Boyd Coddington Ford Roadster

In any industry there are innovators who change the playing field. Think back to what Facebook did with social media, or what iTunes did to modern music. Something comes along, and we're all utterly blown away.

In the early 1980s, hot rodding was by no means in its infancy, but that didn't stop a partnership of two men from substantially transforming the scene. One of those men was Jamie Musselman, a Texas oil magnate and car collector; the other was hot rod legend Boyd Coddington. The very first product of that patron-artist partnership was Coddington's famous 1933 Ford Roadster. It cemented his spot on the hot rodder's map and went on to set a new standard of hot rod fit and finish.

We recently sat down with Boyd Coddington Jr., and he reminisced about the stunning design.

“Jamie's roadster quantifies the 'Boyd look,'” noted Coddington. “There are smooth lines and small details that the average person will never notice. In other words, it's what you don't see that makes it [definitive].”

The clean cut simplicity is quite deceiving for sure. Coddington rigorously reshaped the Ford's grille and cowl angles to match the rake of the windshield, while also crafting a commanding profile from the roadster's snout all the way to the rear. Subtle tweaks and tucks to the body give the viewer the impression that every Ford Roadster was meant to look exactly like this.

Interestingly, the wheels (seen directly above) were cut from a sold piece of billet aluminum and were the very first set Coddington built, effectively the set that started the whole Coddington wheels craze.

But strip away the iconic bodywork and its footwear, and Roadster still impresses. The '33 Roadster chassis features a hand-fabricated unequal-length-control arm front suspension and a heavily modified independent rear suspension gleaned from a Corvette. Under the hood lies a potent 5.8-liter Chevrolet V8, but key to Musselman's wishes, the car was set up to be a driver rather than a twice-a-year show car. In fact, Musselman once told Coddington that the '33 Roadster “ran better than my 928 Porsche.”

It made its grand debut at the annual Roadster Show in Oakland, California for 1982 and instantly came away as the show favorite, winning the coveted America's Most Beautiful Roadster award, which Coddington likened to wining the Indy 500 or taking home on Oscar for the hot rod world. But it wasn't all good press and fanfare. Many saw the big budget build as a significant blow to the backyard hot rodder and a seminal change in the hot rod scene. No longer was 'good' considered 'great', and it earned the pair some unwanted ire from within the community.

It certainly didn't hamper their partnership however. Over the years, Musselman enlisted Coddington to build 16 cars in total, though this is the one that steals our hearts. There are now innumerable “ultra rods” prowling hot rod shows and city streets, yet many still point to Coddington's '33 Roadster and affirm its status as one of the game-changing greats.

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