Ron Maxwell's 1934 Ford
1934 Ford 5-Window Coupe owned by Ron Maxwell of Salt Lake City, Utah. Originally built in 1954, Ron's coupe ran under flathead and later Cadillac power, competing in B/Altered at strips around Utah.
- 1 High School Channeling
- 2 Mercury Power
- 3 Metallic Paint Job
- 4 Cadillac Power and Laundromat Swivel Seats
- 5 From Street to Strip
- 6 Good Cop - Bad Cop
- 7 Sold to Lynn Butler
- 8 Rob Montalbine Buys the Coupe on eBay
- 9 The 7 Year Rebuild
- 10 SpeedKing
- 11 For the Win
- 12 Magazine Features and Appearances
- 13 References
High School Channeling
Ron wasn't even 16 years old when he bought the engineless coupe in 1954. He paid $400 for the project and spent about a year working on it before he finally got it on the street. The body was channeled 3 inches in Ron's West High School shop class. Cal Brown, a friend of Ron, fabricated a rolled rear pan for the coupe. The pan was dressed up with 1948 Chevrolet taillights.
Ron found a 1948 Mercury flathead that he loaded with all the speed goodies he could find, like an Edelbrock intake and heads, three Strombergs, a Winfield SU1A cam, and Harman & Collins dual coil-ignition. A 1939 Ford toploader with Lincoln-Zephyr gears and a banjo rear end were also installed before Ron went street racing. In 2014 Ron told The Rodder's Journal that it would go 50 mph in low gear; "You could ease it out with the guy racing you just standing on it. Then you'd stand on it and it was over." It ran steel wheels and whitewall tires. Hot rodding was everywhere in Salt Lake City in the 1950s, and Ron spent many nights cruising Don Carlo's Bar-B-Q and Fred and Kelly's Cafe on State Street. "One street went four blocks without any driveways. They used to have starters flag us off, and I could usually run about two-strips before I'd run out of brakes. The cops chased me all over town for about 10 years," Ron told The Rodder's Journal. To the best of his recollection, he was only beaten once during all those years. In 2018 Ron told Kustomrama that it cost him around $1200 - $1500 to build the '34 in 1955.
Metallic Paint Job
Cadillac Power and Laundromat Swivel Seats
By 1960 Ron's channeled coupe had received a 1953 Cadillac OHV V-8 engine with 4x2's, American Torq-Thrusts wheels, and a 1932 Ford grille shell. This iteration featured a recessed firewall to make room for the bigger engine. The engine was bored to 354 inches and it was filled with a Chet Herbert valve train, Jahns Hi-Dome pistons, and an Edelbrock intake with four Stromberg 97s. The interior featured orange plastic swivel seats from a laundromat, and the original dash ran Stewart-Warner gauges and a 1950 Plymouth speedometer. Local bodyman Paul Lopez sprayed the body with a 1956 Packard Naples Orange lacquer for Ron.
From Street to Strip
"In the 1950s it was strictly street racing," Ron told The Rodder's Journal. Once the Cadillac engine was in Ron hit the drag strip. Ron campaigned in the B/Altered class at dragstrips around Salt Lake City, turning a best time of 13 seconds flat at 103 mph.
Good Cop - Bad Cop
According to Ron, Just about every cop in town that would get a new car would go and test him on some deserted road. "If we ever beat you, Maxwell, you're going to jail," they would say.
Sold to Lynn Butler
Ron eventually sold the coupe to Lynn Butler in 1962 or 1963. In 1964 it was featured in the February issue of Rod & Custom, by then it was owned by Rick McMichael. After that it bounced around to Idaho, Georgia, Florida, and New Mexico.
Rob Montalbine Buys the Coupe on eBay
In 2006 Ron's old coupe turned op on eBay. At the time it was located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Rob Montalbine of River Vale, New Jersey came across the listing. He thought the black primered coupe was really rough, but he knew that it had to be a true vintage hot rod. In 2017 Rob told Kustomrama that he has always been a car guy; "I've been through the typical array of Trans-AMs, Corvettes, then a series of entry-level street rods, etc. I wanted to “move up the food chain” and build what would be the car of my dreams. I knew that if I was to spend the time and money to build a car, it would have to be built on the right platform; an all-Henry steel car, but more than that, I wanted to build a hot rod with a historic pedigree. When I saw what turned out to be the 34 5 window coupe originally built by Ron Maxwell, I bid to win. It had all the essentials; a 1954 Cadillac 331 cu. in. engine, 3 pedals with a 25 tooth cluster gear with a 15 tooth main shaft Lincoln Zephyr gears in a 39 Ford box, with a 3.54 gear in the rear end, and a 5 window coupe."
The 7 Year Rebuild
After Rob bought the car, he had it delivered to Randy Bianchi in Closter, New Jersey. At Randy's shop the old hot rod was immediately stripped to bare metal and completely disassembled. Rob never drove the car until the 7-year rebuild was completed. "The concept was to restore and refine the car, and I wanted to make sure we did not lose the identity of what this car is. For example, I had the car painted Naples Orange, which is the same 1954 Packard color Ron Maxwell painted the car in 1958. I wanted to chop the car and did the research to track down Ron and when he told me he would have liked to have chopped it back in the day, that was my green light to go ahead and chop it 5 inches." During the chop, Rob and Randy wanted to enhance the deco lines of the 34, so they laid back the A-pillar and leaned forward the C-pillar to enhance the lines of the car's silhouette. The top had been filled decades earlier, but the lead was failing and remains of the original fabric insert were still in place. All of that was removed before Randy fabricated a new insert with a perfect crown and five rows of louvers. In order to fit in the car after the chop, the original factory floors were cut out and restored, then repositioned to channel the body 2 1/2 inches instead of the original 7. The old rolled rear pan was also replaced with a stock 1934 Ford rear pan. The 1948 Chevrolet taillights that came with the car were reinstalled in the factory-style pan.
"We did the pipes similarly to what Ron did, but cut back the firewall so we could run all 3 pipes down the side. Since Rod and Custom February 1964 did a 3-page feature including a ”rod test”, I decided we should freeze time in 1964 and not use any parts newer than 1964, to preserve the pedigree of the car. We found a vintage Culver City 301 quick change, magnesium no less, and every part on the car is original. No parts out of a magazine, no NOS, etc. All this took years to find all the rare components used on the car; the Cragar 471 blower, the Duo-Coil ignition, and of course a generator, not alternator, keeping everything true to the period. Actually, the newest part on the car is an M21 4 speed out of a 64 corvette. The wheels are original magnesium Torque Thrust that are true to the car. Everything is either original to the time or fabricated using only tools from the era. There are lots of unique tricks and custom fabrications that makes the car unique and takes time to see it all.
The engine that came with the car was over-bored and internally hemorrhaging water, so Randy replaced it with a 1954 Cadillac 331-inch block with larger 1956 Cadillac heads. Tony Feil did all the machine work on the engine. The 1939 Ford toploader with Lincoln-Zephyr gears was replaced with a Muncie four-speed from a 1964 Chevrolet Corvette.
Inside, the seat and door panels were upholstered in the Naples Orange leather with rolled and pleated cream-color inserts in a pattern reminiscent of Ford's 56 Thunderbird interior design.
Rob's restored and rebuilt '34 debuted at the 2013 Detroit Autorama where it competed for The Great 8 winning an award and money. For Rob, the car represents what he would have built back in the day using all period correct parts. "In the 1950s Ron was running the Caddy motor completely hopped up for street racing with 13:1 Jahn’s pistons. Well today, you can’t get the octane gas needed at the local filling station so you have to make horsepower in another way. So the logical choice was to make HP with a vintage supercharger topped off with 6 original Stromberg 97’s on top." Rob named his iteration of the coupe "SpeedKing."
For the Win
The restored version of the car has also won Top 10 out of 8000 cars at Syracuse, Street Rodder Magazine Top 100 in 2015, Dead Man’s Curve Top Hot Rod, Goodguys Top Hot Rod at the Rhinebeck Nationals, Lead East 2016 Top Hot Rod and more. It was also featured on the cover of The Rodders Journal #60, landing a 14-page feature article by Steve Coonan.
Magazine Features and Appearances
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