A 1932 Ford Roadster
To say that Bob Rotondo is a car aficionado would be a huge understatement. The owner of Bob’s Auto Body in Ipswich, Mass., has always loved building and restoring vehicles. “I’ve loved cars since I was a kid. I even customized my bicycle,” he says.
It didn’t take long for hot rods to catch his attention. “One day, a 1932 Ford Roadster called Big Boys Toy was driving beside my wife, Susan, and me, and the driver gave us a thumbs up! That’s how I got hooked on hot rods.” In 1979, Rotondo purchased a 1940 Ford Coupe, and since then has worked on several other hot rods. Nearly 30 years later, he set his sights on an open air car, buying a 1932 Ford Roadster. “It’s the best-looking car Ford ever made. The ’32 Ford is the ultimate
By late 2007, the project was underway. With the help of friends Tim Cronin and Jay Avery, Rotondo transformed the Roadster into an eye-popping hot rod.
STICKING WITH IT
As Rotondo built the Roadster, there were times he struggled. “The fit and the finish were terrible,” Rotondo says. “The body lines weren’t right, so I had to cut new ones and move one up.” The hood was another trouble spot. When he put it on, it didn’t line up properly. “I ground the body line right off. It took me almost a month to fit the hood.”
Rotondo kept going even when he hit a third snag. “The windshield was another headache,” he says. “I wanted a 3-inch chop windshield, so I ordered that from Lobecks, which fits a stock ’32, [but] this car is exact, so it didn’t fit. We added a 2-inch lip across it under the windshield.”
He admits there were times he needed a break. “Were there times I threw it in the corner and quit for some time? Yes!” He stuck with it, though, and over the following several months, the car slowly came together.
THE LITTLE EXTRAS
When painting the car, Rotondo chose a three-stage House of Kolor hue called Kosmo Candy Red. “The paint is translucent,” he says. “Under the red, it’s white. The white gives the red the candy effect; it bounces through.”
Rotondo did some of the custom bodywork himself. “The front spreader bar is all molded, so it looks enclosed. Most ’32s are open in the front.” He also molded the dash to the car, which, he says, “was really sweet.” A pop-up fuel door, a rear roll pan and ’39 taillights round out the remainder of the custom work.
Rotondo also did the upholstery, which boasts a Banjo leather-wrapped steering wheel and an Ultraleather, baseball-glove-colored interior.
At the National Street Rod Association (NSRA) Northeast Nationals, Rotondo received an unexpected surprise when he realized the Roadster may be featured in Street Scene magazine. “We saw the NSRA [photographer] take a few pictures, but you don’t always get in the magazine,” he says. “All you can do is hope. So the December issue came out, and all my friends called the shop that day to tell me that we were on the cover.”
Things got even better. At the 2009 Boston World of Wheels, Rotondo won “Best Street Rod.” “They had four awards—Best Engine, Best Interior, Best Paint and Best Undercarriage,” he says. “They gave all these out, so I looked over at my wife and said, ‘I guess we didn’t get anything.’ Then the judge paused and said, ‘The last but not least award for Best Street Rod in show—a 1932 Ford Roadster that belongs to Bob Rotondo.’ I was shaking in my chair. I couldn’t get up. My wife said, ‘Get up, they called your name.’”
Rotondo was thrilled. “That’s a big honor,” he says. “I couldn’t believe it.” But after spending 2,000 hours building the car, he says with a laugh, “It’s nice to be recognized.”