Joe Brienza's 1934 Ford
1934 Ford Convertible owned and restyled by Bay Buggies hot rod club member Joe Brienza of West Islip, New York. Joe's wild rod is known as the Brienza Special, and it was the fifth custom creation for the young Long Island builder. Joe found the car as a beaten down stocker in a horse barn in 1957. The convertible was filled with horse manure up to the dashboard, and the farmer sold it to Joe for $35. Working out of a small car shed, the build was started later on in 1957 The chassis was cleaned, and the body was sectioned 4 inches before Joe channeled it 14 inches over the frame. The cowl was extended and the doors were welded shut. All seams were filled, and the windshield was chopped 4 1/2 inches. The distinctive grille and grille-shell were custom made. The unique shell consisted of two 1940 Ford hoods that Joe turned back to back before he welded and trimmed with the halves of an old headlight forming the lower bulges. The radiator came from a Henry J. Frenched 1955 Ford taillights were molded onto the welded shut deck. A red and white Naugahyde interior by was made for the car. The interior featured hidden stitch tufts and buttons. The rug consisted of real white bear skin. The upholstery was done by Baldwin Auto Upholstery. At the time Joe built the car and took it to the upholstery shop, he worked as an automobile mechanic. At the upholstery shop the owner of the shop was so impressed with the car that he offered Joe a job, telling him he would learn him the trade. Joe figured that he would rather do custom upholstery than crawl all over the ground full of grease, so he accepted the job. The dashboard was made from 3/8-inch steel that was chromed and fit with Stewart-Warner instruments. The heavily chromed engine compartment featured a red 325 Cadillac V8 engine fit with 1956 Cadillac intake valves, a 1956 Cadillac intake-manifold with a 4-barrel carb, a chromed Cadillac air-cleaner, Jans pistons and an Isky cam. Bored to 4 inches, and with a 10-1 compression, the engine helped Joe achieve speeds of 145 mph in 1959. The headers were home-made. The engine was hooked to a Lincoln transmission and Lincoln rear end. The front end set-up included brake drums from a 1938 Lincoln Zephyr, backing plates with home-made airscoops and a dropped axle. The build took about two years, and Joe spent six hours a night, seven days a week, more than 1,500 hours building the car. His wife was his helper during the build. Before the car entered any shows, it was photographed by Al White for a featured story in Custom Rodder magazine. The story was published in Custom Rodder December 1958 , and the Brienza Special landed the cover of that magazine as the "Top-Secret Rod". According to that story, Joe's rod had been built under strict security conditions. This version did not feature nerf bars in the rear, these were installed later on. Photos from Joe's collection showing him as he makes the custom nerf bars are dated September 1958. According to the Custom Rodder story, the body was sectioned 6 1/2 inches over frame. This was done by cutting of the bottom part of the body. The first car show Joe entered with the newly built rod was a show that was held at Lake Ronkonkamo Ford. At the show Joe took 5 trophies. One for best in show, one for best interior, one for best paint, one for best engineered and one for most popular. This version of the car was also shown at the first Glen Cove Hot Rod Show that was hel October 17, 1958. The show was held by the Glen Cove Road Panthers. The same year, the car was also displayed at the 1958 Westchester Autorama of Rods and Customs. Joe was a loner when he built the car, but was asked to join the Bay Buggies hot rod club after they saw the completed build.
During the build Joe was looking at a beautiful 1932 Ford best in show roadster when the owner told him not to touch his car. Joe was no way near it, he was just carefully admiring it. The owner had a nasty attitude, so Joe told him that he would be back with a car to beat him. The owner just laughed, but Joe returned 2 years later, and he beat him every time. According to the 1959 Hartford Autorama Souvenir Pictorial, Joe had won 9 first places and 3 first for interior in 3 local shows. A photo of Joe's roadster is featured in Rodding and Re-styling March 1959. In the photo, the car is shown at the 1958 Westchester Autorama Of Rods And Customs were it won two of those nine trophies; one for best roadster and one for best interior. Later on in 1959, Joe's roadster landed the cover of Hot Rod Magazine August 1959 under the title "Eastern Show Stopper". There was also a featured story on the car inside the magazine. By then the entire chassis had been chromed and frenched. The front suspension had been chromed as well, and the engine had been painted white. Prior to this, the frame and engine was painted the same color as the body.
In 1962 Joe sold the car to Ghost Motorcycles of Port Washington, New York. By then Joe had installed dual square headlights and a cut-down steering-wheel. The headlights were hand held spotlights that you plugged into the cigarette lighter. Joe bought four that he altered. They were first painted red. Later on he had the chromed. Joe sold the car for a good price. A BMW motorcycle and two go carts were also included in the deal. Ghost Motorcycles took the car to several shows, and won many trophies. The owner of Ghost Motorcycles sold the car to someone in Puerto Rico. After a while it came back to New Jersey. A Chevrolet dealer bought the car, and it was kept in his showroom window. That was the last Joe Brienza heard of the car. He has been trying to track it down afterwards without luck.
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