The first Ford Model 18 convertibles, known colloquially as ’32 Roadsters, have become so iconic that it is now possible to build an exact replica using all-new parts down to the lead-finished sheet metal. Are these “new” Roadsters merely copies, or can they legitimately be called classics?
What’s So Special About the ’32 Roadster?
In 1932, car enthusiasts saw the introduction of Ford’s legendary Flathead, the first affordable V8. This Model 18 Roadster was the lightest car with that engine, not to mention the most visually striking. This combination made it ideal for both the track and the street, spawning three major movements:
Hot Rods: The shortage of new vehicles after WWII spurred enthusiasts to chop off everything they could to make these cars lighter, resulting in the fenderless, hoodless style the hot rod is famous for.
Drag Racing: Racers lengthened the Model 18’s chassis and added more powerful engines, gradually evolving the car into the modern top-fuel dragster.
NASCAR: The Model 18 was popular with bootleggers who started racing each other in “stock car” races that evolved into today’s NASCAR.
Although focus shifted to muscle cars in the 1960s, the Model 18 was revived in George Lucas’ nostalgic “American Graffiti” and brought into the modern era with cars like Boyd Coddington’s legendary Boydster. Eight decades later, the Roadster is still a mainstay of the classic car scene.
Building a New Old Car
Naturally, even a high-volume production car like the Roadster has become a rarity 80 years after it left production, so with original and period-modified cars commanding six-figure prices, it no longer makes sense to modify them. Fortunately, there’s another option for hot rod enthusiasts.
A massive aftermarket has built up around the demands of Roadster owners and their widely varying needs. At some point in the late 1990s, the parts availability became so thorough that an entire car could be built from scratch for between $25,000 and $50,000. This puts these re-creations in a unique position in the collector car market: They aren’t original, but they also aren’t styling-only products like most kit cars. By being cheap enough that they can be modified and styled to the owner’s tastes, they retain the spirit that drove the ’32 Roadster to become the original hot rod, keeping the car relevant to today’s enthusiasts.
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