With some projects, greatness is a foregone conclusion even before the first wrench is turned. “From the beginning we knew this was going to be a badass build,” says Greg Friedrich of Gizmos LLC in Cedar, Minnesota. “Wayne, the owner of the car, came to us with some great ideas and an open mind.”
We came across the build while we were hanging out at the Goodguys show in Columbus, Ohio earlier this year, and it was immediately clear this was something special. A racer at heart, Friedrich’s builds are not only known for their eye candy, but their ability to go as well as they show. “I built Pro Stock drag cars for a long time,” he says. “As far as I’m concerned, the hot rod stuff is easy-peasy compared to building race cars.”
With street cars, Friedrich doesn’t have to worry as much about making sure it’s the lightest and fastest machine of its kind, but that mindset tends to find its way into his builds in one way or another.
“We started building hot rods around a similar premise – sure it’s got to look cool, but it also needs to work, be comfortable to drive, and you also need to be able to maintain it,” he says. “With a lot of hot rod builds, people get the car and it isn’t particularly comfortable to be in, so they don’t get used. All our stuff is made to be driven, and you shouldn’t have to pull the engine to change a set of spark plugs.”
With a lot of hot rod builds, people get the car and it isn’t particularly comfortable to be in, so they don’t get used. All our stuff is made to be driven, and you shouldn’t have to pull the engine to change a set of spark plugs.
The premise behind this build was to create a machine with the style of a ’33 Ford hot rod and the performance of a modern day supercar. That’s a tall order when you’re concerned with more than just dyno numbers. “It kind of made sense to give this car the pro touring treatment – the customer was into the idea,” he says.
“It changes some of the style because, for instance, you need the big wheels to fit the big brakes. But this customer really clicked with us, we didn’t have to talk him into almost anything. He was on board with our ideas and involved in the process.”
Born To Run
As with many hot rod builds, the engine is the centerpiece of this ’33 Ford. “A 541 cubic-inch big block Chevy with an 871 supercharger was chosen – it had the performance we required and the look Wayne and Gizmos were after,” Friedrich explains. “The blower was two percent underdriven on the dyno and it made 802 horsepower on 92 octane gas. In reality that’s plenty of power for this car, but it was built to be able to handle even more.” With a quick pulley change, the big Chevy mill is capable of cranking out more than 1000hp.
In a car that weights just over 2900 pounds, that’s a power-to-weight ratio that Lamborghini, Ferrari and McLaren would be envious of. Backing the mill is a 700R4 transmission which routes the power to the rear wheels through a Winters Performance Quick Change rear end.
As the engine was being assembled, the team at Gizmos went to work on the chassis, building the entire platform from scratch by hand. “Most of the bigger hot rod builds these days either have an Art Morrison frame or a Roadster Shop frame,” Friedrich notes. “We have nothing against either one of them, but we like to build our own chassis. This car was designed and engineered before it was built, like all of the builds we do.”
Kugel suspension components were used on the front end in conjunction with Gizmos in-house hardware, while the entire three link rear suspension was hand-built and includes Gizmos’ unique Watts link. Afco supplied the double-adjustable coilovers, which were built and valved specifically for this car. When all was said and done, each tire holds almost exactly 25% of the car’s weight, giving the Ford a near-perfect weight distribution.
With this much grunt on tap and a chassis setup that was up to the task of corralling it, the team wanted to ensure the Ford had the stopping power to bring the car back down from speed. The brakes had to be Brembo, but making that happen wasn’t as easy as pulling up a part number from the Italian manufacturer’s catalog. “Their GTR six-piston billet monoblock calipers,” he notes. “Those are just a piece of art in and of themselves. We wanted to use the Kugel spindle, so Brembo actually made a CAD file of the setup and machined a caliper bracket for this build that mimics the profile of the wheel. It’s a total one-off.”
We wanted to use the Kugel spindle, so Brembo actually made a CAD file of the setup and machined a caliper bracket for this build that mimics the profile of the wheel. It’s a total one-off.
Part of Wayne’s criteria for the project was that the color scheme needed to be black and chrome. “If it’s going to be black, it has to be perfect,” Friedrich says. “If you have had a black car you know how difficult it is. Black shows every imperfection, so it was easy to hand it over to Unique Paint and Body in Blaine, MN.
These guys did an amazing job all the way through. The photos don’t do it justice, it looks like the paint is still wet. Unique also handled making all the perfect gaps and the doors shut like a new car should.”
The cabin was another focal part for the team’s creativity. “We put a lot of thought into the interior,” says Friedrich. “We decided we wanted the look of a 1960’s exotic, like something Ferrari might have done. Utilizing distressed leather, we came up with a unique design that captured the vintage look we wanted with the function and durability needed.”
Function is a theme that runs throughout this ’33. “As is typical for our builds, there’s no plumbing or electrical showing anywhere,” he notes. “That’s not that hard to just “do,” but it’s hard to do and make it functional. Everything works.”
Not long after putting the finishing touches on the build earlier this year, Friedrich brought the Ford out to the 2018 Goodguys Columbus and that’s where we caught up with him. “We’d brought it to one other show before that – the Minneapolis World of Wheels – and it pretty much blew everyone away,” he says. SEMA is the next big show Friedrich has his eye on.
“We’re really picky though, which makes it tough to do,” he tells us. “With these bigger shows, a lot of it is who you know, and we’re really under the radar as far as the shop goes. So that can make it tough for us to get our foot in the door at shows like that. But we’re not willing to just bring it to SEMA and park it in the hallway somewhere – it’s got to be in someone’s booth.” In the meantime the car is with Wayne, where it’s ready to be driven at a moment’s notice.
In the meantime Gizmos is hard at work bringing more vintage hardware into the 21st century. “We’ve got a couple of pro touring builds going on right now,” Friedrich notes. “We’re working on some turbocharged stuff right now, and that’s kind of another conversation in and of itself.
When we do a turbocharged car, we build a billet intake manifold that’s been designed by an F1 team to ensure that it’s operating at peak efficiency. With turbos, there’s a big difference between just bolting on some boost and actually building something that works in the real world.”
Friedrich says they try to keep their projects varied, but one common thread seems to exist among them. “We definitely don’t specialize in one particular thing,” he says. “Personally, I just get bored. So doing stuff like this ’33 is really fun – it allows us to use our creativity and develop new solutions.”
A note from Rod Authority Editor Dave Cruikshank: “This 1933 Roadster was absolutely breathtaking in person and a standout at Goodguys’ Columbus 2018. The stance, paint and attitude are spot on. Greg’s and his team’s work silence the distractions at car shows and speaks for itself, loudly. We’re gonna keep our eye on this super talented builder from little old Minnesota.