As with most great ideas, the brainstorm to build this cool but realistic car occurred during a bench racing session. Unlike most bench racing ideas, though, four months later this dream was a super-detailed and driveable highboy. Everyone involved (SplitFire, which sponsored the buildup; Thom Taylor, who drew the car’s initial look; Lobeck’s Hot Rods, which built the car; all thecompanies that helped out by frantically tossing parts at us to meet our Power Tour ’96 deadline; and others) went above and beyond the call of duty to make this roadster one of the trickest bolt-together cars ever.
So what makes this car so trick? Thom Taylor dug deep to create a ’33 highboy full of subtleties after receiving some direction from SplitFire’s Ed Zinke, Barry Lobeck, and HOT ROD on what the project was about. Taylor envisioned a roadster with boxed and rounded ’34 frame horns, a bobbed rear section to make room for a clean rollpan, a chopped and reclined windshield, 15- and 17-inch Boyds, a multihued paint scheme, and more.
To transform the image into a reality, Lobeck’s started with a Gibbon ’33-’34 glass roadster body and a Just-A-Hobby ’34 frame. Headlight/shock mounts were welded on after ensuring the Vintique-supplied King Bees cleared the grille. The rear of the frame was bobbed just behind the rearend to allow for a custom rollpan, also built by Lobeck’s.
The suspension is a combination of Pete & Jake’s (P&J) and Super Bell Axle components. A Super Bell 4-inch dropped I-beam axle (drilled and chromed) is located by a P&J’s four-bar, panhard bar and shocks, and a One & Only single spring. The front end is steered by a Mullins-prepped Vega steering box (connected to a Mullins solid column and a P&J’s four-spoke billet steering wheel through polished stainless steel Borgeson U-joints) and a P&J’s pitman arm and steering links. Super Bell spindles hold solid-disc brake rotors covered by Super Bell’s cool dust covers, which give the front end that early-hot-rod look.
Wilwood dual-piston calipers provide solid braking power. The Currie 8-inch rearend is located with a P&J’s ladder bar and panhard bar along with a Viper shock setup. Everything that could be ordered chromed was, and everything else that came raw was given top-quality shiny stuff by CustomChrome Plating in Grafton, Ohio.
Unlike most street rods, this roadster runs an all–Ford SVO drivetrain. The 302 SVO engine and the B&M C4 transmission were mocked into place on the frame for proper placement. Then the Gibbon body was dropped over the frame with the engine and trans still bolted in to check the placement. To bolt the body onto the frame, the fiberglass floor needed to be cut out around the C4 and the driveshaft. The hole in the floor was left until after the rough chassis and body fitment were done, then Lobeck’s built a new trans and driveshaft tunnel.
The stainless steel brake lines, fittings, and brackets came from Bob’s Braided Lines in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Lobeck’s brake line guru, Mark Mindzora, bent them up.
The chassis rests on Boyds Vintage II wheels and BFGoodrich tires (P195/60R15 front tires on 15×6-inch wheels and P275/60R17 rear tires on 17×8-inch wheels) to give the highboy just a little different big ’n’ little look. To further the look, a custom ’33 grille by Jim Rench’s Hot Rod Stuff was draped over the Walker three-core radiator, leading the way for the Rootlieb custom three-piece hood held in place with a Carolina Customs hood latch. To finish it off and really clean up the rear of the car, Lobeck’s built a super-subtle rollpan that incorporates the taillights, the license plate holder, and the main electrical shutoff (just behind the license plate).
The dashboard was molded into the body and loaded with Ford Masterpiece gauges, then a Jensen stereo from Soundquest was hidden under the dash. A Mullins dropped column mount, floor swivel, and tach bucket hang off the Mullins column, and an adjustable-location Lokar shifter, parking brake, throttle pedal, and transmission kick-down linkage control the other driver inputs. A Tanks 18-gallon fuel tank was mounted in the space between the passenger area and the trunk, then Juliano’s seatbelts were installed. An Optima battery was chosen to ensure the roadster always powers up. A Downs power trunk opener was used for custom access to the fuel tank and the battery. EZ Jumpers were bolted under the car in case of a power loss.
The bodywork came next. Lobeck’s Ed Roethel, Frank Konopacki, and Mark Mindzora massaged the Gibbon body and all the nonchromed chassis components to perfection with PPG products for an incredible look. Then, after all the wiring and accessories were determined, Portage Trim in Ravenna, Ohio, built an incredible interior that includes the only sliding roadster seat we’ve ever seen.
To finish off this cool topless, Exhaust It in Cleveland, Ohio, built a slick stainless steel exhaust, which was HPC coated for good looks, and Lobeck’s built a flying-V grille guard to which Custom Chrome gave its finest finish.
SplitFire’s Performance V looks and runs great thanks to all the hard work and creativity poured into it by all the people involved. Follow along next month as we continue to show how this repop dream came together.
Image by M. Maggs from Pixabay