Bruce Olson's 1932 Ford
1932 Ford 5-Window Coupe owned and built by Bruce Olson of Beach, North Dakota. Bruce bought the coupe, without an engine, from the original owner in 1954. He was 18 years old at the time, and paid 40 $ for the 22 years old car. Bruce really wanted a roadster, but after looking around for a roadster project from 1951 to 1953 he came to the conclusion that Ford didn't sell many roadsters in North Dakota. The old timers told him it was too cold. The fenders, hood, bumpers, and more were scrapped, before Bruce channeled the body 6 inches over the frame up front, and about 8 inches in the rear. A 1953 Chrysler 331 Hemi was bought for $150 and installed before the build was back on the road again in 1955. Bruce's inspiration for the build, and the reason why he decided to buy a coupe, came from a featured story on Lynn Yakel's 1932 Ford 5-Window coupe in Trend Book 102 Hot Rods from 1951. "I wanted to build it as close as possible to Yeakel's car - flathead and all" said Bruce in a letter to Rod & Custom magazine editor Pat Ganahl. "I really liked a pumped flathead, but my dad thought I should consider an overhead. The final decision was either a nailhead Buick or a Hemi. I picked the Hemi, and it has had one in it ever since." The first version was flat black, and it featured no exhaust, no interior, and no license plate. "The cops loved it" according to Bruce. There were no hot rod and custom car clubs in that part of North Dakota at the time, so Bruce didn't belong to any clubs. Later on Bruce chopped the top 2.5", a milder chop than Lynn Yakel, who had taken 3.5" out of the roof.
In 1956 - 1957 Bruce served in the US Nay on USS Lexington. While temporarily stationed at NAS Alameda he had Hall Upholstery in Oakland stitch up a black and white tuck and roll upholstery for the car. Bruce became real good at changing transmissions and rear ends in the coupe. The Ford toploaders wouldn't take much of the Hemi, and after 7 or 8 transmission changes, Bruce decided to install a Packard transmission in the car instead. Later on he installed a Pontiac/Oldsmobile rear end, and a LaSalle transmission. This combination solved Bruce's driveline problems.
After the Navy, Bruce went to the University of North Dakota for a year. In 1958 he attended the NHRA Nationals in Oklahoma City with the coupe. Competing in the B/Altered class he turned 13.40 at 107 mph.
Bruce met his future wife in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1959. They got married in January of 1960, and moved to St. Louis Park, Minnesota. In August of 1961, they had their firstborn son Todd. In December of 1962 the family decided to move to Fremont, California. The coupe came along in the move. Late in 1963 it had received molded and bobbed Model A fenders, a rolled rear pan, Pontiac blue-dot taillights, a custom aluminum hood by Jack Hagemann, and a 1956 Cadillac "Mandan Red" paint job by Art Billings. This version was also fit with magnesium American Racing LeMans wheels up front, and full Moon discs in the rear. Later on American Racing Torq-Thrust wheels were installed in the rear along with a new set of slicks. The slicks were good for a 1/2 second improvement in e.t.
Around 1970, Bruce became a founding member of the Nor-Cal Early Iron club. He attended shows and races all over the US with the coupe, and it appeared in several magazines in the 1960s and 1970s. When he attended shows the whole family used to tag along in the car. In 1973 the coupe was shown at the Grand National Roadster Show, featuring a fresh 1956 Cadillac "Mandan Red" paint job. It placed 3rd in the class, and Bruce walked away with an award for the "Best NSRA Car."
In 1975 Bruce and his son Todd replaced the 1953 Chrysler Hemi and LaSalle transmission with a newer 1958 Chrysler Imperial 392 HEMI engine and a 1969 Dodge HEMI Torqueflite transmission with a B&M manual shift valve body. The engine was an A-1 block with a .060 overbore and 404-plus inches. He kept the four Stromberg 97 carburetors that were fed from a fuel block attached to the newly polished aluminum firewall. In the same operation, the '32 steering was also replaced by a VW van unit. The majority of this work was performed at Don Stortroen's "DONZ" custom oil pan and race-car fabrication shop in the Warm Springs district of Fremont. Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s Bruce ran the coupe at several Fremont Dragstrip events. His best pass at Fremont was 12.87 ET at 108mph. Todd remembers that it always had trouble getting off the line.
In October of 1990, cancer claimed Bruce's life. In August of 1991 his ashes were scattered over the Bonneville salt flats during the Speed Week event. The same year, Pat Ganahl and Gary Baskerville did a story on Bruce and his coupe for Rod & Custom Magazine. The story was entitled "Coupe-Tinuum" and it appeared Rod & Custom December 1991. The same issue also had a feature on Clif Inman's 1957 Chrysler custom that Bruce once owned, and an article about Speed Week 1991, which included a photo of the Thomas-Walsh-Walsh-Cusak "333" roadster that Bruce's urn were strapped in duct taped to the roll bar behind John Walsh as he drove to a 2-way average of 213.853 mph. Bruce's son Todd become the caretaker of the "HEMI32" coupe on his 32nd birthday. Every August since 1991 Todd has been picking a car for The "Deuce Bruce" Olson Memorial Award at the Goodguys West Coast Nationals in memory of his father. Todd still owned the coupe in 2014.
Magazine Features and Appearances
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