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Photos by Ken Sanders/Story by Terry Denomme

In 1932 Ford produced more than 124,000 Tudor sedans and one of those, a Model B went to a farmer in Alberta. There is nothing too remarkable about that. But then consider that after more than 80 years Surrey, BC’s Rob Petty is only the second registered owner and you have the kind of story book serendipity you’d expect with a car dubbed The Tiki Dream.

When the car was purchased by that Alberta farmer in 1932 it’s possible he didn’t realize he’d still own it 20 years later. Who knows why he continued driving it. Maybe he was smitten by its classic lines or maybe it was nostalgia; the memories he had with the car meant too much to discard it. It’s possible he was exceptionally thrifty and didn’t see any need to replace the car. Thrift would explain why he chose the Model B 4-banger version over the new-for-1932 Model 18 Flathead V8-powered version. (The Flathead option was only $10 more and vastly outsold 4-banger versions but in 1932 $10 wasn’t chump change).

The car wasn’t just used to go to town or church on Sundays either. A few changes revealed it was put to work on the farm. When found the original bumpers were replaced by sturdier Model A bumpers, a key asset to a vehicle likely used to push and pull objects on the farm. “There were even steel reinforcements welded to the backside of the bumpers to make it stronger,” says Petty.

The car’s work life ended in 1953 when the farmer reached the conclusion it was finally time for an upgrade. While deemed ready for retirement the farmer didn’t sell, trade or junk the Tudor, though most people in that era wouldn’t have thought twice about scrapping such an antique. Instead he cleared some space in one of his barns and parked it there. He didn’t even take off the license plates.

Decades passed and though there were rumours in the hot rod community that a stock, completely intact ’32 Ford was preserved in a barn somewhere in central Alberta, nothing ever came of those rumours until 1994. Seems after years of gearheads buzzing around the property trying to find the hidden Ford treasure, the farmer’s family decided to end the harassment by making the car available to the brother-in-law of one of Petty’s good friends. “I was camping in BC’s Shuswap country with my friend and this guy was there and was also into cars. He drops this bomb that he just dragged this ’32 Tudor out of a barn,” says Petty. 

At the time Petty owned a 1948 Ford coupe he’d originally purchased in 1976 before he graduated high school. By 1994 it had a 350/350 combo and was a daily driver used for, among other things, driving his kids to school. But even back in 1976 he’d wanted a ’32 Tudor Sedan but they weren’t easy to find. His passion for Deuce Tudor’s was ignited by Dave Stuckey’s Lil’ Coffin 1932 Ford Sedan. Petty was barely two years old when the first version of Stuckey’s iconic hot rod made the cover of Car Craft magazine. Gearheads of a certain age are most familiar with the Monogram model version of the Lil’ Coffin, which Stuckey built in 1962 and then sold to a friend who then sold it to Monogram. The model maker owned it until 1967 when Darryl Starbird bought it. As a kid a poster of that Monogram model version hung on Petty’s bedroom wall and in 1970, when Hot Wheels produced a 1/64 version of the Lil Coffin called The Demon, Petty, in Grade 6 at the time, went out and bought the Spectraflame Purple version and owns it to this day.

Needless to say when his friend’s brother-in-law spilled the beans on his barn find, Petty was very intrigued. With the ’48 Ford taking up space in the garage another project really wasn’t viable but something else this gentleman told him gave Petty hope. The gentleman had recently sold his 1948 Ford and regretted it. Petty was at a crossroads with his ’48 Ford and had been planning to rebuild it but came up with a better idea. In the fall of 1994 he made an offer. “I offered my running, driving street rod for his barn-find bucket,” says Petty.  A deal was made and The Tiki Dream vision began to form, though at a glacial pace.

“I totally disassembled the car over the next few years and started collecting the parts I knew I would need to put it all together again,” says Petty. By a few years Petty means that by 2002 he felt he had all the parts he needed to create his vision for The Tiki Dream. It was a vision that would take another 12 years to bring to life and that began to form before Petty even owned the Tudor sedan.

“My theme for the car was a ’60s style show car built by a teenager on a budget,” explains Petty, who was just that teenager in 1976 when in want of a Deuce Tudor he bought a ’48 Ford coupe. While the Lil’ Coffin was an inspiration a teenager never would have been able to afford such a build and The Tiki Dream would reflect that. “He couldn’t afford the chop, but saved enough for an awesome paint job,” says Petty of his fictious teen gearhead “He had saved enough for the interior too, a white pearl with blue inserts, something he’d seen in a magazine or at the local hot rod show.”

The project started with Petty’s buddy George Criddle updating the chassis by first boxing the stock ’32 Ford frame rails and adding a Chassis Engineering X-member. Since the budget for the car was tight to fit the theme, Petty decided the standard street rod Mustang II style front suspension wasn’t an option. Instead, he installed a Model A front crossmember then flipped the stock transverse mounted leaf spring to help lower the front end. A Chassis Engineering 4” dropped I-beam axle replaced the stock I-beam and then instead of splitting the stock wishbone — a common 1950/60s hot rod practice often performed to make clearance for bigger motors and more ground clearance — Petty used a 4-link setup.

The front suspension was finished with a So-Cal Panhard bar. A Flaming River Vega style steering box and pitman arm replaced the stock steering setup. For stopping power a set of Plymouth Volare rotors on Chevelle calipers were an upgrade on the stock mechanical drum brakes. A 1969 Mustang master cylinder was frame mounted under the cabin floor. Out back a 1975 Mercury Comet 8” rear end was sourced and the transverse leaf spring tossed in favour of a front set of Dodge D100 parallel leaf springs. The stock rear end gears were replaced with a 3.55 ratio set and a positraction unit. The stock drum brakes remain and the driveshaft from the Comet was shortened and used in the project as well. Thanks to Wheel Vintiques you don’t have to build your reverse wheels in shop class anymore. Petty bought a set of 17x8 chrome reverse wheel for the back and 15x6 rims for the front which gives the car a nice rake. Tires are Diamond Back Classic Radial 2.75” wide whites on all four corners (245/65R17 on the rear, 195/65R15 on the front). Petty says he chose the Diamond Back tires because they don’t have any size markings on the white wall side.  

While the ’32 was stored in a barn for almost 50 years it hadn’t been spared all the ravages of time. “We replaced the entire floor of the car, other than a few of the cross members,” says Petty. “The rear corners of the body had to be replaced and since those items were not available off the shelf, I had Doug Rutherford form the new pieces from sheet metal. The door skins were also replaced as a couple bullet holes and some lower rust made it a better idea. The body was left stock, as were most of the other body panels too. All of the structural repairs on my car were made by Doug.”

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