Featured Cars

September 20, 2018

Thom Metz 1933 Ford Cabriolet




Thom Metz has created a 1933 Ford Cabriolet Hot Rod influenced by it original Hot Rod heritage and inspired by Custom legend Harry Westergard.

“It was always the intent to preserve the hot rod as it was originally built…”

Just like reading a novel of a different time and wanting to recreate it, Thom Metz’s middle school friends brother worked for a magazine printing company & had access to a free newsstand… Rod & Custom had him hooked, but to everyone in his area a hot rod was a 57 Chevy and mild customs were being restored to their factory glory… Thom’s true quest was a chopped 32-34 Ford like the ones in R&C… but good ones had been used for parts and restorable ones were being built into Resto Rods…

When Thom finally found the 33 Cabriolet in 1973, that was rust free but hacked up beyond easily going back to stock he couldn’t afford it… After parts were sold off, he was finally able to trade his finished 51 Ford for it… He could envision his new Purple Metalflake Rod racing across the pages of Henry Gregor Felton’s novels in black primer and It didn’t matter if no one else understood – the car would go back to the way it had originally been built.

A Cabriolet was a want-a-be roadster in the late forties/fifties… to save embarrassment of a baby carriage top plus weight- the previous owner had discarded the windows and capped and leaded the doors & tossed the top… Repro & original assembly were way out of my price range… So Thom bought a 33/34 Sedan for $50 just to be able to create a new removable top from it…  Thom melted out all the lead that had been used to make the body look more like a roadster. During the stripped the body Thom found out that the car had been purple metalflake and it was painted red, yellow, blue, & black (they didn’t strip the jams)… Plus it had a black roll & pleat interior with padded dash.

Just two of the many sections cut from the 33 Sedan top that would end up creating the Harry Westergard inspired removable hard-top.


Clamping and tack welding all the parts together and shaping it till the effect was what was needed for the Westergard Style top.


When the parts were roughly fitted, shaped and cut to fit for the top the paint was removed for final welding.


When Thom removed all the chassis components he noticed that whole frame was twisted, the torque side was three inches higher than the other side. To fix this problem he located stock ’33 cross members and a stock rear end, ’39 toploader with Zephyr gears. These parts were taken to Bill’s Rod & Custom and combined with reproduction Worthington rails on their jig.

The channeling of the body had been done rather crude back in the day, so when the chassis came back the raised floor was cut out completely and the body was positioned over the frame centering the rear wheel wells to the rear tires. Thom had acquired a NOS painted ’33 Ford grille, that had been chrome plated, for a case of beer. And when the frame was away he had found a stock hood, with hood sides. All this was lined up with the body to make sure the new position of the channeled body would fit perfectly, the hood cleared the frame rails and the whole unit had the proper rake.

The front of the Sedan top was heavily reshaped to fit with the new Hard-Top.


When the cowl position was set and marked a sub-frame was created to support the body. Then a new 12 gauge floor was created and welded in place. While doing this Thom found out why the vertical ’32 Ford grille with no hood (which this Hot Rod originally was) were so popular on channelled ’33/’34 Fords. To be able to use the angled 33 Ford grille, radiator and hood Thom learned that the engine needed to move back 2 inches. Which meant that the torque tube had to be shortened, and that he needed to make new motor and transmission mounts. Originally the car was set up for a flathead but no one had a good Hot Rod motor or wanted to help a kid build one at the time, so an early ‘57 Corvette motor complete with 9 fin valve covers (mold repair changed all covers after April of 57 to 7 fin) filled the bill… The Headman tri-Y headers dump into a van side-pipe mufflers (cone over the front and dump at the rear so it appears as open header pipes…)

The initial build was done by 78 but Thom and his friends who had helped him out, lacked the talent to do the custom metalwork required for the rest of Thom’s plans… After not finding anyone up to the challenge by the mid 80’s, Thom decided to trade or sell the project and just move on… The first person to look at the For Sale project was Harold Duffey… when I showed him the sedan roof I had found during the hunt for ’33 Ford parts, he stated he always wanted to do a Westergard Style removable hardtop… So the project started its second phase…

Metal top is all welded and ready to be fine tuned. The top of the door line, above the belt-line was slightly angled forward to match the new forward rake of the B-pillar of the Hard-Top.


Ohio’s fender law/ enforcement led to 55 gallon drums being re-purposed as rear fenders when the car was originally built. Thom kept them on the car. The deck lid originally had 49 Ford hinges when Thom acquired the car, they were retained.


Taking the project outdoor for an overall look, and see if all the proportions were as intended… Yes.


Harold was influential to maintaining early custom touches, he added the sunken license plate, filled the cowl vent, shortened & flipped the 36 commercial rear bumper, redid the quarter panel lines, and adding a 2” lip to the firewall to allow it to be inset back further in the cowl to clear the motor setback while appearing stock-ish. The Sedan roof was cut up to create the base for the new Westergard style Hard Top. In the mock up stage it became evident that to create more attractive Coupe proportions the windshield would have to be chopped to be able to create side window openings that had similar proportions as the framed frames on a Coupe.

1.5 inches were removed with the windshield posts, and the rear portion of the sedan top was cut down until it fitted the windshield perfect. The sedan reveal and contour of the rear side window opening remained, but were laid forward to create a more elegant feel. The rear window of the Sedan was also used, but was chopped and narrowed to more of the ’32 Ford proportions. With an additional thirty pieces of metal and four 57 Bird latches – Thom now had rain protection.

Something that isn’t apparent when looking at the car – firewall is inset 2” into the cowl to utilize stock hood… early channeled cars (like Thom’s) typically ran a ’32 vertical shell.


Mocking up parts including the recessed cowl that had already been painted Washington Blue before the rest of the body was. NOS painted 33 grill that was chromed for a case of beer was considerably cheaper than a rusty ’34!


Unfortunately, Harold’s health deteriorated and he could not continue to help out on the project. Thom then got the helping hand of Frank Borowicz who ended up hand-forming the lower hood support to frame panels. One item on Thom’s bucket list was having the ’33 in LARS… well the no primer requirement forced him into actually painting the car to meet the criteria for the show. Thom chose a beautiful Washington Blue for the paint, a color that suited the car perfect and gave the car a even more classic appearance.

The 1×2” sub frame is insulated sandwiched between floor and louvered lower panels… Thom also mentioned that the car is pretty roomy inside – Thom is 6’ and he can stretch out his legs… plus the black leather vintage style upholstered seat can be lowered…

Comparing the finished chopped and narrowed rear window opening with the stock ’33-34 Ford rear window.


The aftermarket “Hot Rod” headlights were introduced in 58 and didn’t sell well because junkyard one were a lot cheaper… they are smaller than Guide’s and production units. The hood sides were modified and part hand made by Frank Borowicz.


Attention to detail and fit-finish is immaculate.


During the course of the build Thom stopped by Butch Tucker’s shop in AZ many times. He kept mentioning that he wanted a “Von Dutch” stripe job when his ’33 was done… He thought it was a simple request since he had Dutch’s original flying eyeball sign in his shop- he must know his work… Thom mentioned it to someone and told me that was an insult to an artist to ask them to copy another artists style (especially since Butch was well know for his own style)… He never mentioned it again… a couple of years later Thom brought the Washington Blue finished ’33 into Butch’s shop for some striping… as Thom started telling Butch what he wanted done – Butch abruptly stopped him & asked “didn’t you want a Von Dutch stripe job?” Thom nodded yes and Butch explained that he could watch if he kept his mouth shut or he had a perfectly good waiting room… then to Thom’s dismay he signed it Von Butchr!

When Thom bought the car it had a padded dash. He replicated it with a stainless insert with 1882 swirls. This is an old photo but later George Barris Gene Winfield and Jimmy Shine put their signature on it.


The bright blue Kelsey-Hayes wires were added in the early 90’s when Coker announced the re-manufacture of the Firestone dirt track tire… “K-H well has to have each end of the adjustable spokes welded, lathe cut off the outer rim, roll and weld a band to widen them, lathe cut outer rim from a diner wheel, weld and balance… bet ya didn’t notice the difference from the original wires in the build shots.”

The rear bumper is a shortened & flipped the 36 commercial rear bumper, taillights are 48 Chevy units.


Close up of some of Butch Tucker’s beautiful Von Dutch style striping and the recessed license plate created by Harold Duffey.


“late 60’s Rod & Custom Editor Jake Jacobs restoration of the NieKamp roadster & article on chopping the top on his 34 coupe… Sam Foose’s metal work on the 48 Ford full custom… they were the revivalists of trends that were out of vogue – in the early 70’s when I started to resurrect my 33 the Resto Rod movement was the acceptable way to build a car… discarded vintage hot rod parts were cheap and finding support to build the flathead was near impressive – hence the 57 Corvette motor.”

Made it to LARS, and looking good.


“I went to Pleasanton, Ca with photos of the car in paint (not finished) and I recognized Jake from Pete & Jakes… he was with a group of friends and I asked him if he would look at the photos since he inspired the direction of the build… I still remember the look, but he said yes as his body language said no… he started shuffling through them, then going back and forth… I started to point and explain a feature and he said “Son – I know what I’m looking at” and shuffled some more… then ask has P-wood seen these? No clue who he was talking about but since no one had seen them – I said no… he told his friends he had to go and abruptly left (with my photos)… I’m dumbfounded and followed… he finally caught up with Pete Eastwood and he shuffles through them and asked if Ron had seen them… thus began my day of seeing faces and meeting my magazine hero’s…”

Pete of Pete & Jakes with Thom’s Ford at the Pleasanton show. Pete & Jake had inspired Thom to build the car as it was found and not build it as a Resto Rod which was the mainstream trend at that time Thom created it.


Sam Foose was always an idol to Thom… “Sam was with Chip at a show and I stopped and went over to say Hi… we chatted for a few minutes and he seemed distracted… I cut the conversation short and as I went to step away he asked “what do you have in it”… to my dismay my motor idling was the distraction.. so, he followed me back to the car & I opened the hood… I asked if he would mind a photo & his response cracked me up!”



Tom driving the car topless in the Football HOF parade.


Thom’s Ford was invited to be part of a select number of  significant ’33-34 Ford Hot Rods at The 2009 Glenmoor Gathering.


Ken Gross’s description of Thom’s For for the 2009 Glenmoor Gathering event.


Thom Metz on the left and Harold Duffey on the right with the ’33 Ford at the Gilmore Museum where the car sat for three years as part of the Hot Rod and Custom Car exhibition. Harold traveled from Phoenix to see the car after 25 years


Looking good at the Gilmore Museum.


The Ford is now on load to the Canton Classics Car Museum… where it has been for almost three years already.


Thom has had the ’33 Ford for forty-five years & it was in the Gilmore Museum for three years & was transferred to the Canton Classics Car Museum… where it is now for almost three as well. So for Thom it’s been an “out-of-site out-of-mind” situation… the CCCM is close to Thom’s home and he can take it out at any time… The car is sitting perfectly fine in the museum, but that is not really why he has created the car in the first place. While the ’33 was on loan to the Musea Thom has been created another roadster so now Thom is looking for a new caretaker of his ’33 Ford. If you are interested, get in touch with Thom for more info and get all the details we could not fit into this article. Email Thom Metz

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About the Author

Rik Hoving
Rik is the CCC editor in chief. As a custom car historian he is researching custom car history for many years. In 2004 he started the Custom Car Photo Archive that has become a place of joy for many custom car enthousiasts. Here at CCC Rik will bring you inspiring articles on the history of custom cars and builders. Like a true photo detective he will show us what's going on in all those amazing photos. He will write stories about everything you want to know in the realm of customizing. In daily life Rik is a Graphic Designer. He is married to the CCC webmaster and the father of a 10 year old son (they are both very happy with his excellent cooking skills)



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