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The Zausner Speedway Special '32 Ford Roadster

4/17/2020
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There is some fancy lighting at work in this shot, but this car gives off a glow of its own when seen in person.

The Museum of American Speed is full of significant cars and engines from long ago, most either lovingly restored or preserved to look just like they did in their glory days. And that’s the thing, these cars deserve to live on just as they were so those who weren’t there can learn and those who were can reminisce. But what if you started with a car that had no history and created one for it? That’s just what Eric Zausner and the talented builder Steve Moal did when they created the “Speedway Special.”

It all started with that Miller grille. Zausner and Moal began to imagine what a skilled Indy mechanic would have built for himself in the late 40’s. He would have had access to rare and state of the art parts and plenty of skills to fabricate just about anything. They imagined him plucking that grille from the wall of some garage on Indy’s Gasoline Alley and assembling a hot rod using that Indy influence as well as the surplus aircraft equipment that was plentiful after the war.

Though it’s hard to see under the formed skirts that give the illusion of a full bellypan, this car is not resting on a typical deuce chassis with buggy springs. Instead, Moal built a full tube chassis using torsion bars to hold the car up. The rest of the chassis and rolling stock take more cues from 40’s Indy racers, like the Halibrand magnesium brake calipers and the 16 and 18 inch magnesium Halibrand Indy wheels.

It's hard to think of a more perfect 40's era hot rod powerplant than a blown Ardun.
Visible in this shot is the machined aluminum firewall, 409 water pump, brass radiator, and countless hours of custom fabrication and meticulous assembly.

This car makes quite an impression. Once you’ve recovered from the shock of seeing a beautiful roadster with so many unexpected details, the next thing you notice is that engine. A French flathead block was assembled with a 3-3/8” bore, a 4” stroke steel crank, and a lumpy “full race” cam. But the real showstoppers are the Ardun heads and S.Co.T. blower topped with side-draft Webers. Even cooler, this is reportedly the last engine built by the legendary Art Chrisman. And it sounds gnarly. Check out this video to hear it run and see the car in motion.

The interior is inviting and a perfect example of form following function, with loads of cool vintage aircraft and race car touches thrown in.

Inside, there’s more Indy roadster and aircraft influence in the beautiful gauge panel, bomber-inspired seats, and exposed switches and wiring everywhere. We’ve all seen Schroeder-style cowl steering used in hot rods before, but never with a custom quickchange setup. Moal created a custom gearbox that can go as slow as 25:1 for low effort street driving all the way up to 8:1 for track use. The spur gears are stored along with gears for the quickchange rear, tools, and spark plugs, in custom compartments in the trunk.

The dash is loaded with handmade pieces and rare gauges, including the very cool 10,000 rpm Jones tach.
The trunk holds the custom fuel cell with quick release filler and custom compartments that house tools, parts, and gears for the quickchange steering and rearend.

The cool details are almost endless on this car. The side mirrors are built from ’37 Ford taillight buckets. The brake lights are P-51 Mustang wingtip marker lights. In a nod to late-night street races of long ago, the taillights and license light go out when the switch is flipped to open the electric exhaust cutouts. How cool is that?

There are several cool things going on in this shot. In addition to the cool quickchange steering gearbox, the overall high level of craftsmanship applied to everything on the car is apparent.

Unlike much of the museum’s collection, this car never raced at the dry lakes or circle tracks of post war America, but it’s a stunning example of what a few very talented and creative people can come up with by asking “what if…”

Fortunately, there were more Zausner/Moal collaborations that resulted in some equally impressive and outrageous cars. The Museum of American Speed is very fortunate to have another one in the collection, and we’ll bring you a full feature later on!

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