Ford’s classic 1932 roadster, better known as “the Deuce,” has been, and always will be, the quintessential hot rod. Great-looking, with elegant, timeless lines that transcend its age, lightweight — especially when shorn of its fenders — equipped with a modified Ford or Mercury flathead V8 developing three to four times its original output, “Deuce” roadsters like this one were raced at California’s dry lakes and later at the Bonneville Salt Flats. This car’s 63-year known history dates to December 30, 1948, when it was purchased from John Brooke Moheen Jr. by John Easton of Oakland, CA. Easton reportedly hot-rodded the car in the 1950s. In the 1960s, he completely disassembled the roadster and stored it for years in an enclosed space under his home in the Oakland Hills. On May 5, 1973, Easton sold the roadster to Bruce Olson. Known as “Deuce Bruce,” Olson worked with “Goodguy” Gary Meadors writing technical articles and features for publications such as Hot Rod, Rod & Custom and Street Rodder. Bruce Olson’s plans for the roadster were never completed. He died of kidney cancer in 1990. Mike Russell, a well-known hot rodder and speed equipment collector from Aptos, CA, purchased the roadster from the Olson estate in September 1991. Russell finished the build, using many rare and original parts, drove the car for a time, then sold it to Kirk F. White, who in turn sold it to Glenn Mounger in November 1993. An all-steel roadster on an original ’32 Ford frame, this car has the speed equipment that knowledgeable hot rodders covet. It’s powered by a 258-ci Ford V8 with polished ports and a set of Ardun overhead valve cylinder heads from Don Orosco. It’s equipped with an original S.Co.T supercharger and topped with a pair of Stromberg 97 carburetors and an authentic Thickstun air cleaner. The ignition is a Joe Hunt-restored Vertex magneto. The racing camshaft is by DeLong in San Jose; the crankshaft has been balanced; the lightweight flywheel is aluminum. The running gear consists of a dropped and drilled front axle, along with rare Kinmont “Safe-Stop” disc brakes in front and Ford hydraulic drums in the rear. The 3-speed ’39 Ford top-loader gearbox is equipped with a Lincoln-Zephyr close-ratio cluster. The rear end is a Halibrand quick-change unit with 3.48:1 and 4:11:1 gears. Firestone 5.60:15 front tires are paired with 8.20:15 rears on reversed ’48 Mercury rims. Inside, a genuine ’34 Auburn dash is equipped with Auburn instruments including a 120-mph Auburn V12 speedometer. There’s an oversized 0-to-8,000 rpm Stewart-Warner tachometer, an S-W vacuum gauge and a repro S-W boost gauge. The interior is pleated, early Ford style, in genuine leather, while the rumble seat is leatherette. The steering wheel is a ’39 Ford “banjo,” and a correct ’40s-era Ford accessory turn signal actuator is mounted on the column. The headlights are Guide 682-Cs from a Diamond T truck, with built-in parking lights for turn signals. The taillights are classic ’32 Ford.  

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1932 Ford Highboy Roadster
Number Produced:12,080 DeLuxe and Standard V8 and 4-cylinder roadsters in 1932
Original List Price:$500 (for a DeLuxe, $460 for a Standard)
SCM Valuation:$150,000–$175,000
Tune Up Cost:$200 (estimated)
Chassis Number Location:Plate on frame
Engine Number Location:Cast on bell housing
Club Info:There is no club specifically for vintage hot rods, but the buyer would be welcomed at the National Street Rod Association (NSRA) and Goodguys events
Alternatives:None, really… a deuce is a deuce

This ’32 Ford Highboy sold for $154,000 at the Gooding & Co. Pebble Beach Auction on August 21, 2011. The auction company estimate was $125,000 to $175,000.

I have examined this car closely on two occasions, first when it was owned by Mike Russell, and later when it belonged to the consignor, Glenn Mounger of Bainbridge Island, WA.

Important, historic deuce roadsters have traditionally sold well, publicly and privately. This example, while not a famous magazine feature car, had a lot going for it. Its whereabouts were known for 63 years. The Ford V8 was replete with desirable speed equipment: a period S.Co.T supercharger, reproduction Ardun OHV heads, an Auburn dash panel, an original 0–8,000 rpm Stewart-Warner tachometer, Kinmont “Safe-Stop” disc brakes in front and a Halibrand quick-change rear.

Putting aside its provenance and decades of known history for a moment, if you simply tried to build this car, this is what you’d be in for:

A gennie deuce body and chassis, as good as this one, paint ready, runs upwards of $75k.

Assembling a decent Ardun flathead these days is a $40k proposition. A real S.Co.T blower is a $20k item (although reproductions are available from H&H for about $16k).

A Thickstun air cleaner is a grand — if you can find one.

A full set of Kinmont disc brakes just sold for $22k, so figure on at least $10k for a pair of fronts.
Add $4k for the Auburn panel, other gauges and the tach, another $4k to $5k for the Halibrand quickie (try and find one for less), a few grand for the Zephyr gears, the Guide lights and the dropped axle, and you’ve spent more than $154,000 before paint, chrome, upholstery and assembly.

So why not $175,000 for this roadster?

No historical magazine juice

Critics could say the windshield should have been chopped more and leaned back a tad, that the highboy would have been more correct for the period with skinny 16-inch wheels and tires, that there was no top or hood, there wasn’t enough rake, and that ’39 teardrops would’ve looked better than stock ’32 taillights. But that’s all nitpicking, and it’s all easily corrected.
But here’s the real reason…

Bruce Olson, who started this roadster, never completed the car, and hence it neither raced nor appeared as a feature in a vintage hot rod publication. That’s a major determinant of value where period hot rods are concerned. While nearly all of its important bits and pieces are authentic, and many are quite rare, the total assemblage was simply a later owner’s interpretation of what a period hot rod should be.

The frame, while genuine ’32 Ford, does not have an 18-prefix chassis number, probably because the original title was not available and the car had to be re-registered. That puts it in the same class as a reconstructed roadster with “re-pop” rails.

Authentic, but no important history

Interest in authentic period hot rods with correct speed equipment shows no sign of abating. Major historic hot rod collectors, such as Bruce Meyer, Ross Myers, Jim Mumford, Don Orosco and Richard Munz, already have authentic vintage ’32 roadsters with hot rod magazine and/or racing provenance. They’ll still step up and pay $200k and more for the real deal, such as the historical roadsters built by Doane Spencer, Dick Flint, Tony LaMasa, Ray Brown, Tommy Foster and Neal East. These cars are eligible for the Pebble Beach Historic Hot Rod Class. This roadster is not. It’s a replica of sorts. While its story is known, it really has no important history.

That said, authentic historic hot rods are hard to find — and very expensive.

Prices on Kinmont brakes and Auburn dash panels continue to rise, but as good as the reproduction steel bodies are these days, knowledgeable collectors who can pay top dollar want the real thing.

If you tried to duplicate this nicely built highboy, with its special blend of parts, you’d have to pay much more than $154,000. So in this economy, I’d call this ’32 Highboy very well bought.

(Introductory description courtesy of Gooding & Company. Note: Gross researched and wrote the intro for the auction company but was not involved in the actual sale in any way.)<p

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