Article by Larry Crain
Photos by Ben Smithson, Trent Sherrill and John Drummond
Every January fans of Goodguys get to vote on what vehicle will win one of two awards sponsored by Speedway Motors. The two categories are Homebuilt Heaven and Traditional Homebuilt Heaven, with each winner receiving a special Speedway Motors jacket and a $500 certificate to spend on www.speedwaymotors.com. This year’s Traditional Homebuilt Heaven winner was the 1932 Chevy coupe owned by Ben Smithson of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Ben started building the coupe in 2008 and finished it in 2014, but there is much more to the story than that. Ben’s Grandfather acquired the body in the early 1990’s and the car had a history as a dirt track racer. Ben’s Grandfather passed away in 1997, and the old race car found a new home with Ben’s father, Bobby Smithson, who turned the old car into yard art to set by his shop. The tired old coupe made a cool piece of yard art but Ben had a vision of what it could really be.
Ben was blessed with the fact that his father is a hot rodder and took young Ben to rod runs, cars shows and cruise nights where he fell in love with cool cars and trucks. Ben’s first ride was a restored 1967 Chevy C10 truck that he drove during high school. Next was a Model A sedan street rod which had been a project that his father had worked sporadically on for 25 years. It eventually turned into a son build that was finished in 2005 when Ben was 17. All of this helped prepare Ben for the day that he tackled what was just a piece of yard art into an award winning and attention grabbing coupe.
Ben started building on the car in 2008 while he was in college getting an education with a focus on engineering. Money was tight while getting an education and time was also limited, but Ben persevered until he finished the car in 2014. What Ben had when he finished the build was an all steel body that has been chopped 3” and channeled 4”. If you know automotive history, you know that the 1932 Chevy’s had wood inner support structure and Ben replaced all that with steel. Once Ben had the body close to the way he wanted it, he turned to his father Bobby to complete the body and paint work. The color of choice that Ben went with is Quaker State Green with the PPG base/clear system.
Ben designed and built the custom frame out of 2”x3”x3/16” tubing. The frame has a 4” kickup in front and a 13” kickup in rear. The front sports a 4” dropped axle with split ’42-’48 wishbones and disc brakes. On the rear is a 9” Ford rear end with 4.56 posi and triangulated 4 link with QA1 coil overs. The completed chassis is painted Vanilla Shake using PPG base/clear system. Power for this chassis comes in the form of a 1965 Chevy 327 block that is bored 0.030” over, steel crank, shot-peened rods, forged pistons and a balanced rotating assembly. Completing the picture is a Comp custom ground solid lift cam, powerpak heads with stainless 1.94/1.60 valves, roller rockers, Offenhauser 2x4 intake manifold topped of with two 500 cfm Edelbrock carbs. Giving the coupe a whole lot of attitude is a pair of Gear Drive headers and Flowmaster mufflers that let you know this is the real deal. Being a hot rod there was only one way to go for shifting and that was a T56 six speed manual transmission with a billet flywheel and HD clutch. The Coupe rolls along on a set of Rally America 15x5 and 15x7 wheels mounted with Firestone tires from Coker Tire.
The interior is very traditional with Ben tackling the job of using bead rolled sheet metal interior and the custom seat covered by Burks Upholstery. Going a different route than a stock dash Ben went with a 1954 Chevrolet truck dash that has a set of New Vintage USA gauges.
What Ben had when the coupe was finished was a car that looked as traditional hot rod as can be, show worthy on many levels and a car that he could get in and drive the hell out of.
The list of awards that Ben’s coupe has won since hitting the scene in May of 2014 is really impressive for a builder who is only 29 years-old. NSRA Nationals South 2014 received Classic Instruments Pro’s Pick, NSRA Nationals South 2014 received Rod & Custom Fab 5 pick and feature, Goodguys Nashville Nationals 2014 received Traditional Homebuilt Heaven award, Won overall 2014 Rod & Custom Fab 5 award, Detroit Autorama 2015 received Best Chop, Featured on cover of May 2015 StreetRodder magazine, featured on cover of Speedway Motors catalog, Goodguys Indy Nationals received GoodguysGazzette Pick, Beatersville 2016 won top pick award, Goodguys PPG Nationals 2016 received Traditional Homebuilt Heaven award and now won overall 2016 Goodguys Traditional Homebuilt Heaven award.
Ben’s automotive stable now consists of the coupe, a 1970 Chevy Kingswood wagon, the Model A street rod sedan and a new project. Smithson Speed and Engineering is building what is going to be an awesome ‘67 Chevelle that will be based along the pro-touring resto-mod lines with all of the new technology that is now available. When it’s completed you know this Chevelle will be incredible with Ben building it.