Hot Rod: The Rancho Deluxe Roadster

Words: Ben Thomas Photography: Luke Ray

The year is 1947, an ex-serviceman returns home to Southern California. His old ’32 ford roadster is removed from the shed, and the guts of a wrecked ‘39 Mercury sedan are transplanted in, giving more power, braking and top speed, essential for the dry lakes racing career he will embark on. He outfits the motor with products from the growing speed equipment industries’ catalogues, and races his car against fellow car club members, and the clock. The car also serves as daily transport for him in the mild SoCal climate, the loud twin exhausts upsetting the locals still not used to the returned soldiers’ need for peacetime thrills.

The era immediately following WW2 in Southern California was the timeframe and inspiration for me to build an accurate recreation of a stripped down, dry lakes racing, late Fourties street roadster, something of a time machine, so that a drive down the street or across the state could become a journey back sixty years.

Starting with an original 1932 Australian delivered chassis, I used the driveline from a 1939 Mercury sedan, including the wheels, brakes, steering, pedals, rear axle as well as many other components. The 239 C.I. 99A Mercury Flathead engine I used originally saw service in a military Bren Gun Carrier. It has been fully rebuilt with flowed, matched Ports, shaved heads, Wade performance cam, Edelbrock super manifold with twin Holley 94s, and a full stainless custom built mandrel bent 2 ¼” exhaust system. A five speed gearbox is fitted, along with a pressed steel centre cross member designed to replicate the later Ford chassis design.

Inside, an impressive array of mismatched Vintage gauges and military switchgear supply the Flathead’s vital information to the driver. Combined with the shiny dark green leather upholstery, wide pleated in the fourties style, they give a subtle, British vintage sports car feel to the interior.

The body is a Brookville Roadster steel reproduction, specified as a restoration body, with all original floor pressings, handle holes, etc.  All the original external hinges and handles were retained, a deliberate step, as the first hotrods were built using stock bodies, then later in their development the smoothed hinges and shaved handles became prominent. The firewall, 20 louver hood, radiator grille, and headlights are all original 78 year old Ford parts, which I think gives the car a soul, and the little imperfections create an aura of authenticity that is hard to replicate.

The paint used is Jet Black Nitrocellulose lacquer, an old technology paint used during the first half of the 20th Century by Ford and most car manufacturers. Now mainly used in fine furniture production, this product was used to obtain a correct finish that modern two pack paints cannot match.

Hand rubbed and buffed, it has an amazing depth of shine, thanks to Josh Shuster, who painted and detailed the car. All bright work on the car is either stainless steel or nickel plate, to give a warm glow to the highlights that chrome just can’t. Firestone Bias-ply tyres in 5.50 and 7.00 by 16” give a little rake and extend the rear gearing for top speed runs.

Rancho Deluxe is my full time business, building traditional hotrod chassis and components, and assembling period correct cars.

The Rancho Deluxe roadster is my expression of a true hot rod, a time machine back to when innovation was hand built, and the true test of man and machine was flat out across the Lakes.

This article first appeared in Fuel Magazine issue 04.

Follow Ben: @ranchodeluxe.

Ben ThomasHot Rod, Ford, Australia