1932 Ford Khougaz Lakes Roadster

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.

Ken Gross

Ken Gross - SCM Contributor

Ken has been an auto writer for 38+ years, and his work has appeared in Playboy, AutoWeek, Hemispheres, The Rodder’s Journal, Street Rodder and Hot Rod Magazine. He wrote the award-winning TV series “Behind the Headlights,” and his books include Hot Rods and Custom Cars, Los Angeles and the Dry Lakes: The Early Years, Art of the Hot Rod, Hot Rod Milestones and The Allure of the Automobile. He was curator of the “Allure of the Automobile” exhibit at the Portland Art Museum during the summer of 2011. He was director of the Los Angeles-based Petersen Automotive Museum and has judged at Pebble Beach for 20 years.

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