This little roadster was built in 1953 by Jack Lentz after he returned from service in Korea. “I built a new auto body shop in Bedford, New Jersey,” Lentz recalled. “I liked the ‘Deuce’ Fords. There was a guy in the next town with one. I made a deal with him for $75. I went to a hot rod show and got all enthused. I thought about colors, and since gold was my trade color, the idea of ‘Golden Rod’ just hit me.” “I wanted a typical East Coast hot rod,” Lentz recalled, “but smooth. That’s why the door hinges and antenna are all frenched (molded in). The windshield is a rear window from a car, cut and (mounted) upside down.” Jack Lentz kept and displayed the “Golden Rod” for 15 years before selling it for $2,500. This car has never been restored. Its Mercury flathead V8 engine is modified with authentic period speed equipment. The roadster remains totally original, just as it was built in the 1950s. It was displayed at the 1999 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in the historic hot-rod class, and is offered from the collection of racing legend Skip Barber.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1932 Ford “Golden Rod” Roadster
Years Produced:1932
Number Produced:12,597 roadsters
Original List Price:$495
SCM Valuation:$75,000–$300,000 (depending on history and condition)
Tune Up Cost:$200 (estimated)
Chassis Number Location:Stamped on top of driver’s side frame rail
Engine Number Location:Stamped into top flange of transmission
Club Info:Goodguys, National Street Rod Association (NSRA)
Alternatives:1932 Ford 5-window coupe, 1932 Ford 3-window coupe, 1932 Ford roadster pickup
Investment Grade:B

This Deuce roadster, Lot 157, sold for $90,750, including buyer’s premium, at RM’s Amelia Island auction at Amelia Island, FL, on March 10, 2013.

This virtually original ’32 “lowboy” roadster is a prime example of classic East Coast hot rodding. It’s an oft-told tale that when World War II ended, returning GIs, with newly acquired mechanical skills, money to burn, and a taste for excitement, found that even if new Detroit models were available (there were long waits for what were basically warmed-over 1942s), they either couldn’t afford new cars, or they wanted more style, performance and panache.

The American hot rod and its stylish cousin, the custom car, born in California before the war, came into prominence in the late 1940s/early 1950s. The trend whirled across the land from car show to car show and lasted until the advent of the muscle car in the early 1960s.

All the ingredients were present: There was a ready supply of handsome early Ford bodies, along with their easily modified flathead engines. The ’32 Ford Model 18 chassis, incorporating a V8 from the factory, was a perfect basis for fast-growing performance equipment and accessory suppliers, who advertised their wares cross-country in Robert E. Petersen’s pioneering Hot Rod Magazine. Ed Almquist in Pennsylvania, “Honest Charley” Card in Chattanooga, Andy Granatelli in Chicago, and countless more local speed shops stocked go-fast and “look good” items.

How low can you go?

On the East Coast and in the Midwest, hot-rodders frequently channeled their cars to achieve a low silhouette. Channeling was a modification that two reasonably competent guys with a torch could complete in a weekend. The floor was cut out; the body was dropped — usually the full width of the frame — a new floor and body mounts were made, and the stitched-up result looked very cool. There were no dry lakes on the Right Coast, so if guys competed in their hot rods, they most commonly went drag racing. The notion of a highboy — a roadster whose body sat atop the frame in the stock position — was far less common. Fenders were removed (and tossed!); bodies were channeled and that was that. Sometimes they didn’t even chop the windshield.

The problem with a channeled car was that when eight inches of floor space was torched away and lost, the seat cushions had to be thinly padded squabs, and the driver’s legs were positioned straight out, making a channeled roadster very uncomfortable and hard to drive for long periods of time. These aren’t cars for tall dudes. That said, I never heard a complaint from a guy with a channeled roadster. The cars looked cool and most of the guys owned another car (usually a customized Ford or Merc) for driving to work and going on dates.

In the Boston area, where I grew up in the mid-’50s, notable channeled ’32 roadsters owned by Norm Wallace, Fred Steele, Sonny Mazza, Peter Seferian, Mudd Sharrigan and many others were featured in Rodding and Re-styling and other East Coast magazines. Some of these cars even made it to the West Coast books and were displayed in Hot Rod Magazine and Rod & Custom — a feat we considered a great honor. Arnie and Bernie Shuman’s wonderful book, Cool Cars and Square Roll Bars, shows dozens of channeled roadsters. Everybody wanted one. Remarkably, several of these cars have survived. This car is one of them.

Jersey boy

In 1953, a Bedford, NJ-based enthusiast named Jack Lentz channeled his 1932 Ford roadster body some eight inches over a Deuce frame, installed a dropped front axle, then molded and filled everything from the grille shell and windshield posts to the door handles and the rear tail pan. A custom steering wheel, Packard hubcaps, a louvered hood, and liberal plating — not to mention a tuck-and-roll white Naugahyde leatherette interior and 20 hand-rubbed coats of gold lacquer — made the aptly named “Golden Rod” a frequent show winner in its day.

Lentz dropped in a stock bore and stroke 255-ci ’49 Merc flathead V8 with all the right stuff: Weiand finned high-compression heads, an Almquist dual-intake manifold with twin Stromberg 97s, Mallory ignition, custom exhaust headers and more. The transmission was a 3-speed Ford manual. Pontiac taillights, molded exhaust tips, overhead-mounted “swung” hydraulic brake and clutch pedals, and cycle fenders made from spare tire covers were just a few of many custom touches. There’s a wonderful panel of rare Stewart-Warner instruments. Lentz’s cool little custom rod won its share of trophies and starred in East Coast magazines.

The “Golden Rod” passed through several owners, all of whom thankfully resisted the temptation to modify it in some fashion. Although its color has faded a bit, as has the white pinstriping, and the gold lacquer is cracked here and there, this roadster is a charming time warp, and it’s still presentable. Skip Barber, the seller, said: “I love this car’s originality, right down to the cracks in the paint and the bubbles in the tires. It’s never been restored.”

Time traveler

The recent Mecum sale of the ex-Tom McMullen ’32 roadster for $742k (ACC# 213966) was arguably due to that car’s notoriety, as it was not even on its original frame. Dr. Mark Van Buskirk’s channeled ’32, originally built by Jim Khougaz and restored by Dave Simard, went for $385,000 when it sold at RM Monterey in 2007 (ACC# 46256) and $214,500 when it was resold at the RM/Ralph Whitworth auction at the Petersen in 2009. Both of those cars were restored; both had been shown at Pebble Beach, and they’d received a great deal of complimentary ink.

Consider this: An old car is only original once, and it’s even harder to find an historic hot rod in “as-built” condition.

More of a custom rod than a racer, this car won’t command top dollar in today’s market. But if you grew up on the Right Coast, hankering for a channel job, it’s pure nostalgia. It’s still just the way Jack Lentz built it.

I didn’t hear it run, but there’s no reason to suspect the crusty old Deuce wouldn’t crackle to life and be ready for a Saturday morning cruise or a trip to an historic hot-rod event. Offered without reserve as part of several cars from the Barber Collection, the roadster found a home for just under six figures.

At that, I’ll call it decently sold and very well bought.

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Auctions.)

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