As we’ve discussed in the past, the 1932 Ford Roadster is the quintessential hot rod. There were lots of them at this year’s SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. But there was one that deserves special recognition for its iconic status: the McGee Roadster.
Earlier this year, Bruce Meyer’s ‘32 Ford was inducted into the Historical Vehicle Register—a project of the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Library of Congress to document America’s most historically significant vehicles. The car was even memorialized in a U.S. postage stamp in 2014.
The car was originally built by Robert McGee. According to Meyer, a founding member of the Petersen Automotive Museum, “McGee was the perfect guy.” Meyer added, “He was a football player, a World War Two veteran, and he had Southern California good looks.” And then there’s the fact that McGee recorded a top speed of 112.21 with the Roadster on a salt-lake run in 1947.
A Movie and TV Car
Back in the day, hot rods weren’t highly regarded by society (or the police). In 1948, local car clubs banded together to distance themselves from dangerous street racing and to promote safer driving. McGee’s roadster became the poster boy of hot-rod respectability. The car gained more notoriety after it was sold to Dick Scritchfield, an employee of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), who frequently loaned it to filmmakers and television studios. If you saw a hot rod in 1950s movies or TV, it very well could have been the McGee Roadster modified with different paint schemes.
Scritchfield did his share of racing with the car as well—in one run, he topped 167 miles per hour on the flats. When Scritchfield moved to Hawaii, he sold the hot rod to Meyer, who set about to restore the ’32 Roadster to its original glory—utilizing all the documentation about the car from magazines, film, and McGee’s records. “Everything worked just right,” said Meyer. “It has such a nice look and stance.” Meyer considers himself the “custodian and caretaker” of the car, rather than strictly its owner.
If the McGee Roadster kindles your interest in 1932 Fords, eBay Motors always has a few 1932 Roadsters for sale, as well as a big supply of ’32 Ford Roadster parts and accessories. The first decision is probably whether you want a high boy or low boy. A high boy has the fenders removed, while a low boy cuts out the floor so that the body can sit lower on the frame, resulting in a more sinister look. Then, consider if you want fat tires in the back with skinny smaller tires in front? Do you row through the gears with a manual transmission or save your knee with an automatic?
These are fun decisions to make. And if you ever get stuck, you can always look at the great choices that Bob McGee made in his day.