There was only one coupe in the Top Five finalist lineup for the 2018 Tanks Inc. Hot Rod of the Year competition at the Goodguys Nashville Nationals, but that car made it clear that coupes are definitely not for chickens.
The crew at Hilton Hot Rods threw the works at Bob and Christine Gratton’s ’32 Ford five-window coupe, aided by a rowdy Olds Rocket V8 engine from Tony Lombardi and his crew at Ross Racing Engines. To sweeten the pot, the car was driven out to the Lonestar Round Up and back before the Goodguys Nashville Nationals in May. We had a chance to peek at the massive fuel tank in the trunk and it’s obvious that this one is a long hauler.
The gang started with a five window from Ol’ Henry himself and wedge chopped the top 6-inches in the front to 5½-inches in the rear. They laid the A-pillar back and punched the deck lid with plenty of louvers. Travis Hess shot and buffed the miles-deep Sherwin Williams maroon paint to absolute perfection.
The Hilton crew set the chopped body on a chassis made in-house with a ’32 Ford heavy front axle, cowl steering, and a Winter’s quick-change rearend out back. Brian Bass modified the ’40 Ford brakes to fit and all four corners are shod in original Halibrand solid wheels with knock-off hubs from 1952. The 16-inch wheels are wrapped in 4.60-16 Firestones in front and 7.50-16s in back.
Hilton and his crew race front-engine dragsters with Tony from Ross Racing Engines and without a doubt they were swinging for the fences with this power plant. A longtime legend in the Oldsmobile circles, Ross has since developed a host of go-fast parts for those engines, including the fully polished alloy heads atop Bobby’s 324c.i. mill. A S.C.o.T. blower with two 97s feeds the engine while a set of Ross-built headers directs the exhaust back into the atmosphere. It’s backed with a World Class five-speed via a Ross Racing flywheel and clutch assembly.
Inside the cabin Mike Lippencot spread the Relicate leather around in style with pleated inserts. The bench seat is based on a custom frame and sits over a rubber floor mat with leather foot pads. A ’36 Ford shift knob was grafted onto a Hurst bottom and a four-spoke sprint car wheel from Schroeder tops the matching steering box. If you guessed ’36 Hudson Terraplane for the gauges in the dash, you are correct.
Loud, rowdy, fast and fun, the Hilton crew continues to bring serious heat to the Hot Rod of the Year competition with contenders like Bob Gratton’s bitchin’ coupe.
Photos by Mike Harrington and Steven Bunker