Grandfather shares knowledge on 1937 Chevy project
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Grandfathers play an important role, instilling life skills down to subsequent generations. Ben Ritthaler's grandpa, Hank Groves, shared an important lesson with the youngster: four-wheeled speed.
"Grandpa had a '32 Ford highboy," the Woodstock resident said. "I'd go for rides and tell him to go faster. The one-of-a-kind feeling stuck with me."
Hank imparted another lesson down to the boy: incentive.
"I purchased the car (a 1937 Chevrolet coupe) for Ben with the agreement I'd help aim him and he'd build the car," Groves said.
The pair found the coupe in Crystal Lake in 2003. Even a young boy's wild imagination couldn't fathom the end result.
"I was 13 when we purchased it and I never expected the car to look as good as it does today," Ritthaler said.
To get the all-steel coupe in stellar condition, much work was required, giving Ritthaler a crash course in vehicle creation. The curvaceous body was removed from the frame and the welding commenced, as holes were filled and body panels replaced. A new floor pan and firewall were installed, facilitating even more learning.
With the metalwork complete, the Chevy was primed for paint. From the wide spectrum of available colors for cruising machines, the matte Hot Rod Black was the ideal choice.
"I wanted the nonpolished look," Ritthaler said. "It's very affordable and doesn't require a lot of upkeep. Best of all, it's easy to clean!"
For some color, pinstriping was added. Ritthaler is a fan of the pinstriping on his grandpa's cars and wanted it on his own He opted for a simple and clean design on the trunk while foregoing the traditional side pinstriping.
"I didn't want any designs down the side. It would take away the sinister look of the car." That ultraclean profile is also helped by the removal of the vent windows.
The interior overhaul was based around a simple gear-selector packing some major sentimentality.
"My grandma gave me a shift knob one Christmas and six months later passed away. At that time I was ready to start on the interior," Ritthaler said.
That green orb became the focal point with the cabin taking on a green and black complementary look. For added sparkle, Ritthaler painted the upper door moldings with metal flake. The interior reveals another personal item that reflects Ritthaler's interests.
"Other than working on the car, I love playing bass guitar. When my wah-wah peddle broke, I mounted it as the gas pedal."
Custom touches on the exterior include 1938 Lincoln Zephyr taillights, headlights that incorporate turn signals and the removal of the bumpers.
It was speed that piqued Ritthaler's interest in cars -- and his Chevy has plenty of get-up and go thanks to a 350-cubic-inch V-8, dual Flowmaster exhaust and a Ford 9-inch rear end. Disc brakes mounted up front give the machine some serious stopping power.
Ritthaler's dream for his ride also included a serious stance and some suspension work was needed to get it just right. The car's previous owner had installed a straight axle up front, giving the Chevy a raised-up gasser look, which was not what Ritthaler was after. "I wanted a low, street rod look,' he said. "We installed a Mustang II independent suspension, which gave it that sexy rake."
Through many trial and errors, the car was completed in 2011. "The biggest satisfaction is the whole knowledge aspect of learning how to do everything in building a car.
"Most people don't consider how much goes into a vehicle, even modern ones," he said. "And to see it firsthand gives you new insight into solving problems and appreciates cars."
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