Hank Groves always has had an obsession with automobiles. He'd owned dozens by the time he graduated high school.
"My first car was a Model A coupe I bought from a junkyard for $15 when I was 14," the Woodstock resident said. "Through trial and error and learning as I went, I got it running."
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That Ford was traded up for a 1937 Chevy, which was swapped for another ride, and so on. "Cars were cheap back then. I kept some for a day, others for a couple years."
So many vehicles passed through his hands that, at the age of 17, the ambitious youngster was required by his state to apply for a dealer's license. For him, the biggest draw to cars was just driving fast.
"Growing up in rural Iowa, we lived on country roads with no posted speed limit. The signs would say, 'Drive reasonably and proper. End of speed zone.' "
While a wide variety of machines have come and gone through Groves' stable, he possesses a certain penchant for one particular kind of cruiser. "I grew up during the 1950s street-rod era, so those are my favorite," he said. "I remember getting the first issue of Hot Rod magazine. The hottest car was the 1932 Ford."
With the lasting impression the deuce coupe made on the auto aficionado, it should come as little surprise that two of his prized four-wheeled possessions today are '32 Fords; a roadster and a sedan.
While still in school, Groves purchased his first '32 Ford sedan. It lacked an engine and was a complete project. "I chopped the top not knowing what I was doing and never completed it."
Groves always wanted to do the job right and an opportunity presented itself to him in 2011. An acquaintance purchased this sedan in 1961 when he was 16, then stored the car in pieces in a garage intending to rebuild everything. He never got around to finishing the project. Groves eventually secured the car and made chopping the top his first order of business.
Groves removed 4½ inches in the front and 3 inches in the back for an ultra sleek rake. All of the sedan's sheet metal is original steel, save for the hood, and it is coated in a color inspired by Groves's modern ride.
"I walked out to my 2013 Ford F150 one afternoon and saw the sun glinting off the Forest Green. I knew it would be perfect for the sedan."
The vehicle rides on an Independent Technologies suspension and is powered by a Hilborn-injected 302-cubic-inch V-8 Ford Racing motor. Inside the cabin are custom touches like a roll-and-pleated headliner, Classic Instrument gauges, AC, power steering and even a backup camera.
The roadster was found in Freeport in 2008 and had already been partially completed. Groves had rebuilt a '32 roadster several years prior to that, but its big block V-8 and was more than a handful to drive. "I realized I wanted something a little more comfy," he said.
A tamer 350-cubic-inch V-8 was installed in this second roadster. Disc brakes were added in front and 15-inch Billet Specialties wheels were mounted at the corners. Bruce Mapes of Elgin tackled the interior work, carrying over the exterior color scheme. The body was coated in Nausau Blue paint and Rick Wallner applied the custom pinstriping.
"This car is a dependable roadster. I could turn the key and go. It's not a race car -- just a cruiser," Groves said.
Whenever Groves embarks on a new project, one specific goal is in mind. "I'm not into restoring cars to original condition. I enjoy taking old cars and putting the latest technology into them."
That may be Groves's cup of tea but he's still an enthusiast at heart.
"I have respect for any car that's put together nicely and the craftsmanship shows."