Bill Kelly's 1932 Ford
1932 Ford 3-Window coupe owned and built by Bill Kelly of Warminster, Pennsylvania. Kelly's dad, Thomas Kelly, bought him the car in 1948. It was stock at the time, and Thomas had to pay $200 for it. Kelly believes it came from California, and he remembers that it was in a beat-up shape. Bill was 15 years old at the time, so his dad's name was listed on the registration. At the time Kelly started to see cars from California in the magazines, and it didn't take long before he decided to set the hacksaw in the coupe. He had a lot of help from people that were involved in stock car racing. Bill's dad was into stock car racing as well, and he helped him channel the body of the coupe over the frame. The engine was a flathead V-8 at first, and according to Bill it had a better ignition system than the stuff you could order from California through the mail. The flathead displacement was stock, but as the car only weighted about 2000 pounds it was unbeatable according to Bill. In 1949 Kelly could title the car on himself, as he then had turned 16. This version of the coupe featured a black lacquer paint job.
Kelly had many friends in the Modifiers of Philadelphia car club, who also provided advices. They wanted him to join, but he wanted to stay outlaw. Bill used to race anybody at the drop of a hat, and he didn't want to belong to a club. When people started to beat Kelly in impromptu races in the early 1950s, he replaced the flathead with a 303-cid OHV V-8 from an Oldsmobile 88. The fragile Ford transmission gave way to a burly 1937 LaSalle toploader. In 2001 Kelly told The Rodder's Journal that his coupe was unbeatable with that Olds 88 motor. "Motorcycles would see me, and they'd go the other way". Kelly wanted even more speed, so he bought a Cadillac engine in a box in New Jersey. He used to go over to New Jersey to race at night. The Cadillac engine had a wild Isky cam, a Vertex magneto and a C-T stroker kit. The cylinder walls were notched for clearance, and Kelly got the whole thing for 300 bucks. It was very fast with that engine, but Kelly ended up installing a blown Cadillac engine in it eventually. As more horsepower found it's way to the engine compartment, the basic appearance of the car stayed the same. He ran it without a hood to save weight, and the cowl vent was welded shut. In the rear, a pair of 1949 Pontiac taillights were installed. Up front it featured a straight axle and guide headlights that were perched on accessory light stands. The interior featured red and white vinyl door panels and a brown pleated seat. The dash was filled with Stewart-Warner lenses.
Kelly ran the coupe mostly on the street, but he also competed at the Lancaster US 30 Drag-O-Way, and the New York Drag-O-Way. He also had a brief stint driving the coupe as a pace car at the Langhorne Speedway, but he quit as the low grille was bottoming out at the deep ruts on the track. Kelly ran the coupe hard from 1948 to the late 1950s. When he sold it, the engine was gone. There was always something that had to be done, so half of the time the car was apart. The guy Kelly sold it to just put it in a garage. It had several owners after him, and the car was eventually raced again. This version had the name "Deuces Wilde" painted on the deck lid. Around 1960 it was put in storage.
In the late 1980s or early 1990s a fellow named Glenn bought the car from a guy in Glenside, Pennsylvania. The Glenside owner had had it in storage for many years. Glenn, a member of the Philadelphia Modifiers car club, found out about the car from Allan Gittleman.
In 2001 the coupe was featured in The Rodder's Journal Number Fifteen in a story titled "Philadelphia Story". At the time it was owned by Gerard Christensen of Scotch Plains, New Jersey. Gerard found the old hot rod in an ad in a local penny-saver newspaper. It was located in Ventnor, New Jersey. It had been in dead storage for over 30 years and it was in a good condition. The current owner was into bartering, and Christensen traded him a lathe, some fishing tackle and a few other things in addition to cash. The current owner hadn't owned it for a long time and he wasn't intent of keeping it. When Christensen bought the coupe, it's history wasn't known, so he started playing detective. He found a 1949 Pennsylvania registration in the coupe, and after some effort he was able to trace it back to 68 year old Bill Kelly. Kelly was still living in Warminster, and he was delighted to hear that his old hot rod had resurfaced. He was even happier when he learned that the coupe remained substantially the way it had been when he owned it. The current photos used in The Rodder's Journal were taken in 1997, and they showed the coupe still featuring a faded purple paint. "Deuces Wilde" had been painted on the deck lid by then, and Bill's 1949 Pontiac taillights had been replaced with a pair of taillights pirated from a 1941 Chevrolet. It was powered by a 324 Oldmobile engine with finned valve covers and a 4-bbl intake. Bill's old 1937 LaSalle gearbox was still in the car. The gearbox and engine were hooked to a 1940 Ford torque-tube driveline. The banjo was chromed, and it came from a 1937 Ford. It ran 1938 Lincoln rear brakes and 1939 Ford front drum assemblies. The straight front axle was still on the car, but the grille shell had bee filled. Inside, the rare Stewart-Warner convex lens gauges were still present. A couple were missing though. The gauges were monuted in a metlaflaked gauge cluster that Kelly had fabricated. The red and white vinyl door panels and brown pleated seat were cracked and stiff from aging. It featured chromed window moldings, and a 1957 Ford safety steering wheel. The rear wheels had been reversed, and cycle fenders had been installed up front. The guide headlights were still also there, perched on accessory light stands.
After The Rodder's Journal had photographed the coupe, Christensen had Dave Simard of East Coast Custom chop the top. 3 1/2 inches were taken out. The roof wasn't filled during the chop, and as much as possible of the purple paint was kept. Dave Simard did also straighten the old frame for Christensen, and he set it up with a flathead V8 again. The cowl vent, which had been welded shut, was made functional again, and the torn roof insert was replaced.
In 2006 Christensen attended the 34th Ty Rods Old Timers Reunion with the car. This version featured a 1949 Cadillac 331 cu. in. engine that was hopped up with Belond headers, a 6-carb manifold and a Spalding Flamethrower ignition.
In September of 2013 the coupe was advertised for sale on eBay. It was located in Linden, New Jersey, and the bench seat had been upholstered to match the door panels. The auction ended October 1, and after it had received 20 bids, the final sales price was $41,334.00.
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