This is a tale of two guys who both have had cars we’ve featured before in the Goodguys Gazette. James “Doc” McClelland of Ardmore, Oklahoma, is no stranger to a clean ’30s Ford, and neither is builder Mike Scheller, owner of Harbor Hotrods and a So-Cal Speed Shop dealer in Safety Harbor, Florida.
James says he was a little bummed out after retiring (he’s a podiatrist, hence the name “Doc”) when a friend trying to cheer him up by suggesting he get another hot rod alerted him to an online ad for this ’33 Ford Coupe. He’d seen a photo of the car in a magazine before, and thought it looked “right.” He inquired about the car and learned that he was third in line, as is proper car-selling etiquette. When the first two guys didn’t make the deal, he was called and flew to Florida to see the car in person and meet Mike, the builder.
We ran Mike’s black Bardahl Special ’32 roadster back in 2014 with the last Kissimmee, Florida event coverage. Mike is no stranger to turning out clean cars from his home garage and is currently finishing up a NASCAR-themed ’57 Ford two-door sedan and starting another ’32. However, this was a car he had in his head for more than a decade and built for himself.
Though in Florida, Mike found this body on the opposite side of the U.S., in a Craigslist ad in Bakersfield, California. Squeak Bell, who started the Kiwi Konnection, was selling this fiberglass body by Rod Bods that had been brought in from Australia. The heavily chopped roof did not pass their strict DOT standards, and after making a dozen, the company was told they couldn’t offer them there. Legend has it that two of the bodies came to the U.S., and the rest went to Europe.
The body is heavy-duty in construction, with a steel substructure and plenty of ‘glass. Mike says the doors are very robust and weigh more than steel versions. The “Bonneville chop” is just right thanks to a hefty 7-inches taken from the front and 5-1/2-inches in the back. However, the windshield has been laid back and is actually raised into the header area, and both guys say visibility of stoplights is surprisingly good. The rear window is also laid forward 1-1/2-inches.
The body was brought next door from Squeak’s famous Dream Shed to be paired with a new Kiwi Konnection chassis. Fellow New Zealander Duane Jones bought Squeak’s Kiwi Konnection in 1997, and then the California Roadster Company in 2011, and merged the two companies together. With a world-class, one-stop shop right there, having the chassis built for the body was an easy choice. The rails were pinched 4-inches, which also tucks the headlights closer to the grille. They set it up with a Model A rear cross member and a drilled So-Cal front axle for a proper traditional stance.
Other chassis highlights include a Winters quick-change rearend with helical gears, split ’32 wishbones up front, split ’47 ’bones out back, Boling Brothers ’39 Lincoln front brakes and So-Cal Ford brakes for the rear. The staggered wheel and tire combo is shod in Firestone rubber and runs 17-inch ’33 wires up front and bigger 18-inch ’32s aft for a proper rake.
Once the chassis was dialed in the car was shipped to Mike in Florida. He prefers the narrower top and curved side vents of a ’33 front end, so those were realized with a Lee Nottingham grille and a Rootlieb hood. They cover a stout 350c.i. small-block built by Billy Brooks of Brooks Racing Engines. A Ram Components flywheel package links the engine to a Tremec five-speed.
Mike likes louvers – a lot. When the punch press finally fell silent, there was a total of 525 new ventilated slots in the ’33, found both inside and out. The dash was filled with Stewart Warner gauges and crowned with a ’40 Ford wheel. Mike had Jamie Jordan in Mississippi craft a pair of bomber seats and the talented aluminum-casting Crafty B chipped in an overhead switch console for the interior and a trick gas cap.
Mike likes to stay with the vintage color palettes when painting his cars, so he selected a ’32 Harley Cactus Green for the exterior. After choosing such distinctive color, accenting it properly took a few minutes of deciding. Eventually, he settled on a nice orange and cream combo for the exterior lettering and a matte-finish Anvil gray from a new Jeep line for the all-aluminum interior. Doc likes that Mike sprayed the car outside, “just like in the old days.” Final tricks include a question-evoking side scoop that vents the gas tank and routes air to the electric fuel pump, plus a pushbar made from part of a suspension wishbone.
The coupe had about 900 mils on it when Doc got it, and he proceeded to ring up another 400 on the odometer in the first week, getting acquainted with the car and making notes on things he’d like to address so he’d be more comfortable. Namely, since Mike is 6’2” and Doc 5’7”, Doc knew the pillows he was riding on should be replaced with proper leather cushions, later fabricated by Tim’s Hot Rod Interiors. He also had Jim and Jason Smith of the Hot Rod Garage tweak the suspension a touch, re-route some plumbing, and shave the tire tread surfaces to improve their roundness and the ride.
One thing he didn’t have to change, and his wife’s favorite part? The air conditioning. Mike lives in steamy old Florida, and asked Vintage Air for their biggest unit, (from a Ford station wagon) and stuffed it under the dash. It puts out ice cubes on low and keeps mama cool and happy.
In the end, Doc says he’s just a caretaker of the car and loves the overall essence of it.
“I’ve always liked the Rolling Bones cars,” he says. “But they really are bare bones and pretty rough by nature. At my age, I like a little more comfort, and this coupe just really nails it. Mike is a cool guy with a good eye. If I’d tried to build this car, it would have looked like a foot doctor had built it. He’s really talented and built what I saw in my head. I just love it.”