Unlikely Icons

Expanding imagination since 1932

By Stephen K. Anderson

Has there even been a more tentative beginning to something that eventually gained iconic status, and what is quite possibly “the icon” of a lifestyle we all celebrate as hot rodding? One car from what to many is certainly the greatest car maker of its day, and, arguably, of all time, was less than vaunted from simple beginnings in the hardest of times. Yet today few who know history will argue the 1932 Ford’s unique stature over every other vintage, make or moniker.

Fast forward across the decades and little by little these cars, eventually, affectionately known as Deuces, came to be recognized as the most celebrated cars in history. Thirty-Two Fords have been touted in songs, in countless books and magazines, and with every imaginable award over many decades.

The front grille shell alone sends a message, marking the arrival of every ’32 worthy its name, as well as other years and brands who’s owners look to those shapely rectangles to lead the way on their cars of choice. In many cases, the grille shells alone grace wall spaces surrounding countless car collections, home interiors, and even the offices of executives who’s passion for these cars carries over into the professional lives. Yet despite their hallowed following, the story of the Deuce started far from their admiration, the accolades, the familiar melody of their following.

When Ford’s design and engineering team decided to follow up on the Model A, which came only four years earlier to branch out from more rudimentary Model Ts known as “Tin Lizzies,” they did so knowing the company, and moreover, the nation was in the throes of The Great Depression. Today corporate executives and Wall Streeters would nix such an expansion, but nothing was to stand in the way of Henry’s last notable contribution to his company’s engineering prowess. Anyone even remotely close to him knew if they had thwarted a dream he believed in, they would have been standing in the same bread lines as millions of other Americans.

Beyond the financial challenges the new Ford brought to its parent company, there were other issues that could have sidelined the newcomer before it gained a following, were it not for its continuing development, as Henry’s new concept wasn’t without its share of teething troubles. Initially, ’32 Fords were sold with an updated version of the Model A’s inline four-cylinder engine, with notable improvements in the form of an oil pump and fuel pump, and other changes that promised Model B engine would offer greater performance and reliability. But the real shocker to competitors and customers alike would come with the introduction of the industries first mass production valve-in-block V8, more commonly known as a flathead, the Model 18, which could be optioned in every 1932 Ford automobile. Beyond this engine were other variations on that engine as well, some built in secret under Henry’s direction, although in the end most of those developments would prove less than ideal, even though some innovations would find their way into later version of the flathead.

Despite the challenges of a stagnated economy and a variety of issues plaguing the new engine, a wide range of models attracted buyers in droves, and in all something over 280,000 passenger cars were sold in the United States alone, although exact numbers are difficult to pinpoint. Another 60,000 cars were sold elsewhere in the world, which for the time were considerable numbers considering the downturn in the world economy.

While ’32 Tudor Sedans led sales with something approaching 125,000 units, other notable numbers included over 51,000 coupes, 37,000 Fordors, 12,500 roadsters, 8500 Vickys, and on down from there. The rarest of them all were Convertible Sedans, commonly know as B400s, of which only 925 were built. Add to this over 59,000 commercial ’32s, with 115,000 sold worldwide, including Deliveries, Panels Wagons, Sedan Deliveries, Utilities, and a variety of trucks, and it becomes clear Ford was on to something, though they certainly had no idea of what was to follow.

Considering the times, the prodigious numbers of Fords sold in 1932 were relatively impressive, for they became the car that enthusiasts of the day centered on, including Vic Edelbrock Sr., who’s black roadster blistered Muroc dry lakes just a short time before he offered his skills to the war effort. Following the conflict, he and countless others turned their attentions to furthering the visibility of all sorts of car, and yet as before, Deuces became a mainstay of early hot rodding.

In the decades that followed, the greatest creative minds in automotive history pushed the limits of ’32, both in terms of performance and style, which led creative minds to expand upon original materials with another offshoot of the war, fiberglass. Names like Wescott, Gibbons, Downs, and so many others recreated original contours, while conceiving modified versions following up on ideas initiated in steel, many believed there were more ’32s roaming the highways in recent times than were built by the factory. While we’ll never know if this came to be, there’s no doubt the expansion was impressive, especially when you consider all of the scratch built versions crafted in steel by amazing craftsmen like Marcel Delay, Craig Naff and others, both domestically and abroad.

Indeed, in all of its guises, cars created by the Ford Motor Company in 1932 have become the hallmark of hot rodding, celebrated in every possible form from pristine survivors to restored classics to rat rods, customs and hot rods, and yes, other iterations yet to be realized by the top visionaries and creators of our time. The Deuce is truly iconic in these times and it will remain so as long as car enthusiasts and their followers recognize what our hobby has done to further the history capability and camaraderie of our great nation.

It is our goal to make to most of what 1932 Fords represent to enthusiasts worldwide through this site, sharing the finest creative efforts past, present and future. Along the way, discover what led to this ongoing advancement through the words, concepts and skills of the most creative gearheads in the automotive world. Join us in our celebration of the Deuce, and you’re soon discover how these cars continue to evolve, and how that evolution has led to a brotherhood extending beyond imagination.

1932 – The Invention of the Ford V8 Engine