Modern Rodding TECH

By Ron Covell Photography by Troy Ladd Illustration by e. BLACK DESIGN CO.
Before the Slonaker Award There was Lots of Metalwork typography
’32 Ford Highboy Coupe Shows Off its Metalwork
renderings for the Gauntt coupe, done by Eric Black
1. Eric Black did the renderings for the Gauntt coupe.

ome of the most eye-catching vehicles at the recent Grand National Roadster Show (GNRS) in Pomona were in competition for the Al Slonaker award—the contest for all vehicles not eligible for the headlining America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award. The winner was the Pat Gauntt ’32 Ford coupe built by Hollywood Hot Rods (HHR) under the direction of Troy Ladd; it took home the ARP custom trophy and the $15,000 check.

Gauntt had his eye on some of HHR’s past work, but since the car he wanted wasn’t for sale, he commissioned them to build a very special car for him. The concept of this car is rather unique—adapting European sports car elements to a thoroughly American hot rod.

This was a multi-year project, and Gauntt gave Ladd free reign to develop the concept to the ultimate extent of his vision. Ladd works closely with designer Eric Black, and they had hatched the concept for a car with this theme several years ago. He built a roadster with a related theme a few years ago, the “Brooklands Special,” and with the green light for the new project from Gauntt, they doubled down and found some creative ways to expand the vision, then quickly commenced with the construction.

Starting with a ’32 Ford three-window coupe body from Brookville Roadster, the top was chopped 5-1/4 inches in front, 4-1/2 inches in the rear, and the windshield was laid back 18 degrees. The body was sectioned 1-1/4 inches and a 1/2-inch section was removed from the doors above the beltline, enlarging the window openings. Ladd decided to split the windshield and angle each pane into a “V” shape. Another unique touch was hinging the glass panes at the top so they can hinge open for ventilation! The roof was left unfilled, and a new insert was fabricated with a “V” shape to match the windshield.

The wheelwells were raised to follow the curvature of the rear tires, the decklid was made smaller (another European touch), and the corners were radiused.

The firewall was completely reconfigured, matching the “V” windshield shape on the cowl top and following the curve of the doors on the sides. The rear window was split too, and the lower edge positioned so it aligned with the door glass. A grille shell was scratch built from steel and angled to match the firewall. An aluminum roll pan was formed to hug the rear of the body.

Some of the most demanding work went into the details. Ladd has adopted rules for the work he does, and one of the most important is that everything must be done for a purpose. Another rule is that every “wear point” needs to be protected, usually with a polished stainless trim piece. To continue the theme, all the trim pieces fit into recesses with a sculpted border, adding another finishing touch to the design. Components like the taillights adhere to this rule, too. Ladd takes pride that his crew hand crafts every component—nothing is computer designed or CNC machined.

One of the most unique design elements on this car is the cowl exhaust, with a protective stainless trim piece that goes into the doors. There is just enough room in the kick panel area inside the car to house a remotely operated valve, which directs the exhaust to exit through the cowl, or it can be diverted through mufflers carefully fitted under the car. From a side view, you’ll see that the hood vents have a graceful curve that leads into the stainless trim around the exhaust tips.

This car abounds with carefully thought out and perfectly executed details, and you will see much more in the accompanying photos. Gauntt, along with Ladd and his crew, are delighted with the way this car turned out, and they feel like nothing was left “on the table” in terms of design. Apparently, the judges at the GNRS agreed since they bestowed the Al Slonaker award to this one-of-a-kind coupe.

mechanic does metalwork to the sun roof opening of the Brookville Roadster body
2. Starting with a brand-new Brookville Roadster body, the roof was sectioned into carefully sized pieces.
the Brookville Roadster body roof panels sit on the garage floor

3. Now the serious work begins. Each of the roof panels will be radically modified and reshaped.

the roof panel pieces being painstakingly fitted together using Clecos
4. Here are the pieces being painstakingly fitted together. Note the V-shaped windshield opening.
the rear window split into two panes
5. The rear window was sized to match the door glass and was split into two panes following the windshield design.
a new, removable roof insert sits on a work table
6. A new, removable roof insert was fabricated. This is the receiver to be welded into the opening in the roof. Notice the raised bead around the edge, a theme repeated on all trim pieces.
driver side view of the body with the roof nearly finished and the cowl being peaked
7. Here the roof is nearly finished and the cowl is being peaked to match the “V” windshield.
the front windshield featuring a center detail piece added between the split windshield halves and accented with “speed holes”

8. A detail piece was added between the split windshield halves and accented with “speed holes.”

an area where two sections meet on the lower part of the body
9. The body was sectioned 1-1/4 inches.
the passenger side rear wheelwell replacement is held in place with Clecos
10. The wheelwells were repositioned to match the curvature of the rear tires.
three quarter view of the decklid, downsized and with radiused corners
11. The decklid was downsized and the corners are being radiused here.
the new grille shell in the process of being fabricated from steel
12. Here is the new grille shell being fabricated from steel.
the completed but not yet installed grille shell
13. After some welding, tweaking, and adjusting, the grille shell is looking great.
the newly installed grille shell holding the separate "spear" tips that continue along the hood
14. The “spears” that continue the lines on the hood sides were formed as separate pieces then butt-welded into the grille shell.
underside rear view of the close fitting roll pan
15. At the rear of the body, a close-fitting roll pan was made from aluminum.
tape is used to mark out the areas where vents and exhaust will be
16. The vent openings in the hood side are laid out with tape, along with the recesses in the cowl and doors for the exhaust.
the cowl exhaust tips, trial fitted to the driver side
17. The cowl exhaust tips are trial fitted into place.
stainless trim around the cowl exhaust pipes is held with Clecos
18. The stainless trim pieces are positioned with Clecos.
two driver side cowl exhaust pipes sit within a pocket held with Clecos
19. Pockets are fitted into the cowl to house the exhaust tips, and the cutoff valve that can divert the exhaust gases through mufflers under the car.
a stainless steel pocket is fitted into the driver side door
20. Stainless pockets are fitted into the doors to protect them from the hot exhaust gases.
view of the driver side of the hood, showing the installed exhaust pipes with small turnouts at the ends
21. Small turnouts supply the finishing touch for the cowl exhaust.
vent openings in the hood side are outlined by a bead in the metal
22. The vent openings in the hood side are outlined by a bead in the metal.
the Pitman arm cover is installed
23. Cowl steering was fitted, and a cover for the Pitman arm was fabricated from stainless to follow the theme of the exhaust trim.
a hood vent covered with wire mesh
24. Wire mesh adds just the right touch to fill the openings in the hood sides.
the exposed floor of the car body
25. The floor in this car is a work of art.
the floor pieces are positioned with Clecos to test the fit
26. Here the floor pieces are positioned with Clecos to test the fit.
a unique rail for the gear shift linkage is featured inside the cabin
27. A unique rail for the gear shift linkage is featured inside the cabin.
the adjustable shock absorber system, controlled by hydraulic pressure
28. The car features adjustable shock absorbers, controlled by hydraulic pressure. These are the fluid reservoirs, hand pumps, and gauges for the system.
Eric Black’s final renderings of the car
29. Here is one of Eric Black’s final renderings of the car. We think you’ll agree it’s quite a piece of work.
e. Black Design Co.
(800) 522-5004
Hollywood Hot Rods
(818) 842-6900
Modern Rodding

VOLUME 3 • ISSUE 21 • 2022