Before World War II, amid the Great Depression, when Herbert Hoover was President of the United States, and even most Germans didn’t take Hitler seriously, Ford stopped making the Model A. Ninety years later, its replacement, the 1932 Ford Model B, will remains the foundation of automotive enthusiasm in America. And “Deuce Day” this past Sunday at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles indicates that that foundation is vital.
“You can see enough out of it,” one showgoer said to another while inspecting a five-window ’31 rat rod so radically chopped that the windshield was hardly more than a slot and the driver has to basically sit on the floor. “Yeah,” the other said, “you don’t want to have too much outward visibility.”
Though it was Deuce Day, the show wasn’t so strict that only ’32 Fords were admitted. See, that ’31 Model A was okay too. Plus a few customs and the like. But mostly it was ‘32s. Maybe 60 of them.
The 1932 Ford has been a superstar since its inception. Throughout 1930 and 1931 there were rumors that Ford would soon add a V-8-powered model. “The rumor that something new will be introduced by Ford which will create a sensation in the automobile continues to gain strength,” reported The New York Times on April 3, 1931. “The report that there is to be an eight-cylinder car read for distribution before the end of this year is neither denied or affirmed.”
The company kept the rumors boiling for a year as the public grew ever more anxious to see the new, more powerful Ford. The sort of tease that GM would use effectively over eight generations of Corvettes. And Honda would abuse the process in the agonizing lead up to debuting the second Acura NSX. But Ford did it first.
When the V-8 showed up, the public went nuts. In its April 1, 1932 edition The New York Times related how crowds flocked to Ford’s New York headquarters at Broadways and 54th that debut day. “By actual count,” wrote the paper, “the number who viewed the cars exceeded 40,000 by six P.M. and visitors still were arriving at the rate of 4500 an hour. The exhibit will be opened at 8 A.M. and will run until midnight today and tomorrow.” The most popular part of the exhibit was apparently the cutaway chassis showing details of the new engine. “No figures were available as to the number of orders placed,” continued The Times. “Although it was said that many dealers were receiving orders despite the fact that the cars were not yet on display at their places.”
At the Petersen, the variety of ‘32s on display proved how durable the design is. Despite several examples at Deuce Day that tried mightily, it’s hard to screw up a ’32 so thoroughly as to make it truly ugly.
Bruce Meyer, who is L.A.’s patron saint of hot rodding, was on hand with one of his Doane Spencer roadsters built in the immediate aftermath of World War II. It sort of presided over the event as Deuce Royalty. The star of the show, however, was Pat Gauntt’s still fresh Deuce three-window coupe which looks like it was built on the day that Bentley decided to go hot rodding.