By on March 28, 2014

From the ridiculous to the sublime. After subjecting you to that curious Hudson Terraplane “coupe”, please consider this my apology. A visual palette cleanser, if you will. Before organizers let the public in to the Detroit Autorama at noon on the Friday of the show, members of the media can get in at 9 AM while the Ridler Award competitors and other top-quality, high-dollar customs are still being set up in their sometimes elaborate displays. Those displays in the front part of Cobo Hall include stands to jack the cars up off the floor so you can see the undercarriages, mirrors to do the same, professional lighting, build books and hero cards. There was one car in the front of the hall, though, that had a decidedly minimalist display, just enough machine turned aluminum floor tiles so the ’32 Ford roadster’s retro bias ply tires weren’t sitting on bare concrete.

It wasn’t built quite to the level of the Ridler competitors, some panels weren’t perfectly flush and the like, but there was a reason why it was in the front of the hall. As a matter of fact, Kirk Brown, whose Crafty B shop in Caledonia, Michigan fabricated the car (Brown also uses the Nostalgic Speed brand), and his wife told me that originally they were just going to show the car farther back in the hall mostly to help promote the cast aluminum hot rod parts they sell. However, when show organizers got an idea of how their Ford looked, the promoters moved it up to the front, where the Ridler Award competitors and other top shelf custom cars are given prime viewing space. Brown told me they were notified about that move three weeks prior to the show, resulting in a complete tear down, rebuild, and detailing to make it suitable for its new place of honor.

You can see why the organizers moved Crafty-B to a more prominent location. As I said, it’s not built to Ridler level, there are a few little flaws, nothing that spending another hundred thousand dollars or two couldn’t fix to make it a competitive show car, but it’s just a great looking car. In, in terms of a clear, elegant concept that’s been faithfully executed, it’s damn near perfect. With the powder blue paint, you can say that it’s a pretty car, but the brushed aluminum gives it a purposeful look, a masculine yang to the body’s more feminine yin.

I wasn’t the only person who thought this car looked great. Just about everyone that I spoke to at the Autorama on Friday that was there in some kind of professional capacity, either writing or taking photographs, as well as people who had a broad variety of cars of their own on display mentioned “the powder blue roadster with the brushed aluminum trim.”

The aluminum parts represent Crafty B / Nostalgic Speed’s product line, whose motto is the melifluous and descriptive, if ungrammatical, “Hand Crafted Sand Casted”. All of the aluminum castings used on the light blue roadster were sand cast using hand crafted wood forms shaped in-house. The same is true for the lights, shifter arms, friction shock absorbers and gas caps that form the basis for their product line. The gas caps are available in a variety of finishes, with your choice of stainless steel or brass (for that really old school look) closure levers. They’re also the reason for the company ribald motto, “we have your gashole covered”.

Damn near, but not quite perfect. I don’t like the shape of the convertible top, it seems too square for the car’s lines.  I’d like to have seen it with the top down. Also, the flat and rectangular aluminum rear window frame makes the top seem even more square shaped. From the rear 3/4 angle, though, I can see what the Browns were trying to do with the roof.

The interior is as minimalist as the exterior, with simple brown leather upholstery crafted nicely by Mrs. Brown, who does upholstery under the trade name of The Stitch (I don’t mean to slight her by not mentioning her given name but I can’t find it in my notes). The Brown’s are a nice looking couple and they made a nice looking car.

This post will be wrapping up TTAC’s coverage of the Autorama this year (unless there is a clamoring demand for a post on The Brown Hot Rod Appreciation Society – earth tones are back). One of the pleasant things about the Autorama is the delight owners and builders get from people enjoying their cars on display. Kirk Brown looked to me to be doubly tickled because the show goers’ positive reactions were amplified by how the organizers had moved his car to the front of the event and how the public attendees’ approval was echoed by the professional builders whose cars were also given prominent locations. It’s always nice to be validated.

Another nice thing about the Autorama is that in many ways it’s about the most diverse car show that you could think of. Sure, it’s a bit heavy on domestic brands (though I noticed a Lamborghini Gallardo and a Lotus Turbo Esprit), but it hosts cars from original condition and restored vehicles to completely radical customs and everything in between. Even if you’re not particularly into hot rods or customs, if you’re a car enthusiast of any stripe you should find at least a few cars of interest to you at a show of this scale. Since each car reflects the owner’s personality and interests, in sum total the cars (and trucks, and motorcycles, and bicycles, and scale models, and go karts) at the Autorama are as diverse as human personalities are.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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13 Comments on “2014 Detroit Autorama: Crafty-B ’32 Roadster, An Elegant Concept, Well Executed...”

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    This is beautiful…although the creator seems to have been determined to transfer modern cars’ poor visibility to vintage cars, haha

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      I will definitely give you the benefit of the doubt regarding that statement. After all, Volvo’s 262C Bertone was very late to the low visibility party, having debuted in 1978.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    I don’t know when or how I’ll make the time for it, but I definitely need to attend the Autorama.

    It’s impossible for me to pick a favorite detail on that ’32, although the wheel centers harmonize perfectly with those massive finned brake drums, and those debris screens are another area my eyes keep returning to.

  • avatar

    Front end looks like Victorian ovenware.

    • 0 avatar

      I like the E&J style headlights. Woodlites would be even better – unless it was to be actually driven at night. I like the the grille, it looks handsome to me.

      Apparently, “Cars With Big Grilles Look Like Old Men”.

      • 0 avatar

        Interesting article and links.

        I’d like to see a survey of late-model Camaro owners and their forehead height. I know Jos Whedon is a famous “fivehead”. Would Camaro guy and gals be in the twohead/threehead range?

        I know one woman who is but she just traded her Camaro for a Ford Edge. However that does still fit the profile, just not so blatantly.

  • avatar

    I think it’s right on the money. Minimalist, less is more philosophy being tried out right before our very eyes.

  • avatar

    Everyone’s favorite hot rod. When I was young, it would’ve been a tough choice if I had to choose between one of these and a ’57 Chevy. I’d have to find a way to get both of them!

    Did I say “when I was young”? Ha! I still feel that way about these!

  • avatar

    Autorama is an annual tradition with our family.
    There is nothing like being liberated from the winter doldrums by a full day at Autorama.
    Autorama is better than a motivational speaker to get your car dreams or project back in motion.

    I liked that high banked custom Torino near the entrance.

  • avatar

    You’re right about the top–and I don’t like the split grille, although it does flow rather nicely with the split windscreen. Other than that, it’s perfect, from the color choice down to the wheels. Too bad it didn’t win the Ridler competition. It should have. Hot rods should be rough around the edges, not over-polished showpieces that make Pebble Beach look like the parking lot at the local swap ‘n shop.

  • avatar

    Now this ones a winner even Grumpy Sykes can’t complain about .

  • avatar

    A nice modern interpretation of the classic Deuce coupe.

    I agree with Ronnie and MWebbRambler about the roof and grille. I think the roof would look fine if the windshield was not raked back (but the windshield suits the rest of the car). The grille and rear window surround look “heavy”.

    The E&J projector style headlights, chopped and raked windshield, wheels which look like Moon discs and some of the other touches give this a salt flats racer look, which is pretty cool IMO.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Very clean, I liked it except for grill. I understand the car is a showcase for the shop’s wares. A 32 grill is a classic. That grill looks like it was stolen from a Bentley or a 300C.

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