A car designed around an engine
Steve Barton’s passion for all things automotive runs deep, but there’s something inside of him that likes a twist. The Las Vegas resident is most interested when the vehicle has an extra special component that is rare, spectacular or unheard of; that’s when Barton is most pleased.
The man owns more than 30 vehicles. He has a stable of interesting Cadillacs and Corvettes, there’s a Lincoln concept car, a McLaren/Cadillac LMP (Le Mans Prototype) racer, a 950-bhp twin-turbo Impala, the legendary Frankenstude, an SSR turned into a 1959 El Camino (complete with hardtop convertible), and a lot more.
But what we’re looking at right now is this insane 1932 removable-top roadster. You might want to sit down and get comfortable, because the tale we’re about to tell you has many twists and turns.
“I had always wanted a ’32,” Barton told us, “but, of course, I didn’t want just a nice ’32. I wanted something that was different, something extraordinary.” In 2000, during a chance encounter with famed drag racer and SEMA Hall of Fame member Joe Schubeck, the project began to take shape.
Schubeck had designed and built a 902-cu.-in. dohc engine decades ago that was supposed to take on the Hemis in AA/FD drag racing, however, before the project was ramped up, the NHRA decided to ban the engine. The project was dead in the water. Schubeck had built no more than 10 of the engines and most ended up in offshore racing boats. It didn’t take long for Barton’s conversation with Schubeck to turn to the unusual and rare engine. After some convincing (and $100,000) Schubeck parted with one of the two engines that were left and Barton had the first, and most important part of his extraordinary 1932.
Steve wasn’t obsessed with trophies as he built the car for himself. He took the car to just a couple more shows before putting it into his garage at home.
The engine was put in storage for a while as Barton formulated a plan for the ’32. Barton wanted to have the car of his dreams built by someone of the caliber required for a very special project; he turned to Boyd Coddington in 2003. This was just before Coddington got involved in the “American Hot Rod” TV show. After getting the frame built and the engine mounted, not much more happened as Coddington was becoming more and more interested in his TV show.
Well, there was the issue over the body. Barton had specifically requested a custom body built by Marcel Delay, but Coddington kept insisting that a steel body from one of the aftermarket suppliers would be “just fine.” Anyone who knows Barton knows that “just fine” was not what he was looking for. Eventually Delay did, in fact, build a custom body for the car, but the lack of work being done and the disconnect between Barton’s desires and Coddington’s willingness to strive for them led to the car being pulled out of the shop and put into Barton’s storage warehouse. “I felt like it was like a death sentence for the car,” Barton told us. You could hear the hurt in his voice as he recounted the story. He added: “I didn’t think it would ever get built after that. It’s hard to find someone who will take over someone else’s work and straighten out the problems.”
But it just so happens that Barton did meet someone that he felt he could trust to complete the car in the manner it deserved. In 2001, Barton met Jordan Quintal at a hot rod shop in Escondido, California, where many award-winning cars and trucks had been built. Shortly thereafter Quintal opened up his own shop—Super Rides By Jordan in Escondido—and in 2005 Barton decided to hand the entire project over to Quintal to finish. It was a big job as there was much to be done but Quintal completely understood Barton’s dream and managed to both complete the car and fulfill Barton’s vision.
When the car was completed, it was entered in America’s Most Beautiful Roadster show in 2007. The car, by most accounts, should have won. But it didn’t. Some say the green was too much for the judges to handle. Others say the secondary burgundy color was the reason for not winning. Barton wasn’t obsessed with trophies as he built the car for himself. He took the car to just a couple more shows before putting it into his garage at home.
Only one photo shoot of the car was ever conducted and it never surfaced as the magazine went out of business before the feature could run. It’s almost as if the car was cursed. But the fact remains that this is one awesome car and now that some time has passed, Barton was willing to let us shoot a full feature on it and tell you all about the car. It was probably good for him to drag it out, have it detailed and see a bunch of guys slathering all over it. The original love for the car was kind of rekindled in 2014 as we wrapped up our photo session in Barton’s driveway.
So, how about some more information on the engine that got the whole project started? The 904 cu. in. are derived from a 4.90-in. bore and a 6-in. stroke. The engine has dual overhead cams and 32 valves. At 3000 rpm, it puts out 1200 bhp and 900 lb.-ft. of torque. The custom port fuel injection was built by Schubeck and an Accel engine control module ignition system lights the fire. A dry-sump system was used for the oiling; the tank is in the trunk. Everything on the engine is polished, chromed or powder-coated. A GM 4L80E transmission from Jet Transmission sits behind the potent mill.
The differential, built by Currie, has a 3.58:1 ratio. A GearVendors overdrive allows for a final ratio of 2.7:1. The differential housing and axles were made by Mark Williams. The tube and reproduction 1932 box rail chassis, built at Boyd’s, has independent front suspension with Aldan shocks. The wheels are custom one-offs made by Evod Industries. Mickey Thompson tires cover the 18 x 8 wheels in the front and the 20 x 15 wheels in the rear.
The steel body and aluminum top were made by Marcel Delay and his sons Marc and Luc. The Ex-7 HID headlights are by Headwinds. Charley Hutton did all the body fitment, final finish and custom paintwork. He used PPG paint (now called Axalta). The striping was laid down by Pete Finlan.
This was definitely a project that took a lot to get done and Barton is quick to point to those who helped. He wanted to be sure to thank Jordan Quintal III, Phil Hayes, Roy Schmidt, Mike Curtis and Steve Waldron for their craftsmanship.
Barton, it should be noted, hasn’t completely lost interest in the high-end show car field. He’s currently working with Quintal on a Cadillac to try and win the Ridler Award. You can bet that car will be pretty special whether it wins a trophy or not.