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1932 FORD HIGHBOY ROADSTER—A HOT ROD TO THE MAX PART 1

WHEN I WASN’T imagining MG TCs in study hall, this was the prototypical car I was sketching back then: a modified 1932 Ford roadster, sans fenders and hood, with all its speed equipment gloriously exposed.

1932 Ford Highboy Roadster. This and following images from Gooding & Company Pebble Beach Auction, August 2011.

Here, in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are tidbits on this car, its hot-rod modifications, and the environment from which it evolved. The mods include Ardun heads, a DeLong camshaft, an S.Co.T. supercharger, a pair of Stromberg 97 carburetors, and a Haldibrand rear end.

Returning Serviceman. World War II veterans had mechanical ken learned in the service and cash in their pockets from demobbing. New cars were scarce, Fords V8s of the 1930s were plentiful, and what better way to express one’s enthusiasm than to buy one, fix it up—and strip it down. Strother MacMinn’s book Hot Rods and Custom Cars documents this fascinating time. “Strother’s Car Culture” here at SimanaitisSays gives a flavor of the era.

Highboy or Lowboy. Here’s an example of hot rods cribbing nomenclature from classic furniture: A highboy dresser has two chests of drawers, one atop the other. A lowboy is a small table, at waist height, with drawers beneath its table surface.

In hot rod parlance, lowboy bodywork has been channeled, a longitudinal strip cut from the body to lower its height. A highboy is unchanneled, at stock height, but typically stripped of fenders, hood, and other non-essentials.

Ardun OHV Heads. The Ford flathead V8 (no hyphen) was introduced in 1932; it continued powering U.S. cars and trucks for two decades. It derives its “flathead” moniker from its L-head layout, i.e., its valves were not overhead.

Zora and brother Yura Arkus-Duntov designed and fabricated the heat-treated cast-aluminum Ardun head that converted this UHV (“underhead valve”) design to better breathing OHV. The design retained the camshaft-in-block actuating pushrods and rocker arms.

Above, a flathead Ford. Below, one with Ardun heads; image from ardun.com.


Zora Arkus-Duntov was a long-time Chevrolet engineer, nicknamed “Father of the Corvette.” He also had Allard adventures galore at Le Mans in 1952 and 1953, as well as class victories there in 1954 and 1955 in Porsche 550/4 RS Spyders, their engines downsized to 1089 cc.

Zachary Arkus, 1909-1996, Belgian-born legendary automotive engineer and race driver. He and his brother chose the hyphenated Duntov honoring their mother’s second partner.

Tomorrow in Part 2 we’ll talk about the Highboy Roadster’s DeLong camshaft, dual Strombergs, S.Co.T. supercharging, and Halibrand quick-change rear end; a couple of these names familiar, a couple less so. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2019

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