Is there anything as good as a car slammed within an inch of its life? Front bar fearing gum nuts, sump sparking?
By Josh Cronin’s standards, there was nothing better. Mini-trucker, drifter and anything-really-low enthusiast Josh wasn’t satisfied unless rails were scraping. When he steps out of his show-stopping, trophy-sweeping 1932 Ford three-window coupe, BEARS 32, Josh draws looks. The car, one of the best of its kind, is not something he ever wanted to debut to the world.
The ‘Deuce Coupe’ is a rolling tribute, started by his late father, Paul. Known to his family as Bear (he started with the nickname Koala) Josh owes his affinity for cars to his dad. “The old man said finish the last year of school and get the apprenticeship you want. I will give you the ute,” said Josh. “It was a 90’s model Hilux, dad was a concreter so it was beaten up. We fixed it together, and I started going to a few little meets.”
When Josh was growing up, his dad put his automotive passion on pause as he brought up his family. “Growing up he only had work cars but he always looked after all his gear. He always had the best of the best stuff on them. When we were older, he got on his Harley again. I think that’s what snowballed into the hot-rod.”
“The hardest part of the build was seeing the photos of the car on the wall at the hospital, and knowing that dad wouldn’t get to see it finished.”
His father passed in 2013. Josh, with the support of his family, set about completing the car with the help of close mates and dedicated workshops. The result is something his dad would have been proud of.
With a reproduction fibreglass body the Deuce is chopped, blown and sculpted to perfection. With every detail fettled and finished, the ’32 has punters countrywide scurrying for camera phones. The first few drives were solo, emotion filled. With a few more under the belt, Josh finds himself getting lost in the thunder of the supercharged, sacrilegious Chevrolet V8.
“You are positioned over the steering wheel and with the rake you’re always leaning forward. There is still head room from the roof chop but the seats are laid low. You can’t see traffic lights. At night you can see the reflection off the top of the blower so I use that. Once it’s warmed up and you hook in – you try to be sensible, not to piss your neighbours off but as soon as you start driving, the higher the revs you can hear the belt getting louder. The sound of the blower and the V8. You can’t beat it.”
The 1932 Ford coupe is a hot-rod staple. Rat, show, street, race – it’s a car that has been pulled in every direction by every generation since WWII.
Hot-rodders guard what qualifies for their clique closely. To get the inside line on what’s what in the hot rod fraternity we asked a card carrying OG, who we promised anonymity in the likelihood of a heated comments section. He told us;
“Pretty much anything other than a stock factory car pre-’49 is considered a hot rod. If it’s an all-steel reproduction body that’s cool but if it’s fibreglass, that’s a no-go and it’s considered a street rod. The easiest way to really distinguish between the two is the choice of parts. Engines with modern running gear, independent suspension of any form, radial tyres, modern paint colours will get you the title street rod. ‘Modern’ is a grey-area though, generally speaking pre-1960 is bound to be a ‘hot rod’.”
Josh’s enjoyment of the car exists separately to definitions.
“I think it’s a street rod – I don’t really care”
When he takes the car to shows, people tell Josh he skipped ahead about 20 years in the car game, making chatting with fellow owners at shows a generation gapped challenge.
“When you’re young you play with cheap starting bases. The utes and drift cars. Then you hit your 30’s and 40’s and you’re having kids. Hot-rods aren’t cheap so people jump into Toranas and HQ’s and HR’s and all your street machines. Once they get older and just about ready to retire, they jump in a hot-rod.”
With the low points in the past, the Josh and the car share an unbreakable bond. More than the sum of its parts could ever represent. “Now the car and the story of my dad is out there, I have people come up to me to shake my hand. You can’t beat that feeling. When people know what the car is about and they say good on you – you can’t beat that. That tops any trophy,” said Josh.
As far as throwing sparks on the freeway, you can take the boy out of the mini-truck. You can’t take the mini-truck out of the boy. “This car, with the way it was set up from the start, it wasn’t going to touch the ground. But, I have already started working on plans for a bagged hot-rod”.