The original customizer of this featured vehicle was Teddy Graziano of Cranston, RI. He had served in World War Two and was station in the Pacific Theater. Thus he passed through the State of California where there were many custom cars to view from many builders. WWII made a great impression on many soldiers during their time in War and subsequent years. It is known that Harley Earl, an influential American automotive figure and the designer of the Corvette, traveled in Europe with the US Army in WWII. It was rumored that the Jaguar XK120 was the car that influenced Earl's desire to produce a small, American sports car. It seems that Ford division general manager Lewis Crusoe was admiring European autos at the 1951 Paris auto show with Ford designer George Walker. Lewis asked George why we can’t build one of these. Another example of how European designs influenced the concept of American sports cars was the birth of the two-seater Thunderbird. That European influence is certainly visible in our featured car as well as other vehicles that are now being restored and shown in shows. Once the hostilities had ended, many GIs found it difficult to replace the adrenaline rush of the recent past. They wanted that thrill, driving that hot rod or designing their own custom car. When they were not bonded by the regimental standards of war they could express themselves in the media they loved: custom cars or hot rods.
After the war many young car enthusiasts were able to have a little discretionary capital at their disposal. Also there was the new development of speed and customizing equipment, and magazines that were being published, Hot Rod magazine, Motor Trend, Hop Up, Rod & Custom, Hop Up, Car Craft, Rod & Custom and even Mechanix Illustrated from the late 40’s or early 50’s. A new forum to support enthusiasts was growing with features such as Tom McCahill's monthly automobile tests now being available and information on new products and the cars people were modifying.
One vehicle that recently sold by Wayne Carini, the “Roeder Special”, was hand built by Robert Roeder. This episode titled “East Coast vs West Coast” was recently aired on Velocity’s Chasing Classic Cars. This exhibits the same front end and door treatment as Ted’s custom. I was fortunate to see this vehicle at the Fallout show held in Glastonbury Connecticut. The episode titled “Getting Hot” was originally aired March 2, 2014 by the Velocity’s Chasing Classic Cars. There is also a cameo appearance of the author’s 1929 Ford in that episode.
Another vehicle that exhibits the same front end treatment is the Ron Dunn Coupe, aka “The Monte Carlo”. This custom was at the prestigious Grand National Roadster Show and was shown in several magazines including the Spring Issue, 2015 Rod & Culture and the July 2015 Hot Rod Deluxe.
This project started with a junk yard find for $25.00 and started life with the venerable flathead V-8. This engine has always been a favorite for hot rodders especially in the late 40’s when this custom was built and often was found under the hood of many exemplary custom cars. The construction stage was from 1953 to 1954. I was informed from the family that Teddy had received many compliments when he first displayed the car. Many admirers were comparing it to the new 1955 Thunderbird.
The vehicle was in several magazines and numerous car shows in the mid 50’s and throughout the 60’s. It was highlighted in July 1955 Mechanix Illustrated and then on the cover of Custom Craft, September 1963. There have been changes throughout it’s reconstructed life. After a few years the 1951 flathead was replaced with an Olds motor and now it boasts of a a 1971 Corvette 350 motor with a TH 400 transmission with power traveling to a 1955 Oldsmobile rear end. Notice the photos shown in Mechanix Illustrated, July 1955 issue, compared to the photos taken by John Eddy that were published for the September 1963 issue CUSTOM CRAFT and then with the one as it is in its present stage. In the Mechanix Illustrated magazine it was called “10 in 1 Speedster”. Originally the car started single headlights and taillights. Also it had a front bumper from a Rambler and a rear bumper from a 1950 Olds. The interior sported a reworked red and black leather seats from a ’40 Studebaker. Sitting in the driver’s seat one would behold Stewart-Warner gauges in a stainless steel dash. Other modifications include a black tuckaway top taken from a Nash Healy, as well as the windshield and doors from a Nash. The rear fenders are from a 1951 Chevy and the pancaked hood from a 1951 Ford. This all steel body was perfected to its shape by the method known as “hammer welding”. Please note that the body was sectioned 6" and then channeled another 6" with the windshield chopped another 3” this gave this custom a low sleek appearance. At its conception it was red exterior with red and black interior
In the September 1963 issue CUSTOM CRAFT article it was named “Best in Show” it now supports the ’59 Chevy quad head lights (an earlier source gave said ‘59 Chevy, another source said they were ’58 Ford), parking lights, or the hand built nerf bars. Other mods are; 1959 Cadillac taillights mounted in Corvette housings and the original dash was replaced with one from a 1955 Plymouth. The interior now has seats are from a Corvette (newer style). Also the headlights are now more in tune with the original design. Now the reader must realize that I have not written the year and make of the original car. That will be the surprise at the end of the article. Make your guess now and see how close you come to the correct answer.
I saw this beautiful ride in Florida, where it is with the present care keeper and owner Davey Jones. Davey, a RISRA member, bought it from Teddy in 1966 and 1967. The reason for two different years was Davy told me that he did not want to take possession of the car until it was fully paid. He wanted to pay for it by using the “extra” money he earned from pinstriping, an occupation that he still enjoys even today. Ready? The answer is a 1940 Ford.
This information was also given to an online reference site; http://www.kustomrama.com/index.php?title=Ted_Graziano%27s_1940_Ford where there is a large number of other early hot rods and customs