Survivor: An Ex-Drag Car Gets A New Lease On Life

By Scott Parkhurst
Photos By Rich Chenet

An Ex-Drag Car Gets A New Lease On Life

The History of hot rodding is full Of stories about the good old days. Countless tales of dirt cheap and deadly quick '32 Fords, T-buckets, Willys coupes, and '57 Chevys regularly fill the air at any given gathering of guys who were there.

While the stories remain fresh and are revered as a true oral history of our chosen hobby, precious few of the actual cars from the early days of hot rodding still exist.

Occasionally, one of these grand relics is found. Some are saved and returned to their former glory. Even rarer still, these survivors sometimes arise from the dead to attain even greater heights by returning to the streets. Such is the case with our subject Deuce.

This Coupe was raced extensively in the early '60s at New Jersey's Old Bridge Stadium. While many may remember this track as a paved oval, the short straightaway was used regularly for timed drags over a tiny 1/16-mile distance. Referred to with tongue-in-cheek in the era as "The Quickest Track in the East," the ultra-short strip still attracted regular participants and provided a place to plant the throttle for local racers.

With the opening of the full quarter-mile track at Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ, the death knell sounded for this tiny strip in 1965. Old Bridge Stadium's chapter in drag racing history was closed forever.

The Deuce coupe we've featured was one of the regular participants down the dimunitive strip. The car was sold through a swap meet flyer ad over four years ago to Frank Mundrick, who had been looking for such a car and was intrigued by its history. The car still wore tattered B/Competition "Class Winner" decals in its windows from the long-defunct track, and they were dated from '63, '64, and '65. Frank knew he had a cool piece of history, and it was his duty to return to its former glory, and beyond.

The unchopped steel body is channeled seven inches over the '33/'34 Ford chassis, which was pinched three inches to allow the body to fit. The powerplant was obviously an early Chrysler Hemi, but further inquiry showed it was also a rare piece. The numbers led Mundrick to learn the powerplant is a 345ci DeSoto Adventurer Hemi with a factory dual-quad intake- one of only 1,950 ever made back then.

The intake is now topped with a pair of 550cfm Carter AFB carbs. The rare mill is backed by a '39 LaSalle 3-speed transmission, still using the aluminum flywheel from back in its racing days. The race car's rear axle had been pirated from a '60 Olds.

During the car's reconstruction, Mundrick did all the right things, including a full rebuild of the DeSoto mill (from the required .040-inch overbore to the insurace of a complete line-bore and squaring of the block). Frank feels the engine is making its factory rated 345 horses- maybe even a few more. The '60 Olds rear was deemed unsalvageable, and a '55 Chevy rear has replaced it. Being a machinist, Frank knew he had the skills to rebuild the car as it should be, and with full respect to its colorful past. The results show he did just that.

The cool details on the Deuce include '50 Buick taillights, early Studebaker cowl lights (now doing duty as turn signals), and a period perfect interior tuck-and-roll. The interior is further fortified with a '59 Chevy Impala steering wheel and nine ancient Stewart-Warner gauges. The golden color also hearkens back to the period when the car was raced, and Frank chose it after seeing it on an early Plymouth Fury air cleaner. While many tones of gold exist, this particular color truly looks at home on the traditionally-flavored Deuce Coupe. Tasteful vintage-style pinstripes are strategically scripted all over the car.

The suspension was completely rebuilt in period fashion, maintaining many of the original parts and upgrading only where it was completely necessary. The front axle is a 4-inch drop Magnum unit, wearing '40 Ford juice brakes and relying on traditional split wishbones. The springs are all Model A buggy units, which have been de-arched or had leafs removed to achieve proper stance. The rear brakes are still stock '55 Chevy drum-design parts that came with the rear axle.

Frank stuck to the traditional line with his selection of steel wheels, Moon disc wheel covers, Cheater slicks, and wide whitewall tires. The bright red trim color truly works with the PPG "Gold Dust" Plymouth gold, and four years after he found it, Frank is able to enjoy the car to the fullest.

During the Jersey cruising season, Frank can be found piloting the coupe to all the greatest nostalgic rod shows. It's been driven up to 5-1/2 hours on a steady stetch to prove its roadworthiness. It's rich-but-cloudy history and timeless style ensure it'll be welcome anywhere hot rodders gather. This car is truly a Survivor, and thanks to the efforts of its owner, the "Golden Deuce" (as Frank has taken to calling it) can continue writing hot rod history nearly fifty years after its story began.

Note: SuperMotors has a business affiliation with Street Thunder Magazine, which provides street rod and automotive content to SuperMotors.

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