The 1973 movie American Graffiti has a lot to answer for. It appears that hot rodders all over the world have been inspired in some way or another by either John Milner’s ’32 Ford coupe or Bob Falfa’s ’55 Chev. Andy Byrne of Scenic City Rod & Custom Club in New Plymouth is one of the people inspired by the Milner ’32.
“I looked at a ’32 Ford five-window coupe that was for sale at the first-ever Americarna event here in New Plymouth,” remembers Andy.
It was a week later, while Andy was trying to reach a deal on the car, that the engine blew up in it, and the deal was off. This turn for the worst turned out to be the best thing that could have happened, as Andy decided to set about building his own car from scratch, rather than spend money stripping and rebuilding an existing car.
“The vision I had at the time was a fenderless coupe with an open engine bay revealing the blown engine — American Graffiti style, but using a three-window coupe body,” states Andy.
A visit was made to Deuce Customs’ New Zealand agent, Rods by Reid, and an order placed for one of its Australian-manufactured fibreglass coupe bodies.
“John was really helpful. Despite how busy he was, with plenty of projects on the go, he gave me the time to discuss all the options before I settled on the 3½-inch chopped ’32 three-window body.” With the body on its way, many hours were spent on the internet researching options and ideas for the rest of the build.
Next up was the engine, and Andy’s good friend, Ian Coleman of Coleman Marine & Performance, was called upon for input. After much discussion, Ian and John Alford at Performance Imports in Anaheim, California, got things under way. It turned out that John is good friends with Mert Littlefield and Harvey Crane as well as the guys at Air Flow Research, so the Littlefield supercharged engine that was soon ordered features AFR heads and a Crane cam. John arranged the machining and balancing of all the components, before shipping everything to New Zealand for Ian to assemble.
The final combo displaces 427ci, thanks to a Dart block, JE pistons, Eagle H-beam rods, and an Eagle crank. With the Crane cam set-up working the valves in the AFR heads, and twin 750cfm Holley carbs atop the supercharger, the output is in excess of 800hp at the tyres. Of course, this wouldn’t be possible without the inclusion of a bunch of MSD ignition components, and, although Andy is running only 5psi of boost at the time of writing, a Snow Performance water methanol injection kit has been installed to help reduce the big motor’s intake temperatures.
As the engine build was happening, Andy made contact with Lloyd Wilson of Magoo’s Street Rods to discuss the countless chassis options available. He settled on a two-inch stretched chassis — to help fit the blown engine — with pinched chassis horns at the front and a bobbed rear. The Magoo’s chassis was completed on the in-house jig, using American-stamped rails.
The body arrived, and Andy wasted no time in preparing it for the chassis, including fitting a fuel tank in the trunk area. With the chassis back home, Andy took the car to a pre-assembly stage before Lance Walsh was called upon to do the initial LVVTA-certification inspection. During the chassis build, Andy smoothed out any unwanted holes, and ran all lines through stainless tubing for a clean, show-style look. Up front, he added his own custom shock mounts and mounted the grille in such a way that he could do away with the top supports, which in turn helps to show off the motor.
For the driveline, Andy hung a Currie nine-inch diff off a ladder bar set-up and filled it with Currie axles and 2.78:1 gears. Forward of this is a polished alloy Inland Empire driveshaft, which is connected to a GM TH400 transmission, complete with shift kit and strengthened internals.
The project was then stripped down and the body sent back to Magoo’s for a rolled rear pan to be fitted, and some minor alterations made to the rear wheel tubs. With that done, Reon Madden and the team at Supreme Automotive Refinishers applied the deep PPG gloss black paint. Andy set about stripping the chassis himself and having it blasted and powder coated. With a completed rolling chassis, the body was fitted up for the final time, before plenty of Dynamat was added, along with a Ron Francis wiring kit.
It was decided that the coupe would be readied for a deadline of the fast-approaching Deuce Days event in celebration of the 1932 Ford’s 80th anniversary. It was down to the wire, but a trouble-free first fire-up helped progress, and the car was soon on its way to Masterton for Andy’s first event.
“Deuce Days gave the inspiration to complete the interior, and gave me a few extra ideas for finishing it off,” remembers Andy — so the car was left at Magoo’s for the trick three-piece hood, with working vents, to be completed, and for the interior to be done.
That interior work included adding acres of leather with a deep-blue stitch, yet the highlight is the array of Auto Meter gauges and full complement of Billet Specialties components. For steering duties, Andy added an Ididit tilt column, while shifting is now care of a B&M shifter. With all this going on, you’d think the cabin was full enough, but Andy still managed to find room for a drop-down screen to be fitted from the roof.
The result of the “longer than first expected” build is a seriously detailed car, yet one that Andy intends to drive as regularly as possible. While he enlisted a few professionals to help out along the way, what really appeals is the fact that Andy did the bones of the build himself, yet still achieved an elite result. Just as Andy was first inspired by Milner’s ’32, we’re sure his own car will now be inspiring the hot rodders of the future.
1932 Ford coupe
- Engine: 427ci small-block Chev, Dart block, JE pistons, Eagle H-beam rods, ARP fasteners, Perfect Circle rings, Eagle crank, BHJ Harmonic damper, AFR 227cc heads, Crane Cams mechanical roller cam, Comp Cams roller rockers, Crane Cams vertical guide bar roller tappets, Rollmaster timing gears, two 750cfm Holley carbs, Snow Performance water methanol injection, Garlits Street Catcher scoop, 6–71 Littlefield supercharger, Magnafuel Quickstar 300 fuel pump, Magnafuel fuel filter, Littlefield regulator, stainless fuel lines, MSD 6AL ignition, MSD Pro Billet distributor, MSD Blaster coil, MSD leads, Sanderson headers, twin 2½-inch exhaust, Flowmaster mufflers, alloy radiator, electric fan
- Driveline: GM TH400 transmission, shift kit, Currie 9-inch diff, heavy-duty alloy yoke, Currie axles, 2.78:1 gears, Inland Empire polished alloy driveshaft
- Suspension: Super Bell I-beam, polished four-bars, Mono leaf front spring, Junior’s steering box, Magoo’s ladder bar rear, QA1 coilovers
- Brakes: Wilwood dual master cylinders, Wilwood calipers, drilled and slotted front rotors, solid rear rotors, Lokar hand brake assembly
- Wheels/Tyres: 17x7-inch and 20x10-inch Budnik X series Knife wheels, 215/45R17 and 275/40R20 Nitto tyres
- Exterior: Deuce Customs body, 3½-inch roof chop, rolled rear pan, retractable licence plate, modified rear-wheel arches, custom three-piece bonnet, Indy Car–style wing mirrors, Billet Specialties tail lights, PPG paint
- Chassis: American-stamped chassis rails, stretched two inches, pinched front, bobbed rear end
- Interior: Full custom retrim, Honda seats, Dynamat insulation, Billet Specialties steering wheel, Ididit tilt column, B&M shifter, Auto Meter gauges, Billet Specialties pedals, Billet Specialties accessories, Ron Francis switches
- Performance: 800hp at the wheels
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