Nick Mardis came by his love of flathead Fords naturally enough. His parents drove a 1940 Ford when he was a youngster and he had a hopped-up ’39 Ford coupe when he was in high school.
“It had a good running flathead in it. It would outrun a ’57 Chevy Duntov Special … those guys couldn’t believe it,” he said. Flathead Fords were a way of life to him, he said.
If there was one thing he loved as much as a flathead V-8, it was a 1932 Ford coupe that belonged to a friend’s father.
“He would drive it to school and I would think, ‘What a gorgeous car.’ I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for ’32’s since then,” Mardis said.
Many years later, he would have the opportunity to build his own flathead-powered 1932 Ford coupe.
It began in an unconventional way. His grandson, Riley Smith, found a flathead V-8 for sale in a 1953 Ford and told Mardis about it. He bought the engine on the condition it could first be checked for cracks in the block, a common occurrence in old V-8s; when the block checked out, he put Jerry Livingston to work building the engine to his specifications. It turned out it was actually a 1950 Mercury engine with the desirable, longer 4-inch stroke.
“I wanted to put a blower on it,” Mardis said. Add to the Roadrunner supercharger a set of finned Edelbrock high compression heads, a 3/4 race camshaft, S/S headers, Mallory electronic ignition and a balance job and Nick Mardis had himself a super-nice vintage flathead V-8 engine … with no place to go.
“I started looking for a body to put it in,” he said. And again, fate was on his side.
He located a fiberglass 1932 Ford 3-window coupe on a frame in Fredonia. It apparently was the last ’32 coupe body manufactured by N&N Fiberglass in Belleville, Ark. The body was built with a 3-inch top chop.
“It was on a frame and the doors, glass and power windows were already in it. It made it a real good deal to finish it,” Mardis said. His wife, Suzie, contributed to the cause, buying him a Speedway ’32 Ford grille shell and insert for Christmas.
That was two years ago and with the help of grandson Riley, Mardis set about putting the car together. He had the frame powder coated at Lorac, the highboy body painted a slick Ford Red Candy Metallic by Ultra Color, and a bench-style van seat upholstered in two-tone leather by Stylecraft Auto Upholstery, who also did the rest of the interior and trunk in matching material highlighted by both Ford and V-8 classic logos.
“We ran the engine for the first time on Fathers Day a year ago. We had a party and fired it up and it sounded great,” Mardis said.
“People told us if you don’t have air conditioning, you’re going to die in that car,” said Suzie. So air conditioning was incorporated into the build.
The car came with a set of 5-spoke aluminum wheels, which now mount 265/ 75R15 Cooper tires on the rear and smaller 15-inch Bridgestones up front. The rear suspension is a 4-bar link with coil-over springs. Wilwood disc brakes up front combine with drums on the 9-inch Ford rear end for stopping power. With a 2.91 gear in the differential, the car cruises effortlessly at a bit over 2,000 rpm at 60 mph.
The coupe is also equipped with a tilt steering column and column shift to make the best use of limited interior space. White faced Stewart Warner gauges keep track of speed and engine conditions.
When Jerry Livingston asked why Mardis wasn’t going to put a hood on his hot rod, Mardis’ true colors showed through.
“The only time you put a hood on a ’32 Ford is if you have a Chevy engine in it,” he declared. “Nineteen thirty-two was the first year of the Ford V-8, so it’s only right to have a flathead V-8 in this car.”
The couple have already collected some nice awards at area car shows and put approximately a thousand miles on their flathead coupe. They never trailer it anywhere and look forward to many more miles and many more car shows in it.
Mike Berry: firstname.lastname@example.org