When it comes to modern hot rodding, there are two or three names that come up in conversation. Troy Ladd of Hollywood Hot Rods in Burbank, CA is the top three you’ll hear. I was fortunate enough to be allowed free reign of his shop while he and his guys were working on some of their latest creations and check out the barn find of barn finds, the Dewar Coupe that was once owned by John Dewar and why Troy has dubbed it so.
A Living Shop of History
Going into someone’s shop – especially one like Hollywood Hot Rods – while they are open for a work day is always awkward, for me anyway. I’m not one for getting in the way of someone who’s trying to make a living. I’m always careful and paranoid of getting in the way.
Even so, being able to get photos of those guys working shows how alive Hollywood Hot Rods really is. It’s not as busy as a dealership or even an independent maintenance shop, but Hollywood Hot Rods is a busy place.
The work all of them put out is astounding. The key theme for Troy Ladd’s shop is “Respect Tradition.” The idea is that they create these hot rods with the ideas of the classic builders. Historic builders of the likes of George Barris, Bill Hines, George DuVall, and Frank Kurtis. However, that doesn’t mean some modern ideas aren’t tried.
A Blend of Old and New
Research of those definitive hot rodders will reveal what it means to follow Troy’s motto. You don’t just look at old parts and accept them as is to keep with the 1920s to 1950s hot rod style. What you do is make the vehicles look period correct with modern ideas that could have been built in their time. A current example of this type of build from Hollywood Hot Rods is the 1932 Ford Coupe that has inspiration from Bugatti racing cars of the same era.
Instead of standard friction dampers, you see cockpit adjustable versions. These are something that may have been tried at one point, according to Troy’s research. Same idea with the doors, and decklid. Instead of using pins that permanently act as hinges, they use quick disconnect pins to allow each part to be removed quickly.
The front brakes are still a drum system, but they use Hollywood Hot Rods signature skeletonized backplate design. Again, this is something he’s researched and seems to believe that it could have been done on a race car at some point in the era. The leaf spring suspension acts like a four-link, again an of era racing design with a modern twist.
Listening to Troy talk about the cars he had in the shop was mind blowing. The four-leaf front end of that ’32 was just the start of it. This 1932 Ford roadster pickup features an electric hydroboosted brake system. This not only allows it to be mounted 90-degrees, but in a self-contained system under the dash. This also cleans up the firewall behind the engine to retain the original style of the ‘32 while maintaining a modern brake feel.
That’s not all. You may think this is a traditional hairpin clip control arm design of the ’32. However, it’s actually a clever torsion bar design.
There is no transverse leaf spring on the front of this roadster. The bars run in separate set of tubes beside the frame rails and just hug the engine oil pan. The bars are simply control arms for the front axle. Meanwhile, the torsion bars can be adjusted for height and for stiffness just like a modern torsion spring setup.
This roadster isn’t quite finished yet, but the details in it are just fabulous. It’s got a bit of a 1930’s Art Deco theme with the brass touches made into the car so far. Looking at it just gave me vibes of something I would see in the classic movie, “Metropolis.”
The fins and openings on the grill, the shifter design and bezel, the colors used on the engine, the dash fixture. There may not have been a roadster like this in the 1930s, but the theme set into it could be possible.
It was seriously hard to get away from it. The more I looked, the more I kept recalling that cult movie. It certainly would have fit right in.
The center piece for me on this shop tour was getting the chance to look at the 1932 Ford three-window Dewar Coupe. A car that Troy found and bought during an estate sale. When one defines a “barn find,” this is the find they are talking about.
The Dewar was not a car that rusted away to barely a shell. It’s a car that’s simply been stored. Not quite abandoned but certainly hasn’t been touched. The last time it saw the sun was 1962 and stayed out of public view until this year. That’s 56 years of sitting and waiting.
Since I’ve took these pictures, there has been more information on this car on The H.A.M.B. forum posted by Kyle Connole. He’s one of Troy’s fabricators that goes by “cretin” on the forum. So, most of the information I’m getting here is from that post. It was originally built in 1959 by John Dewar. When he got it, it had some work done already like the rear bumper. The original Oldsmobile V8 that was in it was replaced with the 1959 Olds V8 you see now just before it was put away.
Things We Take for Granted
It features an Offenhauser with the triple two-barrel from the old engine. This was done after some recommendations from their tuner said the sextuple two-barrel wouldn’t work. The valve covers are also original Weiland parts from 1959.
It also features many parts we take for granted now. The interior and trunk upholstery, for example, look like stuff we’d see in the 1980s. This was done by Greg Schifano of Schifano Auto Upholstery some time before 1960. There’s also an original power antenna, an original Bendix electric fuel pump that get fuel from a Mooneyes fuel tank, leather seal for the hood, and many chrome parts that you wouldn’t expect like the electric box on the firewall.
Restore Not Overboard
Troy has stated that he’s not going to modify it. Instead, it’s going to get the parts that need repair done then just drive it. It’s already fired up and John’s brother, Robert Dewar, has seen it come back to life once again. As Kyle pointed out in that post, “I don’t see these moments all that often, we aren’t normally bringing an old original car back to life, and very cool to see one of the builders see it drive for the first time again.” I think the Dewar is in good hands with Troy Ladd and Hollywood Hot Rods.