Somehow, car guy Terry Scroggin found himself without a cool set of wheels a few years ago.
"I was carless," he recalled.
He had owned some pretty nice hot rods, including a 1932 Ford roadster and the most recent one, a yellow ’32 Ford 3-window coupe. "I was kicking myself for selling it," he said, although he admitted neither car had quite hit the mark in terms of his hot-rod ideal.
But he figured he would eventually build another one and this time, he would get it exactly right.
"I usually build a car,” he said. “I was going to do another roadster and then this one came along.”
His son, Ryan, spotted the car, a fiberglass-bodied ’32 Ford highboy roadster, on a Jalopy Journal web forum and told his dad to look at it.
"I always wanted a hot rod with a Hemi in it," Scroggin said. He reluctantly took a peek and liked what he saw, but he was sure the car had already been sold.
Still, at his son’s insistence, he contacted the owner through the website.
"Sure enough, the guy called me 30 minutes later," Scroggin said. "He was 80-some years old and had rebuilt the car and finished it in ’03 … and he built it right.”
A small block Chevy V-8 had been replaced by a classic 392 cubic inch Chrysler Hemi V-8.
A deal was struck and Scroggin sent a down payment to the owner, located in southern Texas, near the Mexican border. He asked his wife, Delia, if she would like to make a trip to Texas and she agreed, thinking maybe it would involve a drive to Dallas for some shopping.
But knowing him, she figured there was probably a car deal involved, and she was right.
The down payment never arrived, “but he held the car for me anyway," Scroggin said. "We left at 4:30 in the morning and drove all the way down there, and when we got there, I was not disappointed.”
It was not his ideal hot rod by any means, but it would be the platform for building it.
"I bought the car for the underpinnings," he said. "It was kind of a cross between a custom and a hot rod. I’ve been taking stuff off and adding to it ever since."
A set of nerf bars just ahead of the rear wheels had to go, as did big, vinyl #32 decals stuck to each door.
"The tranny was slipping so bad, it wouldn’t even lay rubber," Scroggin said.
So he had Tom Wilhite rebuild the Chevy 350 Turbo-Hydramatic transmission and installed a new Neal Chance torque converter. "It’s a rubber-laying son-of-a-gun now," Scroggin says.
The Hemi was bored out .030" when the previous owner had it rebuilt. The owner himself whipped up the wild set of exhaust headers, brazing them together from Speedway Motors exhaust tubing pieces. Now Scroggin tells people that he had a "tuba maker" fabricate the eye-catching headers.
He wasn’t satisfied with the windshield arrangement, so he switched to a Rodwell windshield, chopped two inches and raked back at a steep 37 degrees from vertical. The mounting stanchions had to be custom made to fit the original mounting holes.
He had Chris Carlson of Chaotic Customs in Mulvane french in a set of ’52 Pontiac tail lights, add a rolled bead to the front edge of the cowl and repaint the entire car a custom-mixed color he calls "Resale Red."
The orange engine block and all of the hardline fittings were repainted in a more subtle gunmetal gray. And perhaps most importantly, Scroggin had Carlson repaint the shiny aluminum firewall in a black-and-white checkerboard pattern, with the engine still in the car, to capture the look he was after.
Carlson also modified a louvered Rootlieb hood that barely clears the marine-style spark arrestors atop the twin Edelbrock carbs on the Littlefield 6-71 blower.
"You gotta have the hood," Scroggin said, referencing his classic hot-rod objective.
The power plant is conservatively rated somewhere near 400 horsepower, according to the engine builder.
The car rides on stock-style ’32 Ford frame rails, with Pete and Jake’s 4-bar front suspension locating the 4-inch dropped Super Bell aluminum front axle. A Currie 9-inch rear end carrying 3.50 gears is also located via a 4-link setup and genuine 15-inch Halibrand wheels, complete with 3-bar spinners, are used all around.
Skinny 165/80/15 BF Goodrich blackballs are mounted up front, with meaty 285/30/15s used to get power to the pavement in back.
Scroggin left the white tuck and roll marine-grade vinyl interior alone, noting, "I’ve been caught in the rain several times, and trucks have no respect for a guy in an open car."
Stewart Warner wing-style gauges and a Juliano’s small-diameter ’40 Ford steering wheel are featured inside. The trunk is also finished in white vinyl and red piping, all done by the Austin Speed Shop in Texas.
"These things are like overgrown go karts … it’s nimble and it handles really well," Scroggin said. "But there are no creature comforts at all. I call it my 50-50 car: 50 minutes or 50 miles.”
Delia says she gets a kick out of riding in the roadster.
"We drive it out for breakfast or dinner and people just flock to it. They take pictures of it with their cell phones. It makes ’em really friendly."
They have logged nearly 5,000 miles in their Hemi deuce roadster in the three years they’ve had it.
"To me, it’s just the subtle things. Traditional is what I’m after," said Terry Scroggin. "You get in this and you look through this windshield and you’re looking through the eyes of an 18-year-old.
"I’ve got it where I want it. It’s the most fun car I’ve ever had. It’s a keeper.”