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Susan’s Cruiser – A Cool, Clean, and Classy 1932 Ford Roadster

Kevin Svarda grew up with a serious gearhead father, and it shows. He remembers attending street rod shows and watching his dad, Buz, work on his rare ’32 Studebaker Rockne. In fact, his dad brought home an award from the inaugural Street Rod Nationals in Peoria, Illinois!

Buz rolled with a good friend who drove a wicked ’41 Willys gasser that was a former drag car (it even earned Best Engineered award during the ’64 NHRA Nationals). These were some pretty cool cars to have been around as a kid, but what’s even better is that Kevin now owns both the Willys and his father’s Rockne!

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Kevin’s wife Susan knew about his car affliction when they married 20 years ago and has grown to enjoy attending events in the Willys, Rockne, and other cars over the years (the Stude is currently being restored). After all those years, Susan was looking to find a street rod she could drive around on the weekends and cruise about. As cool as the Willys looks, it was built as a race car first, which means it rides and drives like you’d expect an original old gasser to feel and sound – not particularly a car she felt comfortable driving.

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As it turns out, Susan likes roadsters and Kevin saw an opportunity to get his wife behind the wheel of something cool and a car she’d feel comfy driving. A call was put into Lo-Man Rods in Tipp City, Ohio, and a plan was hatched for a road-worthy, safe, and great-looking 1932 Ford roadster.

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A Pete and Jakes frame was called into action, fitted with that company’s dropped axle front suspension along with a 9-inch rearend. A set of So-Cal’s fin-covered front discs was mounted up front for quick stops, coupled with a standard set of big drums out back. To improve the ride quality, a set of RideTech shocks was used, while American Rebel kidney bean wheels were called into action along with Firestone and Hoosier tread.

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To keep things easy and reliable, a 350c.i. Chevy small-block was rebuilt by John Compton of Springfield, Ohio. The build was kept fairly mild for a road-friendly cruiser but thanks to a mild cam and a custom exhaust by Lo-Man, the small-block resonates a perfect hot rod rumble. To help keep the rpm about 30-percent lower on long highway cruises, a 700R4 overdrive transmission was chosen.

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As the chassis was coming together, it was fitted with a fresh body from Adams Hot Rod Shop. The body features lengthened doors to ease entry and egress but keeps all of the Deuce flavor intact. The team massaged the body to perfection before laying on a PPG deep blue with a touch of metallic – the exact color of Kevin and Susan’s ’41 Willys.

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Adams Hot Rod Shop also took care of the custom interior, which was designed with comfort in mind. The custom leather-wrapped seat is actually heated, plus there’s a vintage-style heater that the Lo-Man team restored and mounted under the dash to keep Susan warm on early-spring or autumn cruises. Vintage styled SoCal gauges finish the dash along with a Gennie shifter and a steering wheel from Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop. When the weather’s right, the custom Adams top can be lifted off to enjoy a true roadster cruise.

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Susan’s 1932 Ford Roadster was finished last July, just in time to show it next to the Willys during the Speedway Motors Heartland Nationals. A couple months later, the roadster was picked by the Gazette staff during the Kentucky Nationals. The couple are already mapping out their show schedule for 2020, so you’ll likely be able to check out the roadster in person somewhere this year – and there’s a good chance that there will be a matching Willys gasser parked next to it!

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Photos by Todd Ryden

Todd Ryden is first and foremost a car guy and admits to how lucky he is to have been able to build a career out of a hobby that he enjoys so much. He’s owned muscle cars and classics, raced a bit and has cruised across the country. With over 25 years in the industry from the manufacturing and marketing side to writing books and articles, he just gets it.

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