Road Rules! Dave Ruhs’ 1932 Ford Roadster – One for the Road(ster)
Dave Ruhs is a Deuce guy. He’s been one ever since he was in high school and a neighborhood racer turned him on to the iconic style of vintage Henry steel. It was the late-’70s and Dave was cruising around Cedar Rapids, Iowa in a ’68 Camaro. But as soon as that neighbor offered up a ’32 five-window coupe, Dave was hooked and never looked back.
Dave’s current collection includes a dozen Deuces in a variety of body styles – a chopped full-fendered coupe, several Tudors, a chopped Fordoor highboy, and even an all-original Tudor. All of ’em are drivers, but this purple roadster might just have the most miles. It has taken Dave to scores of events across the country, logging more than 40,000 miles in the past 15 years.
A roadster might seem like a curious choice for a guy living in Des Moines, Iowa, where there are four distinct seasons – sometimes in a single day! But Dave was adamant about having an open car for road trips when he decided to build the Deuce. “I’ve loved convertibles since high school,” he says.
Road trips were part of the plan from the start with this roadster. “I wanted to be able to drive out to the coast,” Dave says. “It was always my dream to drive a roadster to California.”
With that in mind, Dave used proven parts like a TCI chassis, Brookville body and fenders, and a small-block Chevy engine backed by a 700R4 automatic transmission. He’s quick to point out that it’s all pretty basic, off-the-shelf stuff. “We always use the term ‘we’re not building a Ridler car,’” Dave says. “I build my cars so I can work on them when I’m two states away. You use stuff that’s available at O’Reilly’s on the weekend.”
Dave’s dream of driving to California has come true multiple times, with seven trips to the annual L.A. Roadsters Show. Most of those journeys have been with his good friend Dale Grau from Minnesota, a fellow Deuce fanatic he met on an earlier road tour. Dave and Dale have a network of friends who often join them for a six- or eight-car caravan. Dave and his wife, Sandy, also lead the annual Goodguys Cruise to Columbus every summer, guiding several dozen rodders from the Heartland Nationals in Des Moines to the PPG Nationals in Ohio, with interesting stops and sights along the way.
It was on one of Dave’s Southern California excursions when he encountered his biggest setback. The roadster’s previous small block, a “performance-built” 400c.i. runner he had bought used, suddenly developed a terrible miss. A compression check confirmed three dead cylinders. “It was just sucking oil like crazy,” Dave says.
What do you do when that happens and you’re more than 1,600 miles from home? Dave decided to drive as far as he could “For every mile I drive closer to Iowa, that’s two miles less for the truck and trailer to come get it,” he reasoned.
Stopping to add oil became part of the routine. “We got to Vegas using four quarts of oil,” Dave says. Ultimately, he rigged up a hose to reclaim some of the oil the engine was spewing. “I’ll never need to worry about rust, because that thing has a nice coating of oil underneath,” he jokes.
The roadster eventually made it home under its own power and the old small block was replaced with a tried-and-true 290hp GM crate engine. “It just runs great now,” Dave says. Combined with its proven chassis and a basic gray leather interior, Dave says the car is an extremely able cruiser that just seems to get more comfortable with age.
And cruise it he does. “There’s just something about the road trip,” Dave says. “It really appeals to me. Building a car yourself and driving to the coast and back – I take great pride in that. That’s the fun part.”
Photos by Dave Ruhs and Damon Lee