litre) Chevy small-block V8 fed by a Holley 390cfm twin-barrel, matched with a GM Turbo 400 auto trans and Ford nine-inch diff centre. Tom aptly describes it, with a hint of military terminology, as “an almost impenetrable drivetrain.”

Shane Webb at Image Trimming did a masterful job with the cabin upholstery and boot trim. Shane and Tom collaborated on the interior design, resulting in a shortened F100 bench seat, 1940-inspired steering wheel/column and neat door-pockets given that there’s no dash storage. An engine-turned fascia for speedo and tacho sits above an elegant curved panel fabricated by Tom which houses the auxiliary gauge cluster. The Veethree classic gauges look just right in this setting.

Classic-look gauges keep tabs on the Chevy V8’s vital signs.
Image: Tom Craig

Shane fabricated not only the interior panels (door cards etc) but also the smooth one-piece headliner made from fiberglass and trimmed in ivory suede, inspired by Jamie’s Vauxhall.

Tom’s original plan was to trim the whole cabin in leather until he discovered the price of such indulgence soared as high as the aircraft he works on! So, he settled for more affordable and practical vinyl, in a tasteful shade of brown that originated in the HT Holden series.

The practical boot design leaves ample luggage space behind a concealed compartment that neatly houses the battery and fuses, tools and cleaning gear. Craig Statham at Triple C Auto Electrics did an ace job with the wiring.

Pin-sharp and practical boot design combines hidden battery and tool storage plus useful luggage space.
Image: Tom Craig

Tom’s marvellous Model B has many other individual touches. Beyond the ‘32 COOP’ rego plates there’s discreet motorcycle-style guards over the tyres and retro-look fins are evident in the firewall-mounted brake fluid reservoir, air-filter hat and fuel tank cap.

Classy ’32-themed badgework is also displayed in various places, including a hand-engraved ‘32 COOP’ badge on the radiator shell which Jamie arranged as a surprise birthday present for Tom. There’s also a vintage fog light and 1950 Poncho taillights (popular amongst hot rod builders) with the original blue-dot centres replaced by bright orange indicator lights.

Nice retro touches include the bespoke ’32 COOP’ bullnose badge and header caps with fine hand-painted artwork.
Image: Tom Craig

Another nice retro touch, which pays homage to the 1950s dry-lake racers, are the headers with period-correct end-caps. These were effective in diverting exhaust gases down into full-length pipes for street use, but could be easily removed when running wide-open on the dry-lakes.

Tom’s headers are also thermal-wrapped, which adds to their nostalgic appeal while complying with heat-shield rules for rego compliance. Like the old days, each capped header flows into a full-length baffled system tucked up neatly above the chassis frame.

From any angle Tom’s ’32 looks just right to us.
Image: Tom Craig

“It’s good fun to drive, with enough power when you want it,” Tom assures. “I’ve recently put taller diff-gears in it so that it runs sweeter on the highway (lower rpm) and I don’t have to watch the fuel gauge literally dropping before my eyes!

“Definitely on my bucket-list is to ship it over to the States someday, cruise around and catch up with some people I know over there. I’d also love to run it on a dry-lake, just like they did in the 1950s, and see how it goes down the quarter-mile too.” Yep, this quintessential deuce coupe really was born to run. 

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