By Drew Hardin
Photo Courtesy Lynn Wineland, Petersen Publishing Company Archive
There are two icons of hot rodding in this photo from Rod & Custom’s December 1960 article about organizing tools. One is the magazine’s associate editor, Neal East. The other is the distinctive ’32 Ford that is best known as the Doane Spencer roadster.
Lynn Wineland, then Rod & Custom’s editor, took the photo in August 1960, two years after he had purchased the roadster from Spencer. Years later, East would buy the roadster from Wineland. Hot rodding can be a small world.
East first came to the attention of Petersen Publishing Company when he entered a contest to win the original painting commissioned for the cover of Rod & Custom’s October 1955 issue. With his entry, he sent a photo of his two hot rods: a ’32 five-window coupe and a ’32 roadster. East believes the photo tipped the scales in his favor; not only did he win the painting, but his coupe was featured on the cover of Hot Rod’s April 1958 issue. And shortly after this photo was taken, Wineland hired him as an associate editor for Rod & Custom.
(Incidentally, East’s coupe was honored as one of the 75 most significant ’32 Fords by a panel of experts on the iconic Ford’s 75th anniversary. So was a ’32 roadster East bought from friend Bill Woodward as well as the Spencer roadster he owned. The man has good taste in deuces.)
Doane Spencer was among the earliest hot rodders, working on hopped-up cars in the years prior to World War II and becoming Alex Xydias’ first employee at SO-CAL Speed Shop after the war. When he crashed his Model A in the early ’40s, Spencer gave its distinctive DuVall split windshield to friend Jack Dorn for Dorn’s ’32 roadster project—a roadster that Spencer later bought and made his own by removing the fenders, replacing the Ford Flathead engine with a hotter Mercury mill, and fabricating a customized interior with radio controls in the armrest. Spencer showed his roadster and also raced it, clocking over 126 mph at El Mirage in 1950.
When he learned about the Carrera Panamericana road race in Mexico, Spencer began modifying the Ford to run that event, adding an additional crossmember to reinforce the chassis and routing the exhaust through the frame rails for extra ground clearance. But the Mexican government canceled the race before he had a chance to finish the car, and Spencer moved on to another passion project—a ’55 Thunderbird. Wineland bought the roadster in pieces.
Spencer stayed close to the car. In fact, he’s shown on the cover of the December 1960 Rod & Custom helping Wineland build a nerf bar for the roadster’s front end.
Wineland never finished the car. In the throes of a divorce, he sold it to East in the late ’60s. For the next 20-some years East had some work done to the car, but it remained an unfinished project until he sold it to collector Bruce Meyer in 1995. Meyer commissioned Pete Chapouris to restore the car to the state it would have been in had Spencer completed its modifications for the Mexican road race. Fresh from Chapouris’ shop, the Dorn/Spencer/Wineland/East/Meyer roadster won Pebble Beach’s inaugural hot-rod class in 1997. It is currently on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.