Project Street Rods – The 3 Amigos
Three famous Street Rod Projects get together and parade their stuff
By Jim Davis
Back in the summer of 1984, as president of B&M Racing & Performance Products, I visited the Street Rod Nationals in Columbus, Ohio. As I wandered the grounds looking at the cars, I was quite surprised to see so few B&M products. We sold a ton of automatic shifters back then but I only saw one or two on the street rods. We were also getting our street supercharger program going real strong at that time and I didn’t see a single one of those.
Although I had a number of hot rods/street rods back in the ‘60’s, I hadn’t been to any shows or events or had a hot rod in 20 years. Consequently, my enthusiasm was renewed by such a spectacle and one couldn’t help from being impressed with the number of cars and the quality of the participating rods. I came to the conclusion that as a company, B&M was overlooking a huge potential market.
I decided that one way to introduce B&M to the street rod market was to build a project street rod. And so I approached Dick Magoo about building a car. I had decided on a full fendered ’32 Ford roadster. The ’32 roadster was, and still is, the iconic street rod. And of course it had to be red. Although originally launched as a budget car, Dick knew the car was going to get a lot of ink so his shop kind of went overboard on the detail work on the car. I am sure that we got way more than what we paid for.
The car was finished in about six months, which was a relatively quick build. And of course it had everything that B&M made at the time that could be used on the car. It had one of the B&M 162 mini-superchargers along with our own Superjection EFI system, which was way ahead of its time. And it also had a B&M TH-400 trans, a Holeshot torque converter and a Megashifter. At that time B&M owned Milodon who had an aluminum block (since discontinued) and of course one of those found its way under the hood.
Over the next year or so we developed a number of new products that were primarily aimed at the street rod market although most of them could be used on street machines, kit cars, regular cars, trucks…. you name it.
This included two-piece valve covers, a street rod shifter we called the Quick Stick, low mount alternator bracket, a custom water pump, aluminum timing cover, harmonic damper, swivel thermostat housing, billet style pulleys, and on and on. As these new parts were developed they all found their way onto the roadster including a bigger blower, the 250 Powercharger, with two four barrels,
The car was very successful and got lots of ink including Hot Rod, Popular Hot Rodding, Rod Action, Street Rodder as well as a number of international magazines. It was also the cover car for the April 1986 issue of Streetscene. A new interior was later designed by Charlie Smith, and it’s featured in another article on Motorburg HERE.
Some time after this I got a call from Pete Chapouris. I really don’t know how we hooked up. He might have just called me cold or maybe we had met through some mutual friends. But he had a proposal for me.
He wanted to build his own project roadster, although he wanted to do a ’32 highboy. And he wanted to know if I would be interested in working with him on it. B&M’s role would be to supply a blower, valve covers, trans and converter plus a shifter along with anything else I wanted to put on the car.
This car ultimately became Limefire, a very famous and outstanding street rod back in its day. The car was lime green with a great orange flame job.
I promoted a complete 383 Chevy engine kit from P.A.W. and also helped Pete get other parts from manufacturers. With help from a C. Smith illustration of the proposed car, Pete had already lined up coverage on the car in Hot Rod so it was fairly easy for the two of us to promote many parts for the build. All this took place while Pete and his partner Jake were in the middle of selling Pete & Jakes to Jerry Slover in Kansas City. So things were quite hectic getting the car finished. According to the Hot Rod article the car was built in 80 days. I can’t remember if it was really that quick or not but if it was in Hot Rod, it must be true. Right?
Limefire ended up with a huge spread in the October 1987 issue of Hot Rod. The article totaled seven pages, four of them in color and included a fold out three-page poster of the car. Somebody at Hot Rod was looking out for me because stuck right in the middle of the story was a full page four color ad for B&M featuring mostly our trick street rod parts. The article even included the original design rendering of the car, done by our own Charlie Smith.
The car had been built as a true hot rod complete with a bolt-in roll cage and Pete was keen to try it out at the drags. We only ran it once or maybe twice but it hauled ass for its day. I can’t remember the exact times it turned but I am pretty sure the elapsed time was 10.87 and it trapped out at about 135. I do know that after taking it down the track, Pete had a healthy respect for the car.
About a year later my phone rang again. This time it was Roy Brizio. At the time Roy was not nearly as well known as he is today. Roy wanted to know if I would be interested in teaming up with him on a project. This would be another ’32 highboy. I was game of course because all of this relatively inexpensive exposure for B&M products certainly didn’t hurt.
I suggested that we visit Petersen Publishing and pre-sell them on doing a story on the car so we knew for sure that there would be major exposure before spending the time and money to build the car. So Roy flew to L.A. and the two of us met with some editors at Hot Rod and made our proposal. They weren’t interested. They said ’32 highboys with a small block Chevy were a dime a dozen, and they were right.
So I said, how about if we put a 351 Windsor Ford in it? This perked up their ears and all of a sudden we had a story commitment. You have to remember that back then, late model Ford engines in street rods were a true rarity. It just wasn’t done. In fact it was such a rarity that as we walked out of Petersen’s offices Roy looked at me like I was crazy. Until the car was done and made its first trip, he was never really totally on board with the idea of a Ford engine.
We did make one mistake on the car that was totally my doing. Not really a mistake, but it made for a lot of extra work. I provided a B&M Ford C-6 trans instead of the more commonly used C-4. I did this because the C-6 is a beefier trans. But it is also bigger around than most other automatics. And as a result, the standard floor pan in the ’32 body would not clear it. So Roy had to cut out the stock floor and build a new one that would clear.
I had picked the 351W engine because we had a blower kit for it. We had one for the 302 engine as well but I never liked the look of the narrower manifold on the 302. By now we had come out with a trick induction setup that mounted on the top of the blower and utilized two side draft Mikuni carburetors. This gave the entire engine compartment a whole new look. This engine was also one of the P.A.W. kits that they donated.
Another trick idea that Roy had come up with at the time we sold the story to Hot Rod was that the car would be driven to all ten NSRA events and we would use different magazine editors to do it. Hot Rod wouldn’t be covering that aspect of it except where one of their guys drove it. But Roy figured that each magazine guy who drove it would make sure it was featured in his magazine. This actually worked out quite well as it ended up in many different magazines.
The car was painted an electric blue and featured magenta scallops, a look that has been copied by a great many cars that came after it. It also had a Duval windshield, which gave it a unique look at the time because there were very few rods that had one back then. The artist Thom Taylor had come up with the paint scheme, mainly because Roy wanted something totally different.
I don’t recall who drove the car at every stage, but on one leg of the journey, Gray Baskerville of Hot Rod drove and managed to crash it and broke something on the car. I don’t remember what it was – maybe the pan. But with all the different drivers that was the only mishap.
Roy finished the car and left that same day to drive from San Francisco to Knoxville, Tennessee, for the first NSRA event of the season. This would have been in 1988. The initial trip took Roy through rain and snow in an open car. I drove it from the Portland NSRA event to the next one in Pueblo Colorado. I know Roy drove it on several legs and I know his dad took it on one. Steve Anderson, then of Rod Action drove one of the last legs and featured it on the cover of the March 1989 Rod Action plus a major story and center spread inside.
By the time we finished hitting all the NSRA events, the car had logged about 30,000 trouble free miles and Roy was a serious believer in Ford engines in hot rods by then.
On one of the legs, and I think it was when Roy’s dad and mom were driving it back to the west coast from York or somewhere back east, the roll pin holding the distributor gear on the shaft sheared and of course the car stopped running. This was easily repaired although it took a while to find the cause. I believe that was the only problem that the car encountered. Come to think of it, once Roy hit warm weather the car developed some vapor lock problems but by then we knew that this was caused by the way the twin Mikuni setup was plumbed. This was fixed by installing a small fuel bleed line back to the tank.
I went on to do a couple more project cars with Roy. Roy credits the roadster project with putting him and his street rod business on the map and also probably had a lot to do with him hooking up later with Ford Motor Company where he went on to build a number of project cars for Ford. His roadster was really one of the very first street rods to get major ink that also had a late model Ford engine.
So, what’s next in this story? Well, the planets all came together sometime around 1989 or ’90 and all three cars showed up at the L.A. Roadster Show in Pomona. I don’t recall if this was planned or just happened but I tend to think it just happened. We did line the cars up over in front of some buildings where the L.A. Roadster members have been parking their cars for the past few years.
Steve Coonan, world famous hot rod photographer, and now publisher of Rodder’s Journal, orchestrated putting the three cars together. Then he got the bright idea of taking the roadsters out on the nearby 210 Freeway and getting some shots of the cars all together on the highway. At the time, there was an extended new section of the freeway that had very little traffic on it so the idea was feasible. But it turned out to be way more difficult than you would think. We had all three cars side by side. I think we were doing about 50 mph. Coonan was pacing us with somebody driving another car while he hung out the window to get the shot. It was extremely difficult to keep all three cars lined up perfectly enough to get the photo Steve wanted. But eventually it happened.
The B&M roadster got sold. Pete sold Limefire and Roy sold his highboy. But over the years, I got the B&M roadster back and Roy eventually acquired the scalloped highboy again. Pete has talked for years about getting Limefire back and at this writing it is in his shop but still owned by someone else. Maybe some day. If we all live long enough, maybe we can get those three cars together again. Wouldn’t that be sweet?
About the Author:
Jim Davis was the founder and publisher of Super Stock & Drag Illustrated and Stock Car Racing magazines. He was formerly President of B&M Racing and Performance for 18 years and served as S.E.M.A.’s Chairman of the Board for 4 years. He’s currently Chief Operating Officer and partner of Professional Products.
Jim is an ardent street rodder with two Brizio built cars; a red ‘32 full fendered roadster and a fendered 3-window ‘33 coupe.