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’32 Ford Deuce by Tony Thacker

’32 Ford Deuce by Tony Thacker
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Book review by Richard Parks, photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz


Tony Thacker is the Director of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, California and a historian and writer in his own right. Surrounded by an archive of material and the living legends of hot rodding, Thacker has written a masterpiece dedicated to the 1932 Ford Deuce. Titled ’32 Ford Deuce, the book is simply huge. ’32 Ford Deuce measures 10 ¾ inches in width and 12 ¼ inches in height and is a rich 1 3/8 inches in thickness. The book weighed 5 pounds according to the bathroom scales. Yet it isn’t the heft or the size of the book that is impressive, but the quality of the book itself and the research that went into the subject. One of the first things that the reader sees is the quality of the binding along the spine of the book. ’32 Ford Deuce is built to last for a long time. It is more than a coffee table book, because the writing and photography have reached a higher plateau. You will want to display it as a coffee table book. I took the book around to all the shelves in the house, and yes, it didn’t fit anywhere, but on the coffee table. Take especially good care of the dust cover jacket as it truly is well done and enhances the look of the book. Without the dust cover jacket the book is simply black with white lettering, but with the jacket it leaps out with charm and beauty. The paper is high quality heavy bond with a waxy sheen. ’32 Ford Deuce has 326 pages, a Foreword, Preface, Introduction, ten chapters, Appendix, Acknowledgments and an Index. The index is worthy of a scholarly text and is comprehensive. There is nothing cheap about this book, except the price, which is only $50. I talk to a lot of writers, publishers and printers. They tell me that to break even in the book business that prices have had to escalate. Even paperback books are priced in the $24.95 and higher range. ’32 Ford Deuce is a hardcover, high quality book with a very reasonable price.

’32 Ford Deuce is published by MBI Publishing Company, a subsidiary of Motorbooks, in St Paul, Minnesota. Since Thacker is the Director at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum (909-622-2133), you can easily purchase your copies there, or at Autobooks/Aerobooks (818-845-0707) in Burbank, California.

The book contains 310 black and white photographs, 273 color photographs, 10 pages of appendix covering all facets of the ’32 Ford Deuce, 26 art drawings, 10 diagrams and cut-aways, 15 newspapers stories and ads, 6 manuals, 8 charts and 46 miscellaneous magazine displays. Edsel B. Ford II wrote the brief Foreword and is understandably proud of this Ford masterpiece of engineering. Thacker wrote the Preface and Introduction to the book. The first nine chapters gives a history of the 1932 Ford 8-cylinder Deuce, how it was manufactured, the troubles during the Great Depression and other interesting sidelights. It is, however, an often-overlooked part of automotive marketing that is the greatest concern here. Just how did the car appeal to the youthful public and Thacker’s zeal begins to show here. It was the versatility, power, design, low cost and durability of the ’32 Ford Deuce that attracted the young mechanics and racers of the 1930’s and ‘40’s that is crucial to the story. The tenth and last chapter is about the people who owned some of the very special ’32 Ford Deuces that were chosen by an expert panel as the most beautiful of all the Deuces ever built and customized.

What these men did was to alter and customize a car that for all practical purposes was a working man’s car of the depression. They cut away metal just as the sculptor chisels away rock from his masterpiece. They changed the car from a plebeian appearance to something that was light and ethereal. Seventy-five of these cars have come to represent the essence of the ’32 Ford Deuce. Thacker gives each car and their creators two pages or more to detail how the car came alive and how it affected others. Some of the men who owned and customized the Deuce are well known, such as Jerry Kugel and Boyd Coddington. Others have been forgotten over the passage of time. Men such as Dave Marquez who built the 880, so far ahead of its time that even today it seems modern. Marquez was a track star and named his cars after the distances that he ran. The 880 won the first two National NHRA Championships in the C Roadster class. With fluorescent paint ‘borrowed’ from Point Mugu Naval Air Station and a detachable body, the 880 was not only a spectacular car to look at but the first ‘funny car’ as well. Other Deuce’s include Vic Edelbrock’s stunningly simple black dry lakes roadster. The Karl and Veda Orr Deuce looks boxy in comparison, but it was a roadster that left all opposition in the dust at the local time trials. Or maybe it was Veda who made the Deuce shine. In white overalls, red lipstick and Veronica Lake bangs she was the heartthrob who could set records and turn heads. She was the first woman to be voted in as a member of the SCTA and during WWII she kept the dry lakes racers up to date with the latest news. 

Thacker keeps the action going in ’32 Ford Deuce. He shows how the Deuce influenced the racetracks, both oval, landspeed and drags. The Deuce also was important in the street scene and in local car clubs. Its impact was so strong that for many years only roadsters were allowed to run on the dry lakes and the image of speed and daring clung to the Deuce. Over time the Deuce has evolved and changed and so have the public’s perception of it. No longer the rogue car which street racers used to evade the law, the Deuce has grown up and prospered. Still seen in movies like American Graffiti and B classics, the Deuce is now highly sought after and copied. New metal and fiberglass bodies are made for a burgeoning market, which never seems to abate. Men and women now spend hundred of thousands of dollars to build a work of art using Henry Ford’s old workhorse. The photographs in the book come from a wide variety of sources and are spectacular. The Acknowledgment gives credit to some very special people, chief among them being the Ford Museum and the American Hot Rod Foundation led by Henry Astor and Jim Miller. But one of the unsung volunteers of hot rodding is Greg Sharp, curator of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. In most hot rod books you will see Sharp’s hand. He is driven to collect and identify the people and cars in old photos. Thacker brings the past alive in ’32 Ford Deuce and merges it with the present. His book is a quality addition to your library on hot rodding. It’s a cool book, almost like a high school album. Take it around with you in your Deuce and show it off to your friends and have them scribble a few autographs. 

Gone Racin’ is at [email protected]


Author Tony Thacker autographs his book at the NHRA Motorsports Museum

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