David Newhardt, courtesy of Mecum Auctions
  • Less than 2,000 miles on a frame-off restoration
  • 426-ci Hemi V8, headers and dual exhaust
  • 700R4 automatic transmission
  • Solid front axle/independent rear suspension
  • 4-wheel disc brakes
  • Custom two-tone red and beige paint with accent striping

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1932 Ford Tudor Street Rod
Years Produced:Unknown, estimated 1990s
Number Produced:18,836 DeLuxe ’32 V8 Tudor sedans. Unknown built like this one
Original List Price:$550, build price unknown
SCM Valuation:$39,750 (all 1932 Ford)
Tune Up Cost:$250
Distributor Caps:$15 (426 Hemi)
Chassis Number Location:18-prefix Ford VIN is stamped on the front frame rail on the driver’s side. Non-Ford assigned VINs (as here) are typically on cowl or door jamb
Engine Number Location:N/A
Club Info:Goodguys, National Street Rod Association (NSRA)
Alternatives:Other ’32 Ford coupes and sedans built in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.
Investment Grade:D

This car, Lot S110, sold for $50,600, including buyer’s premium at Mecum’s auction in Los Angeles, CA, on February 17–18, 2017. It was offered without reserve.

Sticking with tradition

Although the supremely creative nature of hot-rodding and customizing permits pretty much anything, there are some “rules” where hot rods are concerned.

Traditional rods, built with authentic Ford parts, the way they were done in, let’s say, the 1940s, tend to follow a pattern. Highboy roadsters run modified flathead V8s and manual gearboxes. They have chopped tops, steelies, blackwall bias-plies, banjo steering wheels, Stewart-Warner gauges and ’39 Ford taillights.

These cars are usually painted black, or red, or a ’40s-era Ford color such as Cloudmist Gray. Or they’re finished in suede (primer). Small-block Chevy V8s are permitted: 283s and 327s — not 350s, 383s or 400s — and they’re best painted factory orange with Corvette valve covers.

They don’t have V6s, ever. And modern alloy wheels are simply wrong, as are early ’50s Pontiac taillights (they’re for coupes), four-bar suspensions, teal, pink or other modern paint colors, scallops or other “modern” graphics, tweed cloth interiors and, well, you get the point.

So if I said you could have a full-fender ’32 Ford Tudor with a 426 Hemi and dual quads, you might be interested until you actually saw this car — with a much-too-contemporary beige-over-red paint scheme, an oddly drawn trim graphic, a 700R4 automatic, tilt steering, mindless modern instruments, power windows, a solid front axle coupled with an independent rear end, and banal alloy wheels.

Ghosts of future past

If you pull out a few issues of Street Rodder from the 1990s, you’ll see a surprising number of modernized street rods that look like this car. So let’s do a little chronology — but remember, we’re generalizing here.

Right through the ‘50s, guys built old-style cars with vintage parts — often flathead V8s, juice brakes and other mechanicals from wrecking yards. As the muscle car era ensued, and big OHV V8s supplanted wheezing flatties, some guys modernized their cars further with wheels, transmissions, seats and even dash panels rescued from wrecks.

In the ’70s, the trend was to keep a car stock-looking on the outside, even forsaking body modifications, but sharply updating engines and running gear. During the fuel crisis, some guys did install V6s and even modern 4-cylinder engines, but thankfully that throwback didn’t last long.

Over the next two decades, the trend toward modernization grew with the adoption of bright contemporary colors and graphics. Boyd Coddington and Lil’ John Buttera led the charge with scads of billet and simplified bodylines, ironing out many of the traditional Ford components and styling cues for a then-desirable “smooth” look.

As a traditionalist, I looked askance on those antics, and was delighted just before the turn of the century when a decided back-to-basics trend ensued — I even started some of that with my own ’32 roadster, which had nothing visible that dated from later than the early 1950s.

Hot-rodding has always been about making a car faster, cleaner and better-looking, so there was a rationale for some of the ’90s-era changes, but today, cars like this one simply look dated, like bell-bottom trousers, flared collars, wide ties, fat belts and padded shoulders.

No accounting for taste

However… somebody felt good enough about this Tudor to “restore” it, and someone else wrote a check for $50k.

This car, several resto-mod mid-’50s Chevys and a ’34 Willys coupe with a blown 350 Chevy were part of the Euell Barnes Collection, sold by Mecum in Los Angeles earlier this year. Barnes was an Arizona drag-racing enthusiast. His cars were hardly traditional. The buyer here paid a lot for a Deuce doorslammer that’s not terribly attractive.

ACC Editor Jim Pickering commented, “I’ve always considered street rods to be where hot rod guys go to mature — like Cadillac CTS-Vs compared to Corvettes — power steering/power brakes/automatic transmissions/billet everything. Style and relative comfort are key in the street-rod scene, but style trends don’t always age well. This one is so stuck in the 1990s it’s not even funny.

“But we do see a lot of cars like this one sell,” Jim added. “So here’s the question: Leave this alone or update it?”

Consider a do-over

If it were mine, I’d jettison the entire interior, the indie rear suspension, and the too-fat wheels and tires. Refinish it in glossy black, add steel wheels and skinnier rubber like Coker’s new American Classic radials, and fit a broadcloth or black leather gut, period valve covers and Stelling & Hellings air cleaners. Even then, you wouldn’t be fooling anyone, but you’d have a much nicer-looking ride. If you were handy, you could do that for under $20k, offset by a few bucks made selling the components you removed.

Jim notes that ’60s-style rods have returned to fashion, which could serve as a roadmap for later trends. But I don’t think graphically garish, mixed-metaphor cars like this one will suddenly be back in style anytime soon. Or ever.

If you did buy this Tudor and backdate it, could you expect to recoup your investment? I think that’s unlikely.

But hot-rodding isn’t about investing. It’s about personalizing your car for speed and style. No one in his right mind expects to make money on the exercise. Sure, it happens sometimes — but don’t count on it.

The seller spent a lot more than $50k building this ride, and so by that account the new owner got a good deal here. Assuming he likes it as-is, he’s home free. Well bought and sold.

If he spends half again as much on the backdate mods I outlined, he probably won’t make it up in this decade, but he’ll have a decent street cruiser with wider appeal that’ll run away and hide from a lot of other cars. Life is short. I’d go for it.

(Introductory description courtesy of Mecum Auctions.)

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