This evil black ’32 coupe was the perfect replacement for a ’37 Chev that went rubber side up
Not too many people have had the misfortune to have their ride photographed for NZV8 in a written-off state, and 48-year-old tin basher Phil Grimmer would probably rather not hold that dubious honour (see issue 22). Still, stuff happens, and the best way to get over a racing incident is to get back into it as quickly as possible. The question was, with what? While Phil’s owned some tough American muscle cars ” including a ’70 Challenger and a Pontiac Firebird ” he loves hot rods, and when he decided to go drag racing that historic old ’37 Chev coupe had fitted the bill perfectly but, through no fault of his own, too briefly. Phil wanted to rebuild but realised it would take too long, and his itchy throttle foot was going to drive him crazy. “I wanted to get back into racing straight away, so I decided to look for another hot rod-style race car for the 1937 car’s motor and ’box. After a lengthy search we found this ’32 coupe, which Chris Harris had been racing with an injected big block. I flew down to Palmerston North to check it out; Chris kept it in immaculate condition. I was impressed and the deal was done.”
In only a year of ownership Phil’s run a best of 9.00 at 131mph, ironically enough at the Dragmasters event following the one at which the ’37 Chevy met its demise. Phil knows almost nothing of his new car’s history. But I do, and Phil’s going to learn about it at the same time as you.
The ’32 originated in Rotorua in the mid-1990s. Dave Anderson had burst onto the drag racing scene in a big way in the ex-Mike Poole Mustang in 1992, but a couple of years of Wild Bunch racing had severely thinned his bank balance. He decided he wanted a hot rod-style race car, but due to his somewhat anorexic wallet, it was built to an extremely tight budget. He found an abandoned fibreglass body with a roof chop but it had sat unsupported and upside down for a long time. The whole shell was twisted out of shape, nothing fitted right but the price. Chris Tynan built a basic box section mild steel chassis for it and tied it all together with a roll cage in the tight confines of the body.
Up front, a tube axle is mounted with coil-over shocks and four bars, and while even its builder described it as being somewhat agricultural, it still seems to keep the car’s grille out of the dirt and usually pointed in the right direction. In keeping with the basic and budget theme the rear suspension is a ladder bar setup. At some point since Tynan built the car someone has changed all four coil-overs to adjustable units, and there are Wilwood brakes on all four corners.
At this point Chuck Mann offered Dave his help and the two teamed up to campaign the car together. Chuck straightened the body and cleverly re-arched the rear wheel wells to follow the body swages.
The car can swallow a set of 33-inch slicks easily without them being too noticeable, and for the last 10 years ago those slicks have been mounted on 15×15-inch Weld Superlites, with some skinnier versions at the pointier end. Just in case no one noticed the wild little ’32, Chuck painted the thing pink. Anderson had a 522ci big block with a tunnel ram fitted in the car, Chuck built a TH400 for it and they were off to the races. But Chuck spun into the guard rail and Dave could only run nines. Chuck decided the car didn’t like him, Dave decided he didn’t like the car. He’d just come runner-up in Super Gas at the 27th NZ Nationals; an ignition problem kept the car in the 9.90s and Dave was both disgusted and amused. “They think I’m cheating with a sputter ’box, and really it’s because I don’t know what’s wrong with it. It’s too slow, it should run 8.9, not 9.9, I’m selling it.” And he did. The 522 got an 8-71 blower and went into a slow Wild Bunch Impala, and the pink ’32 disappeared for a while.
Back In Black
It was seen briefly, Mark Douglas fitted it with a blown big block, but the car never made a pass again until it appeared in Chris Harris’s hands at a Nostalgia meeting. It looked great in black paint, the injected big block sounded mean as, and it ended up bouncing off the guard rail in almost exactly the same spot that Chuck had clipped it a few years earlier. Old habits die hard, and the ’32 showed that no matter what colour it was, leopards don’t change their spots.
Chris campaigned the black coupe in Modified and now Phil’s running the evil beast in the same class. Phil’s using the engine out of his munted ’37; Neil Waters ” who was unfortunate enough to be driving the Chev when it got nudged into oblivion ” helped swap it out of one coupe into the other. It’s a basic 468ci big block Chev with Pro Topline heads and a Crower constant flow injection unit. Don’t stack injectors look fantastic? More cars should have ’em. Visually, it’s a very impressive package and correctly set up they make for crisp throttle response as well.
Ignition is courtesy of MSD, and is that not a sexy set of headers? Appropriately enough, Chuck Mann built the transbrake-equipped Powerglide transmission in the black beast; it also came out of the rolled and bowled ’37. Chuck checked it out after it went upside down and it has performed perfectly. After a very short driveshaft there’s the obligatory nine-inch diff, and a set of 4.86:1 cogs spin the spool inside an aluminium head. Phil thanks Rad Rides for setting the car up and performing a few alterations to his specs.
Inside the coupe, as in most race cars, creature comforts are minimal. There is a Kirkey race seat, a shifter, and a full complement of gauges. Still, the less time he spends in there, the better Phil likes it; quick and fast are what it’s all about.
When the drag race bug bit the Grimmer family, it bit hard and fate didn’t deal Phil an easy hand. But until that old ’37 gets rebuilt, this evil black ’32 with its previously unknown history is a great substitute.
Phillip Grimmer – Owner Profile
Occupation: Panel beater
Previously owned Cars: ’70 Challenger, ’70 Firebird, ’37 Chev coupe
Length of ownership: One year
PHIL thanks: Performance Autoglass, Western Auto Electrical (Wayne Grimmer), Henderson Discount Tyres, Neil Waters, Brendan Halpin at Rad Rides, Wayne Butler for touch-ups; his family, Sue, Courtney Jane, Courtney Jean, Shaun, and his youngest Chris, who helps out between races and lines Phil up on the start
1932 Ford five window coupe – Specifcations
Engine: 468ci (7669cc) big block Chevrolet, Pro Topline heads, Crower injection, MSD 7AL-3, 2.25-inch primarys, 4.25-inch collectors
Driveline: Chuck Mann-built Powerglide with brake, 4.86:1 diff ratio
Suspension: Ladder bar rear, adjustable coil-overs, front tube axle, adjustable coil-overs
Brakes: Wilwood discs and callipers all round
Wheels/Tyres: 15×15 and 15×5-inch Weld Superlite rims, 33x16x15 Goodyear Eagle slicks, 24x5x15 fronts
Exterior: Roof chop, satin black paint
Interior: Kirkey seat, Auto Meter gauges
Chassis: Mild steel box section, eight-point cage
Performance: 9.007 at 137.1mph (220.6kph)
Words: Trevor Tynan Photos: Adam Croy