Ford's classic 1932 roadster, better known as "the Deuce," is the quintessential hot rod. Great-looking, with timeless lines, light weight, especially when shorn of its fenders, equipped with a souped-up Ford flathead developing three to four times its original output, and transmitting that power through a 3-speed top-loader with a Lincoln-Zephyr close-ratio cluster, this historic roadster, and many like it, were enthusiastically raced at California's dry lakes and later at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Top speeds of over 130 mph were eminently attainable. Running on alcohol fuel in 1946, this famous roadster hit 141.95 mph at El Mirage Dry Lake. Its builder, a battle-tested former Army Air Corps B-17 waist gunner named Jim Khougaz, had his own way of dealing with the Deuce's "barn door" aerodynamics. Khougaz channeled his '32 roadster seven inches over the frame, then crafted a filled and sectioned grille shell to match. To compete with small-silhouette lakesters, he faired the body into the frame, then fabricated a full-length aluminum belly pan. A flat spoiler panel in front of the grille kept the nose down at speed. Running sans windshield, with a full tonneau cover, his roadster cut beautifully through the wind. Khougaz installed an original '34 Auburn instrument panel, complete with a full set of Stewart-Warner convex-lense gauges and a Bell fuel pressure pump. The distinctive finish was a custom shade of blue with dark red wheels. A pair of classic '39 Ford teardrop taillights and a rolled pan finished the rear. For the street, Khougaz fitted a '32 Ford windscreen that was chopped three inches. Khougaz built his own high-output 286-ci flathead, using the best speed equipment of the era-a Winfield SU-1A cam, finned, high-compression Edelbrock heads, and a four-carburetor Edelbrock intake manifold, with twin Wico magnetos, and later a Harman & Collins magneto. The block was ported and relieved, and all reciprocating parts were carefully balanced, (a specialty that would earn Jim Khougaz his living). The hood was extended two inches and the engine was cooled through custom louvered side panels. At first, the 1932 Ford roadster was Jim Khougaz's street and race car. He built a column shift setup for the 3-speed transmission, and installed a '48 Ford steering wheel. As his speeds rose, the roadster became more competition-focused, until it was virtually unusable as anything but a racer. After winning a sizeable collection of Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) timing tags, Khougaz retired this 1932 Roadster in the mid-1950s. Occupied with his engine balancing business and the building of a 200 mph-plus T Lakester, Khougaz stored the '32 roadster in his loft for 40 years, then sold it to an Indiana dentist, Dr. Mark Van Buskirk, who shipped it to Dave Simard at East Coast Custom in Leominster, Massachusetts, for a five-year, body-off restoration. Unused for decades, the roadster was remarkably complete. Simard was able to save a great deal of the original sheetmetal. He and his crew fabricated a new belly pan and wherever possible, they used N.O.S. parts. Steve Pierce of Gilford, New Hampshire, matched the original interior in pleated cordovan leather and fabricated an authentic-style tonneau cover. Viking Auto, in Vernon, Vermont, matched the paint. Mark Kirby at Motor City Flathead built the 286-ci flathead engine, with all the correct parts, including a quartet of carefully rebuilt Stromberg 81 carburetors. The engine is equipped with a set of chromed lake pipes that can be uncapped, or the exhaust can be routed underneath the car through a pair of "Smithy's" mufflers. Debuting at the 2001 Grand National Roadster Show, the 1932 Ford roadster won the coveted Bruce Meyer Preservation Award, then appeared at the Amelia Island Concours in March 2003, followed by the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance that August, when hot rods were featured. Van Buskirk has run the Colorado Grand and the California Mille. The roadster competed at the Monterey Historic Road Races, and at Hershey in 2003, it was certified as an authentic race car, and it won a First Junior award. This '32 has won trophies at the Rodeo Drive Concours d'Elegance, at Eyes on Classic Design, and at many other venues. To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the '32 Ford, the chopped and channeled Khougaz-Van Buskirk roadster was chosen as one of the "Best '32 Fords of All Time." Along with an exclusive group of 75 noteworthy Deuces, it was displayed at a special pavilion at the 2007 Grand National Roadster Show. A feared competitor in its day, the resurrected two-seater is a relentless trophy-winner. As a comfortable driver, it's carried Van Buskirk and friends to many events, including the Pasadena Roadster Club Reliability Run (which it won in 2005), and there are a lot of events for the next owner to take part in.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1932 Ford Khougaz Lakes
Years Produced:1932
Number Produced:Deluxe roadsters, 6,983; Standard roadsters, 520; this custom, 1
Original List Price:$500
Tune Up Cost:$250
Distributor Caps:$75 (Harman & Collins magneto)
Chassis Number Location:Top of left front frame rail
Engine Number Location:On bell housing, top center
Club Info:Goodguys Rod & Custom Association PO Box 9027 Pleasanton, CA 94566
Investment Grade:A

This 1932 Ford Khougaz Lakes Roadster sold for $214,500, including buyer’s premium, at RM’s “Icons of Speed & Style” auction at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles, California, on September 26, 2009. (Note: I wrote the catalog description for this car for RM, but had no financial interest in the car and was not involved in its sale.)

Perfectly presented, prominently featured in the RM catalog, roaring up to the block with open exhausts, the ex-Jim Khougaz ’32 roadster is a no-stories car, with great history and all the right period attributes, including a four-carburetor “full house” Edelbrock-equipped Ford flathead. As with all the other lots, there was no reserve.

The Icons of Speed & Style finished on the low side

This 1932 Ford roadster sold for just over one-half what it brought at RM’s Monterey auction in 2007 ($380,000), and the latest selling price was less than the cost of its ground-up restoration. After it was extensively freshened by its original restorer, Dave Simard, it appeared at shows from Amelia Island to Pebble Beach and made spirited drives in the Monterey Historics, Colorado Grand, and California Mille, then served as one of nearly 100 hot rods and racing cars in the Ralph Whitworth Collection in Winnemucca, Nevada. It had seen very little recent use since.

It’s arguable that the high 2007 sale price was a factor of the ascending hot rod market, as well as the fact that Whitworth, who purchased the ex-Tom Beatty Belly Tank racer from Gooding & Company for $440,000 in the same week, was eager to buy historic hot rods and paid what he pleased.

With a few exceptions, RM’s Icons of Speed & Style sale finished on the low side of its estimates. This is a handsome channeled car, albeit one with an SCTA documented achievement of over 140 mph at El Mirage Dry Lake, and presently street drivable, so I was surprised the Khougaz roadster did not attract a bid in the low $300k range. Channeled hot rods offer cramped seating, and they’re not very comfortable for anyone over 5′ 9″ tall, but this is an iconic example. That said, the ex-Tony Nancy ’29 Ford “22 Jr.” competition roadster at this same sale brought $220,000, and its use is much more limited.

Although the money was in the room and, in a few instances, on the phone, and bidders stepped up for the “Little Red Wagon” exhibition drag racer, the remarkable Dodge Deora, and Ed Roth show cars like the arguably silly “Druid Princess,” this result had to be disappointing for the seller. Still, in the same sale, the ex-Beatty Belly Tank racer brought “just” $209,000-half its 2007 price-against an estimate of $200k-$300k.

I think we’re in a holding pattern for historic hot rods like these, until the country emerges from its economic doldrums. This 1932 Lakes Roadster is exactly what serious hot rod collectors want: It was restored by one of the country’s best builders, and it’s done nearly everything, including Pebble Beach. But there’s still that outstanding AACA Senior Award to garner, numerous 1,000-mile events, and hot rod gatherings to attend, so the new owner will have much he can do. Given its previous higher price and the roadster’s recent refurbishment, I’d call this historic hot rod very well bought.

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