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Bruce Larson ’32 Ford Five-Window Coupe

by Joseph Alig and Stephen "Spike" Kilmer

droppedfrontaxle               Bruce Larson’s ’32 dispels the myth that East Coast hot rods were crude.

The early fifties are considered the golden era of hot rodding and with good reason. It is no coincidence that at this same time drag racing legend Bruce Larson was corrupted by the taste of speed. At a very young age he took a ride on a hopped-up motorcycle and never looked back.

Therefore, it is with great excitement that we share this story about our great friend and professional drag racer. This is the yarn of the Pennsylvania speed demon and his very first hot rod.

The story begins with Bruce buying a ’32 Ford coupe from a farmer in Franklintown, Pennsylvania, at the age of fourteen. By the time Bruce was sixteen, he had completely transformed the full-fendered stock coupe into a California-style hot rod show piece that featured a 3-inch chopped top, cycle fenders, and a full-race Ford flathead V-8 engine. His very first piece of speed equipment was a multi-carb intake. The gennie Ford body was drenched in fourteen coats of blue lacquer.

Now you must be thinking to yourself, “This hot rod looks as good as anything the West Coast had to offer.” We’re talking about the year 1951. But looks do not make a hot rod… it is all about the speed. Bruce Larson was bitten by the speed bug harder than most, and he made sure the ’32 coupe performed even better than it looked, all the while keeping safety in mind.

The coupe was entered in the very first Wally Parks NHRA Safety Safari drag race in the East at Linden, New Jersey, in 1954. Bruce later competed in events as track s sprung up in places such as Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Frederick, Maryland; and Hagerstown, Maryland. When Bruce wasn’t racing, he was cruising the ’32 and hanging out at joints like the Old Barbeque Cottage, The Blue Pig, Shelly’s Drive-In, and many more. He also showed the coupe at places like Dorney Park in Allentown and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The coupe was as successful showing as it was going.

After four years of racing, showing, and having fun with the coupe, Bruce sold his high school hot rod to buy a series of others, including a ’49 Ford and ’52 and ’54 Oldsmobiles, just to name a few. All those cars and “upgrades” led Bruce on a pursuit of a career in professional drag racing, resulting in an NHRA Winston Funny Car Championship in 1989. After many years and just as many cars, the little blue coupe was a distant memory.

Bruce began to wonder whatever happened to his first hot rod, and began actively searching for it. He had not seen the little blue coupe in forty-plus years. Luckily, Bruce is a keen and resourceful type of guy. He managed to dig up his original owner’s card from his teen years and enlisted the help of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to track down the paper history. Fortunately, they were able to come up with a current owner based on the serial number on the owner’s card. Bruce contacted him, and sure enough, the car was still in his possession just a few counties away in Pennsylvania. The car had only been through four other owners in all those years.

Well, the ’32 coupe was not in the greatest of shape. In fact, it was a stripped-down shell of its former go-and-show glory. But this was Bruce Larson’s first hot rod, and his emotional bonds with the little blue car run deep.

Bruce had purchased another ’32 Ford coupe to clone his original, so he worked a deal and traded the clone for the original. Bruce’s original coupe was in much worse shape, but he would do just about anything to have the car back that held so many fond memories of his youth.

Larson knew he needed some help with the restoration, and who better to call on than Kowalski Kustoms and Russ’ Trim Shop for upholstery. After extensive hours of work, the Deuce coupe debuted at the 2009 York NSRA Nationals East in York, Pennsylvania, right down the road from the famed York U.S. 30 Dragway where Bruce often raced. Now it was looking as it had more than forty years ago with a “few upgrades” in chrome plating, and even sporting the two-toned frame, right at the ’32 reveal.

The Deuce runs an early stroked-flathead V-8 with a Mercury crank. In place of the original Weiand heads, Bruce had to use new Offenhauser heads, but he still runs the Weiand intake and triple carburetor setup. A manual transmission and banjo rear axle are back at home. The ’32 dash, overflowing with its original Stewart Warner gauges, remained intact, along with the Lincoln steering wheel. It is finished off in blue-and-white tuck-and-roll trim. Back in place are the ’40 Ford drum brakes, the Dago front axle, bias-ply wide whitewall tires, and of course flipper hubcaps. Last but not least, Bruce Larson is behind the wheel with a teenage heart and a heavy foot!

speedparts        Proficient use of speed parts and lack of chrome lets you know that this coupe is track ready.


Nerf bars came in all shapes and styles. Hot rod builders showcased their artistic ability in the form of crafted tubing.


Larson’s dropped front axle and rubber rake makes for a perfect hot rod stance.


Taken from Joseph Alig and Stephen "Spike" Kilmer's East vs. West Showdown: Rods, Customs & Rails (published 2012)

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