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Joe Nitti’s 1932 Roadster
Chassis No.: 18201129
The Nitti Roadster is one of the most significant Hot Rods of the ‘50’s. It was included in Ken Gross and Robert Geant’s book Hot Rod Milestones as one of the top 15 best street and competition roadsters from that era. The car is currently restored to period correct perfection and has won the prestigious Bruce Meyer Hot Rod Preservation award at the 2000 Grand National Roadster show.
Featured in the June 1950 issue of Hot Rod, the Nitti Roadster epitomized the best street and lakes practice of its era. It is the quintessential deuce highboy — with a super straight roadster body. A dropped axle (that appears to be a Mor-Drop) and big-and-little white walls give it an insolent tilt.
Other bodywork included filled door hinges, a rare modification in this era (from a 1940 Dodge). The four-piece hood is liberally louvered and a peaked and filled ’32 grill shell with custom front spreader bar — built by rodding great Hank Negley (his name is engraved on it) tie together the boxed, filled, and rounded front frame horns. In the rear the trunk handle was shaved and there are widely spaced ’39 Ford teardrop taillights, along with a custom license plate light made from a cut-down 1940’s –era stock Ford unit.
Not surprisingly, Nitti won a number of awards with the car. The most important was California’s Most Beautiful Roadster at the 1950 Los Angeles Hot Rod show. Nitti drove, raced and even commuted in his roadster up to 1951 when he traded the car to Eddie Safire for a custom 1950 Mercury Club Coupe. It then passed into the hands of Jack Sheldon who ran the car at El Mirage in 1952 turning a very respectable 124.05 MPH. The car went through a few owners and the Flathead was removed then sold to Eric Bodell who installed a Chevy V8. After years of sitting next to the garage, Bodell sold the car to David Zivot.
Zivot commissioned Dave Crouse of Custom Autos I Loveland, CO to undertake a complete “nut and bolt” restoration to bring the car back to period perfection. The 46 59A Mercury flathead engine was built by Red Hamilton and looks just like the original Nitti 286 engine complete with Evans heads, Isky 400 Jr. cam, and Kong distributor.
After the restoration was complete the car was entered in the 2000 Grand National Roadster show, where it won the Bruce Meyer Hot Rod Preservation award.