Jacques Bechard's 1932 Ford
1932 Ford roadster originally owned and built by Jacques Bechard of Montreal, Canada. Bechard started building the roadster in 1958, and an old photo taken circa 1961 shows it running around channeled and fenderless with a Flathead engine. In 1961 he traded the roadster to Joe Cristofaro for a customized early 1950s Ford.
The Cristofaro Roadster
Joe ran a body shop in Montreal, and according to the later owner Robert Di Pietro, Joe's shop was the "Barris" shop of Montreal. In 1961 Robert was a 16 years old kid living in Rosemount, Montreal. After seeing Gil Granucci's channeled 1931 Ford Model A Coupe on the cover of Rod & Custom September 1958 Robert set out to build his own channeled coupe. "There was a couple of channeled roadsters around the neighborhood," he told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama in 2021. "One guy that had Ontario plates on his cars, had a Deuce Roadster and a chopped ‘50 Merc...both in black primer...of course. His channeled roadster had no floor and the pavement was there to see when sitting in it. It had a big Olds engine...typical of the era, in fact, I don’t think he had seats in it yet. The roadster was in the building stages, and not at all complete. His Merc was also a rough case with Plexiglas side windows.....definitely a rough driver. But, that's the way most cars were back then....forever projects." There was also another roadster around that always caught Robert's attention. That was the Cristofaro Roadster. "The old man, Frank, ran the body shop on Beaubien street in Montreal and was just a bicycle short ride away for me to visit...maybe 15 – 20 minutes to get there. The old man ran the shop with his sons, Joe, Armand and Pat. Joe eventually stayed on to run the business, and the other two brothers started their own, a body shop for Armand, and Pat had an auto salvage yard, where "deals" can be had on "fast" engines from cars that "became available." Back to the main shop, this was the place for exotic cars, Cadillacs, Corvettes, Ferraris, English sports cars, and whatever was special back then. Good stuff to look at for a 16-year-old, but that channeled 1932 Ford Roadster was the one that I drooled over so many times. The front suspension was chromed, the Corvette engine was the "in-thing" to have. It was always "hanging around" somewhere in the shop, not being worked on as the other customer’s cars had priority. Ronnie Baran, a local to the Rosemount and Saint Michel district was the whiz guy with building cars and race engines. He was so much into the techs of engines that he was known as the "Doc."
Lost and Found
As Robert carried on, building his coupe, the roadster vanished and disappeared. He never saw it again, until the guys at the Custom-Classic-Rods Shop in Delson suddenly called him to identify the possible turned up mystery "Cristofaro Roadster" that Robert had spoken about so many times before. "They had heard of this vanished car from me and knowing that I should be able to identify it...if that was indeed the one. They purchased the car that was in storage since 1961 or so, and it came from a small town about two hours drive from Montreal. They called me from their shop and said to me that they would not unload it from the trailer until I arrived...giving me the honors to give it a thumbs up, or down. I knew that they all hoped...especially me, it would be the one." When Robert arrived there were numerous guys milling around. "The trailer door was still closed until I arrived. JF opened the rear ramp door as we all stood by in anticipation, especially the new owners, waiting to see my reaction. Well, it was as I remembered it and the legend had arrived, history was unearthed. This was the one." The car basically remained unchanged from the last time Robert saw it, except for the engine, which did not seem to be the Corvette, "and those stupid headers?? Non the less, everything else was there, ok, almost everything."
As it turned out, Joe Cristofaro had sold the roadster to a fellow named Hector Maille on November 23, 1962. Robert has an insurance stub from 1968 that shows that Maille lived at 5993 DeNormanville in Montreal. "This is a tight residential street, so one would presume the car to be in the back alleyway, either in a garage or back-yard." After Maille passed away, his daughter sold the car to a guy named Dennis Toutant.
Sold to Robert Di Pietro
The guys at the Custom-Classic-Rods Shop approached Robert about trading the old hot rod for a couple of cars that he had. That was an offer he couldn't refuse, as it would be a shame to lose sight of the Cristofaro Roadster again. Robert had all of the parts needed to put the car back together in no time. "Well, the trade was done on a handshake and I could not wait to get this Hot Rod in my possession," he told Kustomrama.
Another Mystery Solved
The latest registration on the car, before Robert transferred it to his name, was in Dennis Toutant's name. "The actual location of Mr. toutant’s address is presently unknown, but he lived somewhere east of Victoriaville." When Robert purchased the roadster, nobody knew where the car came from prior to being purchased by Joe Cristofaro. Then at a local car meet, he met an older gentleman in his 80s who began conversing with him on the old days. His name was Jacques Bechard, and he showed Robert a photo of him sitting in his old 1932 Ford Roadster. The same car that he had built and made a trade with Joe Cristofaro for a customized early 1950s Ford. BINGO!
Living in Candiac, Quebec, Canada, Robert jumped in to finish the overdue build in 2014. Looking at it, Robert thought it really looked bad. But, the find was worth its weight in gold to him, so he decided to carry on and bring it back on the road again. He had a 1948 Ford 59AB engine with an Offenhauser two carb intake and Stromberg 97 carburetors that he considered installing in the car, instead of the Chevy engine. Both of these were eventually scrapped in favor of a 241 Baby Hemi that he had pulled out of a 1953 Dodge Coronet prior to buying the roadster. The engine was completely rebuilt and dyno tuned prior to its installation. It was then mated to a 1939 Ford box stuffed with 25T Lincoln Zephyr gears, and a 1948 Ford banjo rear end with a Columbia 2-speed.
According to Robert, the roadster definitively needed a facelift, "and the red paint, which I really hate, had to go." The potential was all there, and it was time for Robert to do his magic. "The idea here is to preserve the build style of the day being in the mid ’50s, but, getting rid of all the badly made parts and doing it properly." The car had to be completely taken apart, and Robert blasted the frame and body before he started on the restoration. According to measurements done by Robert, the body on the roadster had been channeled 8 inches. A bit much according to Robert, so the body was brought up 2 inches to a frame width of 6 inches. The original channel job was most likely performed by a friend of Jacques Bechard.
With help from all of his good buddies in California, Robert was able to scrape together some special parts for the build, like the windshield that he obtained from Rudy Perez, which was the windshield from Ed Bosio's 1932 Ford roadster. The car that won the AMBR at the 1956 National Roadster Show. "How the windshield got into my possession is a hell of a long story, but in short, the Bosio car has been returned to its origin of the Edelbrock family. It originally belonged to Vic Edelbrock Sr. that Bosio purchased in 1947. Roy Brizio of South San Francisco restored it back to the ’47 era. The windshield had lost its place, and since Rudy and Ed Bosio were good friends, well, Rudy got it for me."
The Pismo Beach Roadster
Robert completed the restoration of the roadster in 2018. He painted it in a cheated recipe to imitate the preferred color, a 1950s Chrysler Parade Green metallic, using pearl since the original metallics are no longer available. Inside it featured a white and green interior with a custom dash panel that runs Stewart-Warner gauges, and a 1956 Lincoln steering wheel. The headlights are original Arrow with the jewel turn signals, and it ran a 1933 Ford Mor-Drop axle with a 1932 Ford wishbone. The rear ran a 1932 Ford re-arched spring and Monroe shocks. The steering box was from a 1937 Nash LaFayette, and it featured hydraulic 1948 Ford brakes front and back. The front 1948 Ford back plates are modified to the Lincoln Zephyr "Bendix" configuration, and still retaining the original look. The wheels were chromed 15x5 and 15x7 1948 Mercury wheels.
In June of 2019, Robert trailered the car on a 3000-mile journey to California. The initial destination for the car was the L.A. Roadster Show. The car was also shown at the Grand National Roadster Show. Before the show, he had Tom Sewell make a custom top for the car that matched the curved Bosio windshield. The radial tires were also replaced with Diamond Back bias looking radial tires. Robert installed 560R15 tires up front, and wide whitewall 820R15 tires in the back. While working on the car, Robert purchased a ranch in the Arroyo Grande, California area. The ranch is located 30 minutes from Pismo Beach, so Robert decided to name his survivor hot rod "The Pismo Beach Roadster." He still owns the car in 2021, and it resides at his ranch in Arroyo Grande.
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