Anybody who thinks hot rodding wasn’t a big accord in New England didn’t abound up there in the 1950s. Aloof 10 years afterwards the aboriginal issue, HOT ROD magazine’s February 1958 awning adventure featured several arresting East Coast hot rods. The California army apparent that rodding and antagonism were actively advancing aback east.
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Most East Coast rods had a low, characteristic look. Because their cars weren’t raced at the dry lakes, hot rodders who lived east of the Mississippi generally autonomous for bankrupt cars. They could accomplish abounding altered streamlining alterations afterwards actuality confused up in antagonism classes. East Coast guys capital roadsters, but accustomed the region’s astringent winter weather, bankrupt coupes and sedans were added practical; channeling a car (cutting out the floorboards and blurred the anatomy able-bodied bottomward over the frame) was cheaper and added expedient than chopping acme and alike anatomy Z-ing. Two accessible kids with an acetylene bake and aerial academy boutique chic abilities could approach an old Ford in a weekend. Hoods were optional, no amount what the weather.
The East Coast alike had its own hot rod magazines, like Rodding and Re-styling and Rod Builder & Customizer. The backward A.B. (Arnie) Shuman and his brother Bernie’s agitating book, Air-conditioned Cars, Aboveboard Roll Bars, chronicles and celebrates the best of East Coast hot rodding. The brothers ran a ’32 Ford auto at the drags in Sanford and on abounding added New England strips. Decades later, A.B. became the editor of HOT ROD. The Shuman brothers abounding their book with black-and-white shots of all the abundant and not-so-heavy hitters in those days. (Now out of print, the book is accessible on amazon.com for $120 and more. Snap one up. It’s priceless).
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There were hot rod clubs in every town, but in the Boston across the big dogs were the No-Mads, a awful admired accumulation that aggregate at a baby boutique alleged Speedway Custom in Allston, a banal Boston close suburb. Speedway was endemic by a brace of irrepressible Armenian-Americans, Mudd Sharrigan and his brother John, bigger accustomed as Shag. Accomplished mechanics and assured competitors, the Sharrigan brothers campaigned a alternation of ever-faster cars beneath the No-Mads banner. Shag angry 136-plus mph in a atom over 9 abnormal at Sanford, Maine, in the club’s flathead, afresh afterwards Hemi-powered, dragster.
The No-Mads’ distinctive, axe-shaped, three-dimensional club applique featured a beatnik-looking appearance in a red beanie (which the club associates all wore). His abounding handlebar mustache ends were depicted as a roadster’s advanced axle. Added No-Mads associates included Peter Seferian (who afterwards adequate a primo Bugatti Type 35A), George “The Greek” Karalekas (who endemic a channeled three-window ’32 Ford coupe), Dick Pratt, and Norm Grimm.
And there was Paul “Fitzy” FitzGerald.
TalentedFitzGerald was one of the best accomplished of the bunch. He absolutely accumulating his ’32 Ford auto from his home in West Newton, Massachusetts, to his apprentice account at Yale. The accuser asked, “You congenital a car? What affectionate of car did you build?”
FitzGerald said, “Well, sir, it’s sitting appropriate outside.”
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Parked in the Yale Quad, the auto was amidst by analytical students. Needless to say, he was accustomed on the spot.
Once at Yale, FitzGerald played ice hockey, advised engineering, and never chock-full convalescent and afterlight his channeled Deuce. Over time, he upgraded his auto with a homebuilt absolute advanced abeyance that he advised himself, and the full-house flathead gave way to a baking Chevy V8. Spotted at the drags, the car copped a two-page affection in the March 1957 affair of HOT ROD with the headline: “A Ford in name only, Boston auto bristles with announcement of owner’s account and accomplished workmanship.”
But we are accepting advanced of our story.
Paul FitzGerald’s auto adventure began in 1952 aback he purchased a rolling ’32 Ford anatomy with a bald auto anatomy for $60 from Rick Garner (who eventually became a No-Mad). Over the abutting two years, the anatomy was abundantly adapted with a collapsed advanced crossmember and a ample kick-up in the rear. The binding flathead V8 was set able-bodied aback in the chassis. A Ford V8/60 tubular advanced arbor was fitted, with the axle blade bounce army abaft it, to accumulate the advanced end low. The council box was an astern ’40 Ford unit.
To accomplish that archetypal Eastern-style “in the weeds” look, the anatomy was channeled over the much-modified frame, and a 10-gallon gas catchbasin was amid in the trunk. The fenders, appropriate in Massachusetts, were cut bottomward from Packard additional annoy covers. The best characteristic affection of the car was the sectioned ’37 Ford barter grille. Custom chrome nerf confined provided some admeasurement of parking protection.
By 1953, FitzGerald had installed a “full-race” 1950 Mercury flathead V8 engine, apathetic and stroked to 286 inches and congenital by Mudd Sharrigan. FitzGerald competed in NHRA-sanctioned annoyance races, acceptable Top Eliminator and ambience top time at the August 1954 New England Championships captivated at Laconia, New Hampshire. The afterward year the car won Top Auto at the NHRA Safety Safari New England Annoyance Antagonism Championships at Orange, Massachusetts. Competing as a artery roadster, FitzGerald’s Deuce won Best in Chic at the big Springfield, Massachusetts, International Auto Show.
Over the abutting two years his auto won abundant auto shows, accumulation several Best Engineered and Best Constructed awards. Although abounding guys clung to flatheads, through a GM affiliation of his dad’s, FitzGerald acquired and installed a 265-inch Chevy V8 and a four-speed gearbox, which powered his car to three beeline B/Street Auto New England annoyance antagonism awards.
Fitzy’s antagonism exploits in his ’32 weren’t bound to New England. In 1958, he competed at the NHRA Civic Annoyance Antagonism Championships captivated at Oklahoma City, accident in the B/Street Auto final round.
The versatility of this auto and its ever-inventive builder/driver knew no bounds. FitzGerald competed in three sports car acropolis ascend events, acceptable Aboriginal overall. The aboriginal two were at Belknap, New Hampshire; the third was the SCCA Acropolis Ascend at Mt. Equinox, Manchester, Vermont. FitzGerald’s Deuce exhausted MGs, Jaguars, and alike an Allard. Forth the way he exhausted a adolescent engineering apprentice from Brown called Mark Donohue, who had a adapted Corvette.
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Big ChangesAn adverse adventure in 1959 led to some big changes. FitzGerald’s brother was hit bang by addition car and the advanced end “was all askance up.” Fitzy bogus an all-new tubular animate anatomy that included a able absolute advanced abeyance of his own design. “I would accept had to accretion addition ’32 Ford for a backup frame,” he says artlessly today. “I didn’t accept the time. It was easier to anatomy my own chassis.”
Fitzy was consistently convalescent his roadster. Over time, he would use three advanced abeyance systems, two frames, and three rearend configurations: accepted Ford, Columbia two-speed, and a ’56 Chevy. The closing is still in the car. He adapted a set of Chrysler Center-Plane disc brakes central a set of finned admixture Buick drums. Although he advantaged a Chrysler adumbration of blue, he corrective the car atramentous afterwards three brownish dejected acrylic jobs. Halibrand branch bean magnesium auto accurate the car’s antagonism heritage; the angular whitewalls were a claimed alternative and affectionate of a aeon appearance thing.
“We accumulating our roadsters” FitzGerald says, “I accept no bond of the mileage, but I accumulating it a lot. I had a foldup top with ancillary curtains, and I had a appealing acceptable heater. The Sharrigans had a bootleg Carson-type top for their brownish roadster, and I acclimated it a brace of times as it fit my car as well. The cars were both drivers. Going anywhere in New England was a approved event.”
In 1963, FitzGerald awash his auto via an ad in HOT ROD to John DeLello of Bronxville, New York. DeLello accumulating the car home from Connecticut. A alternate acquaintance of DeLello’s and mine, Larry Marcus, told me about their agrarian ride bottomward the Merritt Parkway in the anew acquired roadster: “It was actual cold. People were staring at us, but the car was so cool, annihilation abroad mattered.”
Meanwhile, FitzGerald’s activity in cars went on, with his accretion of a 250GT Tour de France Ferrari. He paid $5,000 for it. “Can you accept that?” he says with a laugh. “Today the affair is account millions!”
FitzGerald went on to a acknowledged career as an architect at Sikorsky Helicopters, and he backward in blow with abounding of his No-Mad buddies. He’d developed up in a altered across than the alive chic No-Mad guys, but he alloyed appropriate in. “I was consistently the academy kid,” he says.
New RoadsterOver the years, FitzGerald actively anticipation about architecture a new roadster, and he generally dreamed of award his old car. His engineering accurate ancillary at aboriginal led him to anticipate that if he did it again, he’d advance it alike more. Now he had the adjustment ability and engineering academy savvy, not to acknowledgment his able time at Sikorsky, to advance on a car he’d essentially congenital aback he was in his teens. He admits that, at last, “The homesickness bug bit me.”
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Between 1995 and 2000, Fitzgerald looked absolutely adamantine for his old roadster, alike application two civic ads. Ironically, at one time in its life, and for six or seven years, his old auto was amid aloof 7 afar from his home in Connecticut, but he never saw it.
By 2000, he had amid some of aboriginal ellipsoidal tubing chassis, the complete rearend and the suspension, the louvered hood, the ancillary panels, and the aboriginal Halibrand wheels, all from a man called John Lange in Englewood, New Jersey. The aboriginal anatomy had been lost. FitzGerald afterwards purchased a Brookville animate auto body, able it appreciably and, aloof as he’d done decades before, congenital the bench frames out of wood. He collaborated with Mudd Sharrigan for a custom council wheel.
Looking back, FitzGerald recalls, “Originally, I stick-welded the anatomy calm application an acetylene torch. For the replacement, I MIG-welded it. The new anatomy is agnate to the original, but it’s abundant bigger physically.”
The aforementioned aggregation that had adipose the car and bogus the aboriginal convertible top did the ceremoniousness afresh on the renaissance roadster. The abreast IFS is a adapted Heidt’s setup. The e-brake is a ’49 Mercury accumulation as it was originally. Fitzy admits he had to use abstemiousness not to advance the car too much. “I anticipation I had the affairs for the frame,” he says modestly, “but I didn’t. So I congenital it from memory.”
Wanting to carbon the roadster’s aftermost engine, he acquired a ’56 Chevy V8. He performed a balmy cleanup bore; installed 10:1 pistons, 327 rods, and a Duntov cam; and afresh topped it with Offenhauser ribbed valve covers and a three-carb intake. He credits Don Scinto Automotive in Stratford, Connecticut, with the arch porting and polishing. The new manual (he could not resist) is a GM five-speed.
When the car was completed, FitzGerald was arrive to Pebble Beach for the Celebrated Hot Rod Class, and he displayed the auto at Amelia Island for the “East vs. West” hot rod chic a few years ago. People admired the car’s ingenuity, aloof as they had in the 1950s and 1960s. Not to booty annihilation abroad from the superb New England across channeled roadsters of Norm Wallace, Fred Steele, Fran Bannister, and alike Mudd Sharrigan, but FitzGerald’s Deuce auto was arguably the best engineered car of them all, and he never chock-full aggravating to accomplish it alike better. As well, he took on all comers in annoyance racing, acropolis climbs, and the car appearance circuit, acceptable wherever he competed.
After adequate his born-again auto for a few years, FitzGerald absitively to advertise the car in 2018. It’s now endemic by Ross Myers, who has a world-class celebrated hot rod accumulating in Boyertown, Pennsylvania, including the Fred Steele ’32 and the “Kookie Kar.”
Paul FitzGerald is one of aloof four No-Mads larboard from a arresting era that saw hot rodding in New England go from awkward imitations of West Coast efforts to abundant cars and racers who were able to attempt with anybody. Fitzy and his adolescent No-Mads had to assemble about everything. But their club dragsters were competitive, and Fitzy’s Deuce was a HOT ROD feature.
It doesn’t get any bigger than that.
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Racing RewardsThe appearance lath that accompanies Paul FitzGerald’s auto these canicule illustrates the across of its antagonism accomplishments. The Chevy V8 powered this car to three beeline B/Street Roadster, North East annoyance antagonism awards. And he won several SCCA acropolis climbs adjoin sports cars.
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