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Black Beauty

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by Steve Temple  More from Author

Turning a ’37 Ford Into a Horse of a Different Color

There’s an old saying that the devil’s in the details. But Lucifer also finds work for idle hands, so it’s a good thing Hank Arias stayed real busy on his ’37 Ford. Actually, it’s a stylized expression of the original design. He should know, since he’s owned three of them, all different. The first one was authentic tin, admittedly a bit ungainly with its humpbacked roofline. The next was a bit sleeker, a Gibbons fiberglass repro, but that one didn’t quite have what Arias wanted.

Then he spotted a lift-off hardtop in bare gelcoat from Wild Rods at a Goodguys show in Pleasanton, California, and he knew he was onto something. Even so, he looked at it as merely a starting point for the project, and just had to add his own custom details. You can’t say the devil made him do it, though. He just knew how to go one better, filling and shaping various elements to create a cleaner shape.

For instance, the hood extends four inches further back, all the way to the base of the windshield. Of course there’s no place for wipers now, but it sure looks cool. And where the doors meet the running boards, there was a slight gap where the frame showed through. Again, he wanted a smooth, unbroken form, so he added material to the doors, using a combination of “cat’s hair” filler and fiberglass cloth.

Arias also streamlined the side mirrors, forming a teardrop base in keeping with the headlights. He also filled in the recess for the rear license plate and replaced the taillights with a light strip. A ghostly wizard is painted on the tail, which only appears with glowing eyes when the light hits it at just the right angle. Larry Krauss of Kwik Color crafted that image, along with the dual sets of ghost flames, one of which change colors depending on the angle of lighting on the PPG glossy black base coat.

For the interior, Arais swapped out the flat dash panel for one with recessed pods fitted with Classic American gauges. The bucket seats are nested in a molded bulkhead, akin to the old Corvette cockpit. The form was fabricated and leather-upholstered by Tom Black., who also laid Mercedes cloth on the fiberglass hardtop, and installed a special weave of carpeting throughout the cockpit.

Each of these items might sound like small changes, but altogether they add up to whole different look for the car. So now, about the only original-style aspects are the grille, the peaked front fenders and teardrop headlights. The chopped and raked windshield, along with the elongated tail section below the trunk, turn a conventional classic into a sleek, modern street rod.

Of course, there’s much more to that high-tech look than body mods. Arias had the chassis custom fabricated and powdercoated, and then fitted the IFS with Air Ride’s Shock Wave air bags, so he can drop the body to the pavement for that proper street rod stance. In the rear is a Currie Ford 9-inch, located by a four-bar setup. Lincoln Navigator disc brakes, which have a built-in emergency brake, haul down this lightweight roadster in short order. Rolling stock consists of Budnik’s Ozone rims (17 x 7 front, 20 x 10 rear), shod with Dunlop SP Sport 9000 tires.

To get them rolling, Arias sourced a fuel-injected Corvette LS1 from a wreck, and had Street & Performance chip the computer and dress up the accessories. Getting rid of the smog software really goosed the output, Arias says with a smile. An electronic 4L60E slushbox funnels the power to the rearend, and a removable chassis crossmember makes service a snap, should he ever have to pull the tranny.

In all, the project took more than three years of patience craftsmanship, and close attention to all those devilish details. But that wasn’t the end of the matter. One of the first shows Arias planned to take the car to was the Sacramento Autorama. On Tuesday night before the event, though, when he went to move the car to the other side of the shop, he hit the doorway and damaged the left front fender.

As you might imagine, Arias was pretty much devastated by this last-minute mishap, but with the help of Steve Zunino and some friends the fender came off and went on its way to Sonora to Elite Rods to be repaired and painted.

“The promotor of the show had seen the car come in without a headlight and the fender rattling and said, ‘You can’t show this’,” Arias recalls. “I promised him it would be fixed before show time. With the help of my son Dino it was.” So maybe there was a guardian angel looking out for him after all.


Wild Rod Factory

121, Du Park

St Jean de la Lande, Qc.

Canada, G0M 1E0


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