SP Rides: She’s A ‘Basket Case’ Beauty


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By Michael Kitchens

Eleven years ago, the 1940 Ford Coupe that graces these pages was a complete “basket case” — meaning, it was separated into a thousand pieces and in need of restoration.

Enter Ronald “Dirty Old Man” Ruiz, who could never resist a good challenge. Ronald responded to the ad in the local newspaper by purchasing the automobile and immediately putting it back together.

Then, he took it all apart.

Ronald has been a hot rod en- thusiast all of his life after getting the bug from his father. He learned how to drive by sneaking out in his dad’s car and driving around the block. Originally from Kalihi, he even dabbled by building motorcycles in the 1960s. His first car was a 1951 Ford 4-door sedan. As a teenager, money was scarce, so he modified the car the best he could and was a regular at Sandy’s and Barbers Point’s illegal drags.

But times have changed and Ronald has a definite plan for this stunning beauty. To see where he was going, however, he first had to find out what was missing from the classic.

First to come was the frame, which was mildly worked over and fully painted. Next in the assembly came a 350 punched out to 383 Stroker and fitted with a Demon carburetor, which looks absolutely wicked with a dual air filter setup. The front-end suspension is a Mustang II fitted with power steering, while the transmission is a Turbo 350 mated to a 9-inch Lincoln Versailles rear-end with front and rear disc brakes. After com- pleting the frame and engine, Ronald covered the components up and set out to work on the body.

The all-original body needed a decent once-over to remove the minor bumps and dings. After the repair, Ronald prepped the indi- vidual body pieces with primer and had his friend, “Mike Da Hawaiian,” shoot it down in the

very popular yet classic ’57 Tropical Turquoise color. The chrome badges and trim pieces were then replaced with new reproductions. Just six months ago, the iridescent flame job was added and, when viewed at the proper angle, really sets the car off.

Once the body and frame were com- pleted, they were finally mated together. Jimmy Wise did the wiring for the car and Ronald took care of the interior. The upholstery was added, as were the individual chrome pieces. Although some were done by special order, many of the pieces were chromed locally. The interior sparkles so much, in fact, you could experience temporary blindness just by sit- ting in the cockpit.

Lastly, the running gear is Billet Specialties fitted with Firestone Supreme Si 225/75R/15s in the back and Delta Es- teem 195/60R/15s in the front.

Ronald has always wanted a 1940 Coupe, and has absolutely no intention to sell it. The build took about 18 months, and his current plan is to enjoy it by cruising Oahu — and maybe even Maui and the Big Island — with his wife.

“I just about worked on it every day.

That’s it, though,” he says. “I’m working on a 1929 pick-up truck now.”