Below is the article about Paul Gommi and his 1932 Ford Deluxe V-8 Phaeton
that appears in the July 2011 issue of STREET RODDER magazine
When we saw this phaeton we knew we were onto something special. There are many definitions for a hot rod but one universal saying gives us the need for speed. In the early days hot rods were built for speed—that was the point. Knowing this we asked Paul Gommi of Southern California to give us a tour of his '32 Ford phaeton and introduce us to the early days of hot rodding.
Paul Gommi's philosophy in building a hot rod is: ''The car's appearance is the result of making improvements to the car's performance. You can't move forward until you know the past. A hot rod is supposed to be an improvement in performance over stock. There are only three things you can do: increase power, reduce weight, and streamline the vehicle.''
Hot rods are defined by their modifications that individualize the vehicle. The modifications include accessories, speed equipment, and body and/or chassis modifications. To simply build a car requires a great deal of mechanical knowledge and ability, which Paul has. A veteran Top Fuel drag racer who won more than 30 meets from 1963-74, he also built engines for Carroll Shelby's race cars and Keith Black. His innovations include the first bottom oiler, the three-disc clutch, the first Top Fuel rear wing, and the first successful West Coast rear engine dragster (track records at Lions, Seattle, Irwindale, and Orange County). From 1974-86, he owned an advertising agency, handling accounts like COMP Cams, TCI Automotive, NOS, Venolia, Bill Miller, and Simpson. From 1988-93 he campaigned a Nostalgia Top Fuel dragster until a broken pinion shaft caused a spectacular crash at Bakersfield, ending his career.
His latest creation is this original American '32 Ford DeLuxe V-8 phaeton (only 974 produced). He set about improving its performance exactly like he would have in 1955, using all pre-'55 parts, materials, machinery, tools, and even methods.
According to Paul, ''A hot rod is all about the engine. Modifying the engine is the greatest improvement you can make in performance.'' He chose a '37 Ford 221ci 21-stud Flathead engine. For performance, he took a '49 S.Co.T. supercharger and adapted the 21 studder by designing and making all the pulleys, drive, and modifying the manifold with the help of his friend Tom Taros.
Paul chose a cam design so radical, he knew it couldn't perform without the supercharger. He added '55 Chevy valves, Lincoln valvesprings, and his own five-angle valve job. He even designed and built his own full flow oil system. He built the Stromberg 97 carbs and even the filter elements for the '50 accessory air cleaners. Making all these modifications to improve the horsepower create the outrageous appearance of his engine; it truly is a case of ''form follows function.''
Next up was the chassis. Again according to Paul, ''The stance is determined by trying to get the highest gear ratio possible so the car can go fast. The highest ratio for a '32 Ford rearend was a 3:54. With a 7.50x16-inch tire, it's 2,700 rpm at 70 mph, but with 7.00x18s it's 2,400 rpm at 70. That's why the phaeton has '40 18-inch Ford accessory wheels that create a rake, or stance.''
Paul adapted '55 Ford axles to a machined '32 differential for strength. To save weight, he removed the fenders, running boards, cowllights, framehorn covers, bumpers, irons, spare tire, saving hundreds of pounds. He further improved performance with real '39 Lincoln brakes he lightened by drilling 420 holes in each drum and radially slotting the backing plates front and rear. A super-rare '50 Bell tube axle further saves weight along with drilled shock arms and pedals.
Inside, Paul cut down an Auburn panel to fit the '32 dash, adding '40s Stewart-Warner gauges and a '36 Philco radio hooked to Drive-In Movie speakers to overcome wind noise with the top down.
To save more weight, Paul eliminated all carpeting from the floor and front seat back. ''Carpeting is for your grandmother's floors,'' he says. He hand-cut black rubber floormats to fit, adding '41 Harley footrests for protection. To help streamline the car, he laid back the windshield bases and chopped the stanchions, the windshield frame, the top irons, and bows, still providing a folding top. The interior, top, and side curtains were all done in Paul's garage with the help of Sammy Head.
The tail is brought up with Chrysler AirStream lenses on Packard buckets and '31 Ford reworked arms. Hanging below are '50 Triumph motorcycle mufflers. Out front are streamlined '40 American La France fire engine headlights, a '37 Indian motorcycle horn, and a Pines Winterfront grille.
What Paul's car represents should be clear by now. He set out to increase the performance of his tub in the three ways possible. Each step he took created the appearance you see-form following function.
He ended up with a really ''hot tub.'' On one hand Paul Gommi's phaeton is a shrine to the most desirable obsolete parts in the world. On the other hand, he put those parts together in a way our forebears never thought to. The result changes our notions of tradition and progress.
It's unlikely anyone else will focus so many rare and desirable parts in one place in such an original package. At the very least, it's hard to imagine that anyone could top it
Paul Gommi 1932 Ford Phaeton - 2010 Street Rodder Pleasanton Top 100
San Pedro, California
September 07, 2010
By Eric Geisert
Wanting to build a traditional hot rod, Paul went as so far as to not add anything to his original steel body that wasn't '50-era period perfect. A supercharged 21-stud engine (with homemade pulleys and much more) powers the ride and the car was completely built at home, including paint, body, engine, and upholstery.
Subject: PAUL GOMMI IN THE GRADY & GOMMI TOP FUEL DRAGSTER (on Alky) WINS FIRST TIME OUT.
Russell Grady and I (Grady & Gommi Speed Shop, Stamford, Conn.) got a Lynwood Welding Chassis (made by Pat Bilbow in Penn. He was the Scotty Fenn of the East Coast.) it was 98" wheelbase and we lengthened it four feet. You can see the welds where we added the pipe. We built an Olds engine using the stroker crank out of Russell"s chopped 57 Olds custom. (The Oriental).
That's the first magnesium blower Sneaky Pete Robinson ever sold and the second Enderle Bug Catcher ever made. Ivo got the first. We were from Stamford Conn. and friends with Al Zaberini of Bee Line Automotive. Jimmy Yerks, (I hope I am spelling it right,) who worked for Bee Line, had a Lynwood Welding dragster with a supercharged Oldsmobile engine. He was the local hero at Dover at the time running around 9.50 E.T.s., and speeds of 165 MPH.
Russell and I took it up as a challenge to see if we could build a dragster to beat the Bee Line crew. The Bee Line car weighed about 1450 pounds. We decided to make a car as light as we could. Russell actually made an aluminum bellhousing, and an aluminum front leaf spring! Pete Robinson made the mag blower and drive. Enderle the mag injector,
We even made the valley cover out of plexiglass. The seat was a Sears Plastic kitchen chair with the legs removed. ($3.00)Thinking our car might go fast, we heard some cars on the West Coast were running a REVOLUTIONARY DEVICE called a PARACHUTE! We found a guy in Florida called Buddies Ring Slot Chutes.
We bought one of these Big Ring Slot Parachutes like they would use to drop a Jeep out of an airplane! We mounted it on our dragster, AND HEADED FOR DOVER DRAG STRIP.
Jimmy Yerks bet us $100. our car couldn't weigh under 1300 pounds.
When we got to the track for the first time, we went straight to the scales. Our car weighed 1250 pounds. So we started the day $100. ahead!
We pushed the car down the track, turned around and pushed to start it. I swung around and staged. (Burnouts were not invented yet.) Brought up the R's and let out the clutch. Up to that point, all the fast dragsters (9 second runs) smoked the tires like crazy. For whatever reason, being we didn't know whole lot about what we were doing, our car slipped the clutch and with no tire smoke ran an 8.90 at 180. MPH! The speed was the fastest anyone in the country had run on straight alky.
As I approached the finish line, I pulled our BUDDIES BIG RED RING SLOT PARACHUTE. Just as I passed the lights, there was a TREMENDOUS IMPACT almost like I had hit a wall head on. My head slammed into the steering wheel, I thought "Wow, the Chute Opened Hard, but then the car wasn't slowing down anymore, so I grabbed the brake handle and started applying the brakes. My eyes were glued straight ahead down the shut down area. This was my first ride ever in a dragster. Just then out of the corner of my left eye, I saw something GIGANTIC AND RED PASSING ME. "
"What the hell is that?" I thought and just as I was realizing it was my chute tumbling by, my dragster SPUN AROUND IN A COMPLETE 180 and was racing backwards down the shut off. Somehow, I had the presence of mind to keep hitting the hand brake. Then there was ANOTHER BIG IMPACT as I hit something going backwards. The car had stopped and I was staring back towards the starting line.
After I caught my breath, I climbed out and looked. My dragster was up against the cables of the CUT DOWN TELEPHONE POLE and Cable fence at the end of the track with my PARACHUTE HANGING OVER THE FENCE GENTLY SWINGING BACK AND FORTH WITH SOMETHING IN IT!
If anyone remembers, there was a big square Iron Grating over a big Square Sewer Drain just past the finish line to let water drain off the track where it went between the hills. Who would have ever thought when they designed the track, that someone would invent a Parachute to help stop the cars!
MY BUDDIE'S BIG, ROUND, RED, RING SLOT CHUTE, HAD CAUGHT THE EDGE OF THE GRATING AND LIFTED THE WHOLE THING UP INTO THE CHUTE AT 180 MPH!
THAT GRATING MUST HAVE WEIGHED 300 POUNDS! So, when I put the brakes on, my chute went tumbling past me at 180 MPH and spun my whole dragster around and pulled it into the end fence.
They managed to put the grating back. My Chute was plenty torn up and I decided I'd rather stop WITHOUT one of these new fangelled things anyway.
We went on to face Jimmy Yerks in the Bee Line Dragster in the final. The photo you are looking at is my dragster about to be pushed down the tack to fire. NOTICE NO BREATHER MASKS YET. YOU GOT TO GET WOOZY FROM ALL THE FUMES BEFORE STAGING. In the other lane, you see the 57 Olds of Jimmy Yerks which is pushing him down to fire up. Standing next to my dragster is Mark Kennedy, my friend and crew. We beat Jimmy in the final with another eight second and 180 MPH run. We went on to win the final 5 or 6 meets in a row that season at Dover. I think I still have the trophies. That Winter we went Chrysler.
Subject: Now with a Chrysler engine. Newspaper Article. Photo taken at Dover Drag Strip 1965 shorter, more succinct space.
Subject: Actual photo taken a Dover early 1965 with Chrysler now running 8:10x190MPH+ at Dover
Subject: Now with a super Light Chrome Moly chassis by Bernie Shacker & 354" Chrysler.
This photo is mid 1965. Bernie Shaker built me this chrome moly tubing chassis to prevent me from getting killed in that leaf spring front suspension dragster we had been running. This car instantly ran 8.00's and I actually set the A/FD NHRA National Record at Conn. Dragway at 8.01. The Record only lasted a week or two and was taken away by the Frantic Four at Pomona CA.. at a 7.99.
Photo taken at Dover Drag Strip. In the background our Grady & Gommi Speed Shop Chevy Carry-All truck.