This year’s Eyes On Design show celebrated the 80th anniversary of the introduction of the 1932 Ford, with dozens of iterations of the genuinely iconic automobile. If there’s one car that epitomizes the concept of a “hot rod” it’s a ’32 Ford. Long before the Beach Boys sang about a “little deuce coupe”, hot rodders had embraced the 1932 Ford for good reason. To begin with, the ’32 Ford, or more properly the Ford Model 18, was the first inexpensive car with a V8 engine, the famous flathead Ford V8 (four cylinder ’32s were called the Model B), and by the 1950s and early 1960s there were a variety of companies selling speed parts for the flathead, including Zora Duntov and his brother’s “Ardun” heads. As 20 and 30 year old cars in that era they were also cheap. It wasn’t just inexpensive speed. The ’32 is popular with rodders and restorers alike.
The 1932 Ford was a single year model, styling changed in 1933, and collectors of all kinds have always been attracted to the unique. That unique styling, though, was exceptional. Edsel Ford had Ford’s body suppliers make a scaled down Lincoln. The car was available in something like 17 different body styles, just about all of them look good, and many of them were represented at the EoD tribute. The Deuce Coupes and highboy roadsters may be the ones in highest demand by collectors and customizers, but the roofline of the sedans looks great, chopped or not. As popular as the ’32 Fords are today, it might sound surprising but they were a bit of a flop when introduced. Though initial demand was high, there were problems with the V8. Henry was a peculiar man who didn’t really trust engineers. Aaron Severson’s Ate Up With Motor’s history of the Ford V8 shows how the engine was a success in spite of Henry’s eccentricities. There’s little question that the flathead V8 was rushed into production. Today we’d say that Henry let his customers do beta testing on the engine. As a result of those teething problems and a relatively short production year, less than 300,000 1932 Fords were sold. It’s possible that the ’32 Ford is more popular now than when it was new.