By Angelo Van Bogart
Larry Fisette has an uncanny knack for digging up desirable iron in unlikely places. He’s most famous for unearthing 17 trailers of Chevrolet muscle cars and parts from a field in De Pere, Wis., and for uncovering a small Corvette hoard not too far from his De Pere home. Although these bow-tie finds have helped make him famous, he loves a little bit of everything automotive — even as little as diminutive Crosleys.
In uncovering great cars, Fisette has learned that leads can come from surprising places, and no matter how unlikely sounding they may be, a lead is always worth following. When fellow gear head Bob Brown was driving to Michigan to check out some Mills Novelty Co. musical instruments, he invited Fisette along for the ride. Fisette wasn’t going for the instruments, but because of what was also in the garage: two 1932 Fords.
“When Bob called me about going with, I said, ‘Nobody has two ’32 Fords they want to sell.’”
It turns out the Deuces weren’t just desirable 1932 Fords, but period-built hot rods owned by none other than Al Maynard Jr., who was famously competitive with a Standard Auto Supply-sponsored 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Coupe at drag strips in the late ’60s. In 1975, Maynard was also elected show chairman of the Detroit Autorama.
Before Maynard gained fame for his accomplishments on the quarter mile and the car show circuit, his happy mug appeared on the pages of the October 1966 Hot Rod Magazine in the rumble seat of his 1932 Ford five-window coupe — the very car that Fisette went set to see in Michigan.
Although the two had met briefly when Maynard came to see Fisette’s great muscle car find, Fisette didn’t know Maynard was just as famous in Deuce circles as he was for his work at the Autorama and on the drag strip. In addition to the coupe from his youth, Maynard had a 1932 Ford roadster and a truckload of 1932 Ford parts. When Fisette visited his estate in late 2013, it had been about two years since Maynard’s September 2011 passing, and Maynard’s wife was ready to part with the collection of Deuce cars and parts.
As a heavy-hitting hobbyist, Fisette knows a great car when he sees one. He had been told the car was in Hot Rod Magazine, but didn’t know which issue and couldn’t confirm it. Although the coupe had been taken apart for a redo, the body and interior were solid with great patina to the lacquer paint the car still wore from its magazine debut. The engine was gone, but a powerplant is infinitely easier to source original Deuce parts. Even though Fisette hadn’t yet discovered all of its history, the thought of learning more about the coupe while he put it back together was enough for him to cut a check for the lot of Deuce goods — both cars and parts.
Once home, Fisette hit the books and learned the car had appeared in the October 1966 article “7 Year Itch,” which stated Maynard had been building the car for the past seven years while he scoured for parts across 15 states. Maynard’s time and effort had already resulted in eight first-place trophies.
The detailed frame was said to be stock with 1963 Lincoln front shocks and 1953 Ford rear shocks with a Corvette Positraction running 4:11.1 gears. The long-gone engine had been a 1964 Chevrolet 327 with the fuel delivery, pistons and ignition from a Rochester fuel-injected 1959 Chevy. With an 11.25:1 compression ratio and Hedman headers, the engine was good for 375 hp and 13-second elapsed times, according to the story in Hot Rod Magazine.
The magazine called the interior neat in style but “not gaudy,” with black-and-white Naugahyde upholstery with black cloth pleats. A woodgrain-style instrument panel carried Maynard’s own panel insert housing Stewart-Warner gauges. A deep-dish ca.-1959 GM steering wheel turned the wheels up front.
Outside, Maynard’s unchopped Deuce was the definition of a resto rod of the period. Were it not for the chrome reverse wheels up front and five-spoke mags out back, the Deuce may have passed for stock to many eyes. However, the hoodless Deuce betrayed its secret on the magazine’s pages by revealing the built small-block Chevy with its fuelie unit on top. When Fisette found the car, Maynard was in the midst of preparing it for another engine change.
“It was scheduled to get a big-block Chevy and an automatic before Al died,” Fisette said. By late 2013, Fisette had reassembled the car, but hadn’t installed an engine. He’s going to leave that to John Cooney, the new owner.
“I am going to put it back to how it appeared in Hot Rod,” Cooney said. “I am going to put in a 1957 Chevy 283 with dual quads and put a four-speed back in it. I am not going to put a fuel-injected engine in it due to the expense.”
The car has also been fitted with an independent front suspension, but Cooney plans to re-install a dropped axle. He also plans to remove the knock-off wire wheels that are currently on the car.
“I am going to try to hunt down the wheels and get it to how it was in Hot Rod,” he added. That includes leaving the paint and interior as it was found.
“The seats are real nice. The white part of the interior is still nice, but there are some screws that rusted a little and stained the Naugahyde, so I am going to try to clean that up. The dash is still nice — it’s still the way he had it in the 1950s,” he added.
When Cooney is done, the Deuce should look right at home on the pages of 1966 paper. Although he had other changes in mind for the Deuce, we think Maynard would approve.
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