Joe Nitti's 1932 Ford

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The Joe Nitti Roadster, Image colorized by Howard Gribble
Joe's roadster at the 1950 Motorama. Photo from the Mario Baffico collection.[1]
Joe Nitti's 1932 Ford at the 2008 Grand National Roadster Show. Photo by Howard Gribble
When David Zivot bought the roadster, it came with the Evans manifold that Joe Nitti ran on El Mirage in June of 1949. David sold this manifold to Richard Noble, who in 2013 installed it on the Bert Mouron's 1932 Ford roadster.[2]

1932 Ford Roadster owned by Gophers and East Los Angeles Vultures member Joe Nitti. The car featured a chromed dropped front axle up front and in the rear the spring had reversed eyes. Rear shocks, hydraulic brakes and spindles are from a 1941 Ford. The car was powered by a 1946 Mercury engine connected to a 1941 Lincoln Zephyr transmission. The engine was over-bored 3/8 inch giving a displacement of 299 cubic inches and hopped up with heads, dual manifold and ignition from Evans, headers from Sonny's Muffler Shop, J. E. Pistons and a Weber camshaft. For lake meets, Joe used an Evans three-carburetor manifold on the roadster. Bodywork on the car included filled door hinges from a 1940 Dodge, a peaked and filled grille shell with a custom front spreader bar built by Hank Negley, a shaved deck lid, 1939 Ford teardrop taillights and a custom license plate light made from a cut-down 1940's era stock Ford unit. The frame was boxed and filled and featured rounded front frame horns. The exterior of the car was finished in lush deep organic purple. The roadster was painted by Gil Ayala of Gil's Auto Body Works. Gil did also mix the lacquer.[3]

Nitti won a number of awards with the car. The most important was California's Most Beautiful Roadster at the 1950 Motorama.

In 1951 Joe traded the roadster for a 1950 Mercury Club Coupe. Eddie Safire was the new owner. Eddie then sold the car to Jack Sheldon who raced it at El Mirage in 1952 turning a very respectable 124.05 MPH. The car went through a few owners and the Flathead was removed. Then the car was sold to Eric Bodell who installed a Chevy V8 between the frame rails. After years of sitting next to the garage, it was sold to David Zivot. Zivot hired Dave Crouse of Custom Auto in Loveland, Colorado to restore the car back to its former glory. A 1946 Mercury 59A flathead engine was built by Red Hamilton and installed in place of the Chevy smallblock. The rebuilt engine looked just like Nitti's original engine complete with Evans heads, Isky 400 Jr. Cam, and Kong distributor. After the restoration, the car won the Bruce Meyer Hot Rod Preservation Award at the 2000 Grand National Roadster Show.

Joe Nitti's Roadster was included in Ken Gross' and Robert Genat's book Hot Rod Milestones as one of the top 15 best street and competition roadsters from that era. In 2007 the car was also chosen to be displayed at the 75th Anniversary Exhibit of the 1932 Ford at the 58th Grand National Roadster Show celebrating the 75 most significant 1932 Ford Hot Rods.

Magazine Features

Hot Rod Magazine June 1950
Trend Book 102 Hot Rods
Rolls & Pleats Number 26
Rodders Journal Number 36



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