- Virtually unbeatable on Los Angeles-area drag strips in the 1950s
- Former NHRA Street Roadster Class world-record holder
- Fully restored by Dave Crouse, formerly Custom Auto, Loveland, CO
- Powered by a full race 314-ci Ford flathead V8 with 4 carburetors, Harrell heads and an
- Isky “404” radius-tappet camshaft
- Featured in The Rodder’s Journal, Issue 32
- Dean Bachelor Award winner at the 2007 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
- Selected in 2007 as one of the most significant 1932 Ford hot rods of all time
|Vehicle:||1932 Ford “404 Jr.” Roadster|
|Number Produced:||6,893 DeLuxe Roadsters; 520 Standard Roadsters|
|Original List Price:||$500|
|Tune Up Cost:||$250 (estimated)|
|Chassis Number Location:||Front frame rail, driver’s side.|
|Engine Number Location:||Transmission bellhousing|
|Club Info:||Goodguys, National Street Rod Association (NSRA)|
|Alternatives:||Other ’40s-to-’50s-era period hot rods with race history and awards|
This car, Lot 244, sold for $324,000, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s Monterey Auction on August 25, 2018.
“Iconic” is a word that’s often bandied about, but this historic Deuce racer comes by the term honestly. From 1950 to 1955, Los Angeles-based brothers Pat and Tony Berardini drag-raced this Von Dutch-flamed Highboy on quarter-mile strips from Santa Ana and Saugus to Orange County and Colton.
The Berardinis dominated the Gas and Fuel Street Roadster classes, consistently winning and setting track records.
A few years back, I talked to Pat Berardini (he passed away in 2013). He said that besides fast reaction times, he and his brother’s speed secret was a wicked-spec Iskenderian “404” high-lift racing camshaft with radiused tappets, high lift and extra-long duration.
There’s no substitute for cubic inches, of course, so the talented duo bored their roadster’s flathead V8 to 3.375 inches. Thanks to a custom-built billet crank, with a 4.375-inch stroke, displacement was huge — for a flathead — at a whopping 314 ci.
At the drags, Tony ran a ’29 in the gas roadster class and Pat drove this ’32 as a street roadster with cycle front fenders and bobbed rears. The black-and-white beauty turned a consistent 111 to 112 mph in the quarter-mile, running in the low 12-second bracket.
The car was a great advertisement for the brothers’ shop, where they specialized in mildly customized early Fords and skilled engine building. This roadster even made a brief appearance in the 1954 film classic “Blackboard Jungle,” starring Glenn Ford, Anne Francis and Sidney Poitier.
In 1955, after campaigning the roadster for six years of nonstop weekend drag racing, the Berardinis sold it (for $975) to Bay Area racer Jeano LaCoste, who kept on incrementally improving the roadster’s top speed (115.66 mph in 11.75 seconds).
LaCoste repainted the car bright yellow and dropped in an eight-carb 354-ci Chrysler Hemi. Not content with that formidable induction setup, Jeano and Northern California legend Charlie Tabucchi upgraded the ’32 yet again with a massive 6-71 GMC blower and Hilborn two-port fuel injection. Their best effort came on a foggy day at Half Moon Bay, where the roadster, still called “404 Jr.,” turned a torrid 136.36 mph in 11.61 seconds — enough for an A/Gas World Record.
A life well lived
LaCoste sold the roadster to Rudy Perez, from Alamo, CA, who installed a Chevy small-block V8 and replaced (but thankfully kept) the original rails with a California Street Rods chassis.
Over 37 years, Perez drove the car more than 185,000 miles, winning the Brizio Family Award, one of many trophies awarded at the Grand National Roadster Show. That’s where respected Salina, KS, collector Roger Morrison saw it. Intent on restoring the roadster back to its Berardini guise, and reuniting Pat Berardini with the car, Morrison retained Dave Crouse (then Custom Auto in Loveland, CO) to repair the original frame — at considerable expense — and build a proper flathead for it.
“The Camfather,” Ed Iskenderian, pulled his last 404 camshaft and lifters off the shelf so the restored roadster would retain that characteristic lopey idle and crisp throttle response.
Debuted at the 2005 GNRS, the now-pristine “404 Jr.” captured the coveted Bruce Meyer Preservation Award. Two years later at the Pebble Beach Concours, Edsel Ford II presented Morrison and a delighted Pat Berardini, riding shotgun, with the esteemed Dean Bachelor Trophy for the most significant historic hot rod. As a final honor, the roadster was named one of the 75 most significant ’32 Fords of all time, and has been featured in many hot rod magazines, including milestone issue 32 of The Rodder’s Journal.
Heading for the races again
Impressed by its remarkable history, Craig McCaw bought the 404 Jr. from Morrison, who felt he’d accomplished all his goals for the car. After a spell in McCaw’s collection, it was consigned to the August RM Sotheby’s Monterey sale.
The winning bidder was Ross Myers, a Pennsylvania-based collector whose “3 Dog Garage” private museum in Boyertown, PA, is home to the ex-“Ricky Nelson,” Pete Henderson, and Fred Steele ’32 Ford roadsters, the “Kookie Kar,” as well as a Ridler Award-winning ’36 Ford 3-window by Troy Trepanier.
The selling price of $324,000 was well below the $400,000 to $600,000 estimate. “You could argue that this Highboy roadster, with its great racing history, is one of the top 10 most significant ’32 Fords,” Myers says. “I love the story about the two brothers who raced it for years. They were seldom ever beaten. It looks just the way you’d want a drag-racing ’32 to look, and it’s a great value, compared with what you’d have to spend to restore it.”
Ross plans to run the 404 Jr. at next year’s Race of Gentlemen (TROG) on the beach at Wildwood, NJ. With that in mind, I’d call this classic hot rod sale a very good deal for the buyer.
(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)