Six figures worth of fun?

Starting with a Squeeg’s Kustoms concept and a Jimmy Smith rendering, this woodie was built from the ground up with a ’33 Ford roadster cowl from Steve’s Auto Restorations, custom SAC frame rails (patterned from the Vern Luce 3-window coupe by the late Boyd Coddington), round-tube cross members, a hand-made steel body with a steel-cage inner structure and wheel tubs, a rolled rear pan, a four-piece hood, and vee’d windshield posts.

Power is a Roush 401IR Ford V8 with an AOD transmission. Specs include a five-inch dropped front axle, Wilwood disc brakes and a Winters quick-change rear. Fabrication, assembly, and paint were by Squeeg’s Kustoms in Chandler, AZ. The leather interior was by Gabe’s Custom upholstery. The one-off hand-made maple body was built by Doug Carr of The Wood’N Carr, Signal Hill, CA.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1933 Ford Woodie Custom "Coupe"
Years Produced:N/A
Number Produced:One
Original List Price:Approximately $250k
SCM Valuation:$100k–$130k
Tune Up Cost:$150
Distributor Caps:$20
Chassis Number Location:On chassis
Engine Number Location:N/A
Club Info:GoodGuys, NSRA
Alternatives:Any high-dollar, modern-tech street rod
Investment Grade:D

This car, Lot S724, sold for $110,000, including buyer’s premium, at Russo and Steele’s Newport Beach, CA, auction on June 22, 2013.

There’s a huge dichotomy between traditional hot rods and modern, high-tech street rods. You can trace it back decades. Some point to Boyd Coddington’s ’29 Ford roadster, better known as “The Silver Bullet,” a L’il John Buttera-influenced highboy that blew people away when it appeared in Street Rodder in 1978. That car helped accelerate Coddington’s rapid transition from his maintenance job at Disneyland to a shop of his own.

But I like starting with Coddington’s stunning Vern Luce ’33 Ford coupe, the winner of the Al Slonaker Award (for technical excellence) at the 1981 Oakland Roadster Show. The Luce 3-window was smooth as a baby’s bottom, devoid of superfluous slots and louvers, and metal-massaged to a fare-thee-well.

The following year, Boyd won the coveted AMBR (America’s Most Beautiful Roadster) award at Oakland with Jamie and Terry Musselman’s oh-so-smooth ’33 roadster. Subsequent trend-setters from Boyd’s exponentially growing business included a “phantom” two-door phaeton for Judi and Larry Murray and went on to include “CadZZilla” for Billy Gibbons, Buz Di Vosta’s “Road Star,” the Aluma coupe for Mitsubishi and Joe Hrudka’s wild “Chezoom.”

Coddington didn’t do this alone. Artists such as Larry Erickson, Thom Taylor and Chip Foose often began the process with skilled renderings. And Boyd surrounded himself with mechanical talent, so the work was first-rate, innovative and good enough to make the cover of Smithsonian magazine in 1993.

Love ’em or hate ’em

I’m not saying I loved these cars, but I respected their intent and admired the workmanship. I’m a stone hot-rod traditionalist, who likes old Fords with updated engines (flatheads and Hemis) and doesn’t remove one piece of trim. But as the supply of original steel bodies dried up, more and more guys wanted what they perceived as modern hot rods. Boyd really started something.

Bucks-up rodders began commissioning shops to build all-new cars with totally custom chassis, hand-built bodies and injected, all-electronic engines.

Today, besides Street Rodder, there’s a new magazine, Street Rodder Premium, that’s filled with ultra-contemporary, high-zoot, high-tech cars that epitomize a phrase a late friend of mine liked to use: “Ain’t no Henry in that thang.”

Future past

These cars aren’t resto-mods (updated classics); they’re virtually all-new. The result is a totally original creation, and a seriously depleted bank account.

I’ll say it again. Cars like these are expensive to build, and in most cases, you haven’t a prayer of recouping the cost. This ’33 woodie is a prime example.

It began with an artist’s sketch by Jimmy Smith, and a set of pinched and bowed SAC rails (SAC Hot Rod Products, Orange, CA) that were based on the Vern Luce coupe’s neatly narrowed bones. SAC still had the patterns.

That slanted chassis, along with big-and-little rubber, dictated the car’s raked stance. The transverse leaf “buggy” spring in front is mounted suicide-style, as it’s located behind the deeply dropped axle. John Nickel built the chassis. Coil-over springs support the quick-change rear. Specially made structural elements include a sturdy triangulated steel core support to mount the ’33 Ford-style grille, which was slid forward and down to accentuate the rake, and the “floating” King Bee headlights. The lights are originals, by the way — a rare inclusion in a contemporary car like this one. The wheels, 15×4½ in front and 17×8 in the rear, are Halibrands.

And the patron is…

Squeeg’s Kustoms, Chandler, AZ, completely scratch-built this woodie coupe for Jason Wolfswinkel, a Tucson real estate developer who wanted a hot rod that he could drive with his wife and two children.

No expense was spared, according to Doug Jerger, whose Dad, Squeeg Jerger, founded the shop in 1964. There’s a completely hand-fabbed structural metal perimeter inner framework by Brian Cline at Concept Works for the body, and a pair of metal wheelwells too, so the custom-made wood panels, by noted woodie craftsman Doug Carr and his wife, Suzy, are securely fastened. They probably don’t creak and shift like a traditional woodie body does.

Peek inside and you’ll see the traditional latticework wood roof structure and garnish moldings. That lovely lumber, by the way, is Eastern hardrock maple; the insert panels are birch, all beautifully finished. Doug carved a shift knob out of bird’s-eye maple. Gabe’s Street Rods Custom Interiors did all the leather and carpeting.

’33 Fords didn’t have vee-ed windshields, but this car does, courtesy of a Model 40 cowl from Steve Frisbie’s Steve’s Auto Restorations in Portland, OR. It was extensively modified, with new windshield posts by Squeeg’s. The four-piece hood began as a Rootlieb product, but it’s been considerably reworked. Squeeg’s did all the rest of the metal forming, including the rolled rear pan, set off with ’37 Chevy taillights, and completed the car. It’s a hot rod, hence the 402-ci EFI Roush Ford small-block V8.

The ’33 has won its share of trophies, including a class win at the 2010 Grand National Roadster Show, although Doug points out, “We go to shows, but we’re not trophy collectors. They’re a great place to show our shop’s work and get new customers.” I estimate this car probably cost about $250k to build. Doug didn’t deny it, simply saying, “He (Wolfswinkel) didn’t get his money back,” and adding, “He’s had his fun with it and he’s ready for something else.”

Here’s the deal…

You can commission a very expensive modern street rod like this one, take it to shows, win a few trophies, drive the wheels off it, then sell it. Just don’t expect to get your money back. $110k from a $250k investment won’t fly on Wall Street, but that’s not the point.

Did Mr. Wolfswinkel have six figures worth of fun with this car? I’ll bet he did. Once again, I’d call this realistically sold and, if you’re crazy about this particular woodie, very well bought.

(Introductory description courtesy of Russo and Steele.)

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