Buddy Hinman's 1931 Ford
Look Mom a HOT ROD
In 1947 Hinman went to California with his parents for a family vacation. California was booming with hot rods after WWII, and in a Los Angeles neighborhood the 11-year-old kid laid his eyes on something he had never seen before, a HOT ROD! The car was a channeled 1932 Ford roadster that had been stripped for the hood, fenders and running boards. The windshield was chopped and laid back, and it was dressed up featuring bright white wide whitewall tires. Hinman remembers that it was for sale and that they wanted $500 for it. "A lot of money back then!" He returned back home empty-handed, but with a head filled with ideas.
When Hinman returned to Rome he decided to build a hot rod. A solid Model A project was located and bought at a used car lot in Utica, New York. He bought the car with his father, and they paid $50 for the project. A bargain compared to the roadster he had fallen for in California. The year was 1947, and Hinman was 11 years old.
Dropped and Channeled
Over the next couple of years the young mechanic would Z the frame about 12". He also installed a beautiful green roadster body that he got from his uncle for free. Just as the hot rod Hinman had seen in California, the roadster body was channeled over the frame. Hinman ended up channeling it 6 inches before he installed a hot four banger with a Cyclone head and full oil pressure. The front was brought down to the ground by installing a dropped big beam axle from Bell Auto Parts in California. Hinman's mother donated a leopard print blanket that Hinman used in the car. The build was completed in 1949, when Hinman was 13 years old.
Sometime after the build was completed, Hinman moved to Deansboro, New York. He brought the hot rod along, and it sat outside one day in 1953 when a man from Clinton, New York drove by and saw it. The fellow wanted it badly, and he ended up trading his channeled 1936 Ford cabriolet for the roadster. Sometime after the trade, the car ended up in Deansboro again. Someone then saw it, and ended up buying it for the Cyclone headed engine. After that it ended up motorless in a junkyard in Rome. The junkyard belonged to Ronnie Pierce, one of Hinman's friends and Hinman helped his buddy install a 1939 Ford V8 flathead engine in the roadster. The engine, which came out of the guy's father's stock car, was set back way inside the cockpit. Hinman and his buddy also wanted to make the car as low as possible, so they took the frame apart, reversed the rails side to side, welded it back up, and slid it inside the body. The body’s sub rails were bolted to the bottom of the body. With the frame bows outward in the middle instead of inward, the car had plenty of room for seats sunk down low in between the rails. The scrapyard guy did also sew the leopard print blanket into real seat covers.
Hinman went on to successfully build and campaign a string of sprint cars, and the last time he saw the roadster was in 1955. As far as Hinman knows, the car was never registered or run on the road legally, but he and the scrapyard owner did run it, tearing up the roads in Rome's farm country.
Sold to Donald Canfield
Ronnie Pierce kept the roadster in the junkyard for the next 51 years. He stored it in a building, next to an early sprint car. It was bought by Donald Canfield, who was of bad health and unable to do anything with it, so he traded it for a 1927 Ford modified style roadster. The new owner, a guy from Courtland, New York advertised the roadster for sale on eBay. It was mostly complete but mocked up wrong. The car didn't sell, and it was eventually traded to a used car dealer in New Jersey as yard art. Thomas Peach of Marblehead, Massachusetts bought the old hot rod from the dealership, and put it in a storage trailer in his boatyard.
Brought Back to Life
The car sat in storage until Eli English of Traditional Speed and Custom in Pittsfield, New Hampshire answered an ad for some Cadillac Flathead heads that Thomas had listed on Craigslist. In 2016 English told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama that Thomas mentioned that he had a survivor roadster that he would like to sell; "He had very little info, other than it was built in New York in the 1940s or the 1950s. I let it sit there for a month or so before I came to the conclusion that I had to own it! I sold a motorcycle and a 1930 Chevrolet 3W body to make it happen! Once I got it home, I took some pictures that a friend of mine posted on the HAMB. Literally within an hour, someone recognized the car and the long history began to unfold! By the end of the day, I was talking to Bud Hinman himself! That was right around Christmas 2015."
English was now able to figure out exactly how the car had been. Hinman remembered the tire sizes and the fact that the front tires came from a Harley. The fact that it never had a dash, gauges or top. It used to be dark green, and the first thing he asked English was "Does it still have leopard print seats?"? English was able to save some of the original fabric, enough for one seat pad. The only parts missing when he bought the car were the fuel tank and the radiator. These were with it in the eBay pictures from 2008 so he knows that it had a 1947 Ford truck radiator. The motor was stuck, so English replaced it with a 1947 Ford 59AB. He used the starter and the original Edmunds Custom 2/2 intake, as well as the fuel pump stand off the original engine; "The engine is set back halfway under the firewall. One carb is ahead, and one is behind the firewall. The transmission is the original 1939 Ford top loader, the rear is the original 1939 Ford rear end! There is a short torque tube. A partial belly pan and 1939 Ford juice brakes all the way around! The rear cross member is actually another Model A frame that is welded inside the inside out and z'd frame. The transmission mount is another Model A rear cross member, that is inverted. The suicide front end has an adjustable height mount with 3 positions, for weight distribution, depending on what type of driving was being done. The front spindles are also backward and swapped side for side, the grill shell is an original 1932 Ford that has been sectioned and chopped. The hoods were my addition to the car. But as you can see they line up perfectly with the grill and cowl. The thing that really amazes me with the car is the attention to aesthetic. Although the car is super channeled, you sit in it super low, and the car visually works. That is usually not the case with heavily channeled cars," English told Kustomrama.
Reunited at the Race of Gentlemen
At the 2016 Race of Gentlemen in Wildwood, New Jersey English had the honor of finally meeting Hinman in person. He let Hinman race the roadster on the beach. Hinman hadn't driven the car since the 1950s, and he had a blast in Wildwood. And to top it all off, the Hinman Roadster ended up being one of the fastest cars on the sand, taking home the Heritage Class win.
Magazine Features and Appearances
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