Steve's L.A. Story
A few years ago, Steve grabbed the chance to purchase Tommy Otis’ L.A. Highboy ’32 roadster. The traditional black, flamed Deuce perfectly suited his taste, and the transaction led to a friendship that eventually resulted in the creation of the hot rod Steve had built over and over in his mind.
“Tommy and I sat down for lunch and started talking about building the car,” Steve recalled. “I knew his eye, and his sense of period correctness. His idea of a period-correct hot rod and my own are very close. He was the perfect guy to be the project manager for this car.” After illustrator Steve Stanford turned their ideas into a concept drawing, there was nothing left to do except find a ’32 Tudor. Decades of planning were about to turn into a real live project.
They found the perfect raw material through the Hemming's website—an unchopped, full-fendered, original steel car begging to be rescued from an early ‘80s pink and turquoise paint job. The Hemi and Muncie four-speed matched Steve’s power plant checklist. The only hitch was the car’s Upstate New York location. Fortunately, Tommy’s East Coast friend, Art Regan, was able to scout out the car.
The car went directly to Art’s shop, Carland Auto Body in Danbury, Connecticut, where Art chopped the top 3 inches in front and 2 ½ in the rear.
As soon as the sedan arrived in Los Angeles, it was turned over to Tri-C Engineering in Valencia, California, the project’s new headquarters. Rick Cresse at Tri-C had worked with Tommy on the L.A. Highboy, which was credentials enough for Steve. Kiwi Connection provided the chassis for the sedan, and Ollie’s Machine Works rebuilt the Hemi that came with the car.
Steve’s vision called for making the sedan a genuine hot rod built to show-car standards. He also wanted the car to reflect the looks of an early ‘60s street/strip car, “a tip of my cap to the art, skill, and craftsmanship that exited back then,” as he put it. That’s why he used throttle rods and bell cranks instead of cables on the Strombergs, an original Joe Hunt Scintilla vertex magneto, King Bee headlights, Deist belts, and other equipment that would be perfectly right for the era. Even Albert Lara’s upholstery work, Steve said, reminds him of the early interiors done by Eddie Martinez, one of L.A.’s best stitchers. The only exceptions were made for the sake of safety and reliability, such as the heavy-duty Speedway Engineering quick-change, 20-gallon fuel cell, and So-Cal Buick-drum front disc brakes.
Tommy lad the traditionally designed flames and finished with some period-style pin striping. We know Tommy’s ‘striping hero is Tommy the Greek, but on this job, Steve said he followed Ed Roth’s style of broader lines, including a tribute to Roth’s work on the McMullen roadster. Tommy’s brushwork ended up everywhere. We spotted it on the frame horns, rear axle, firewall, front brake backing plates, and in invisible place like the font spring ends and the front cross member. Even the frame rails—painted black with red along the boxing plates—were ‘striped along the inside edges, where no one will ever see.
Since its successful debut
at the ’08 Grand National Roadster
Show, the L.A. Sedan has been making the
rounds at local events, with a brief stopover
in the Petersen Automotive Museum. For
all the car-show success he’s had
with the sedan, Steve hasn’t lost
his original vision. He didn’t build
the hot rod he always wanted only to stick
it on a shelf with his childhood model
kits. He promised that when he’s
done showing it off, he has some driving