Classy Competition – Pat Gauntt’s ’32 Ford Crowned Goodguys 2022 Meguiar’s Street Rod d’Elegance
A creative combination of hot rod attitude and European racing finesse proved to be a winning recipe for Pat Gauntt’s ’32 Ford three-window coupe, which won the Goodguys 2022 Meguiar’s Street Rod d’Elegance crown on Sunday at the Meguiar’s 21st Del Mar Nationals in Del Mar California. The historic racetrack was the perfect setting for this finely crafted ride built at Hollywood Hot Rods – a bronze beauty that looks like it could conquer the track and then deliver its owner to a fine beachside dining establishment afterward.
The build was more than six years in the making, but the concept for this beautiful coupe dates back more than 15 years, when Hollywood Hot Rods owner Troy Ladd got together with designer Eric Black to envision a traditional-style hot rod crafted with design elements from vintage coach-built European machines like Delahayes and Bugattis. You could consider the result a gentleman’s hot rod – a coach-built road-racing coupe.
Texan Pat Gauntt loved the concept and commissioned Troy and the Hollywood Hot Rods team to make it a reality. As you would expect, doing so meant building virtually everything from scratch, beginning with the frame. Lightening holes and thousands of rivets give the custom frame definite competition flavor, as do the dual quarter-elliptic front springs that effectively serve as a four bar for the dropped I-beam front axle. The Winters quick-change rearend is suspended in a similar fashion, located by lower quarter elliptic springs and an upper I-beam-style center wishbone, while hydraulic lever shocks help dampen the ride. Wheelsmith built the 16- and 18-inch wire wheels using British hubs, with Dunlop tires helping to complete the vintage sports car feel.
A bit of postwar technology was used between the frame rails in the form of a ’49-vintage Cadillac 331c.i. V8 – the first of the domestic overhead-valve V8s. This one was built with race-engineered internals and 390 cylinder heads and is fed by a pair of Stromberg 97 carburetors. The detailing is incredible, combining a tasteful blend of plating, polish, and painted surfaces. Custom headers exit through a shrouded relief in the cowl, but exhaust can also be routed through an under-car system. The Tremec five-speed transmission is one of the few modern pieces of mechanical equipment.
A lot of metalwork was done to achieve the lean, sports-car-influenced body shape. Besides a chopped top and sectioned body, the coupe wears a custom Alumicraft grille, a split windshield, one-off hood sides with mesh vent panels, and many fabricated aluminum trim panels affixed using more rivets. Those pieces, combined with the engine-turned firewall and other one-off aluminum and stainless parts like the taillight bezels, add to the distinctive European racing appearance.
Mick Jenkins and his team at Mick’s Paint get credit for the incredible bodywork, and also for steering the color choice to the dark metallic brown finish. The hue didn’t seem obvious at first, but when you see it in person you can tell it was the right decision. It’s the perfect foundation for showcasing the car’s many polished and plated trim pieces, and the color has a depth and glow that truly adds to the car’s rich, elegant feel – especially when you see it outside in natural light.
The classy-yet-spry character carries over into the cockpit, which is upholstered in supple two-tone leather upholstery in a clean, sparse style evoking early sports cars. Mark Lopez at Elegance Auto Interiors gets credit for the upholstery work on the race-style seats and other soft surfaces. The engine-turned dash inserts and other trim pieces enhance the classic competition flavor, as do the exposed rail-style shifter, custom pedals, and wood-rimmed steering wheel.
The Gauntt coupe is one of those custom-crafted cars that wears so many well-designed details, you could study it for days and still not find them all. It’s the sort of intricate, classic beauty you might expect to see at an elite Pebble Beach event, yet it still captures classic hot rod flavor. It’s little surprise the coupe already earned the prestigious Al Slonaker Memorial Award at this year’s Grand National Roadster Show. And now it’s part of the elite Goodguys 2022 Meguiar’s Top 12 Awards, too. Congratulations to owner Pat Gauntt, Troy Ladd and the Hollywood Hot Rods team, and everyone else involved in this stunning Deuce, the Goodguys 2022 Meguiar’s Street Rod d’Elegance.
Photos by John Jackson