Ford Khougaz Lakes Roadster
Ford’s classic 1932 roadster, better known as the Deuce, has been, and always will be, the quintessential American hot rod. The car offered here, the Khougaz Lakes Roadster, is unquestionably outstanding, with elegant, timeless lines that transcend its age. However, with top speeds of over 130 miles per hour readily attainable, it offers more than handsome classic looks. Cars like the Khougaz Lakes Roadster were equipped with heavily modified flathead Ford V8 engines that delivered as much as four times their original power rating. With such power, most examples were driven hard and fast, with this particular Ford being no exception. Running on alcohol fuel in 1946, this famous roadster topped 141.95 miles per hour at El Mirage Dry Lake. Interestingly, its builder, a tough, battle-tested former Army Air Corps B-17 waist gunner named Jim Khougaz, had his own way of dealing with the Deuce’s “barn door” aerodynamics.
Khougaz channeled his ’32 roadster a full seven inches over the frame, then handcrafted a filled and sectioned grille shell to match. To compete with the smaller-silhouette and more competitive T-bodied lakesters of the era, Khougaz faired the body into the frame, and then fabricated a full-length aluminum belly pan. A flat spoiler panel in front of the grille shell also helped to keep the nose down at speed. Running without a windshield, but with a full tonneau cover fitted, Jim’s roadster cut beautifully through the wind.
Although there was not much time at high speeds to check instruments, Khougaz installed an original ’34 Auburn instrument panel, complete with a full set of period Stewart-Warner convex-lens gauges and a Bell fuel pressure pump. The Deuce’s distinctive finish was a custom shade of blue with dark red wheels, while a pair of classic ’39 Ford teardrop-style taillights and a rolled pan finished the rear. For street use, Khougaz fitted a ’32 Ford windscreen with a three-inch chop.
After considerable experimenting, Jim built his own high-output 286 cubic inch flathead V8 engine using the best speed equipment of the era including a Winfield SU-1A cam, finned high compression Edelbrock cylinder heads and a four-carburetor Edelbrock intake manifold, with spark provided by twin Wico magnetos, which were later replaced by a Harman and Collins magneto. The engine block was ported and relieved, with all reciprocating parts carefully balanced, a specialty that would later help Jim to earn his living. The hood was extended by two inches, with the hot engine enclosed between custom louvered side panels.
At first, the roadster served double duty as Jim Khougaz’s street and race car. He built a custom column-shift setup for the three-speed manual transmission and installed a ’48 Ford steering wheel. As his speeds climbed on the dry lakes, the car became more successful and more competition-focused, until it was virtually unusable as anything but a racer. After winning a sizable collection of coveted Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) timing tags, Khougaz retired the car in the mid-1950s.
Occupied with his growing engine balancing business and the building of a T-lakester, Khougaz stored the ’32 roadster intact in his loft for 40 years, then sold it to Indiana dentist Dr. Mark Van Buskirk, who shipped it to Dave Simard’s East Coast Custom in Leominster, Massachusetts, for a comprehensive five-year, body-off restoration. Although it had been unused for decades, the roadster was very complete and Simard was able to save a great deal of the original sheet metal. He and his crew fabricated a new belly pan that is a work of art and wherever possible, they used original or correct NOS replacement parts. Steve Pierce, of Gilford, New Hampshire, matched the original interior in pleated cordovan leather and fabricated an authentic tonneau cover, while Viking Auto matched the paint to a sample found on the car.
Mark Kirby of Motor City Flathead built the 286 cubic inch flathead engine with all the correct parts, including a quartet of carefully rebuilt and tuned Stromberg 81 carburetors. The engine is equipped with a set of chromed lakes pipes that can be uncapped, or the exhaust can be routed underneath the car through a pair of Smithy’s mufflers. Debuting at the 2001 Grand National Roadster Show, the restored roadster won the coveted Bruce Meyer Preservation Award before appearing at Pebble Beach (2003) in the Hot Rod class. It went on to win the Hot Rod class at the 2004 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
In addition, Van Buskirk ran the Colorado Grand and California Mille events with the roadster, and it has competed at the Monterey Historics as well. At Hershey in 2004, it was AACA-certified as an authentic race car, winning a First Junior Award. Other show wins include trophies at the Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance, Eyes on Classic Design and many others. Numerous articles have included features in The Rodder’s Journal, Street Rodder Magazine, Rod & Custom, Old Cars Weekly, and Hop Up.
This car is simply a kick to drive. Sitting at ground level, with the wind rushing by and the powerful flathead rapping through its shortened pipes, you feel, even for just a moment, what Jim Khougaz experienced at El Mirage. It is simply glorious. In 2006, the chopped and channeled Khougaz roadster was chosen as one of the Best ’32 Fords of All Time, joining an exclusive group of just 75 highly respected Deuces, and it was displayed at a special pavilion at the 2006 Grand National Roadster Show.
A feared competitor in its day, the resurrected two-seater has been a relentless trophy winner wherever it has been shown. A comfortable driver as well, it has also participated in events including the Pasadena Roadster Club Reliability Run. Today, this historic roadster stands ready for its First Senior Award at Hershey; it is eligible for every historic hot rod show as well as all the 1000-mile specialty events, and it is ready to cruise to the nearest Friday night gathering. The crisp crackle of its unmuffled exhaust brings smiles whenever it appears. It is certainly one of the most versatile hot rods in existence, eligible for nostalgia drag racing, vintage road racing, dry lakes racing (with just a few SCTA-required additions), hot rod road tours and more.
Opportunities to purchase historic hot rods with unquestioned provenance like this one are rare. The new owner will possess a true period hot rod, beautifully restored, that is instantly recognizable, highly coveted and universally respected. This is a Deuce for the ages.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in September 2009 at the Petersen Automotive Museum, Los Angeles, California.
Est. 225+ bhp, 286 cu. in. flathead V8 engine with four Stromberg 81 carburetors, three-speed manual transmission, solid front axle with semi-elliptic leaf spring, solid rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf spring, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 106"
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel