Iron Orchid: A bad-arse, way-out 1934 Ford coupe

Traditional styling meets show car detailing in this modern-day 60s show rod

Photographers: Tim Sutton

It was dubbed Iron Orchid by none other than legendary hot rod artist Robert Williams and was built to compete for the highly prestigious Ridler Award at the Detroit Autorama. The history books will show that it didn’t win — in fact it didn’t even make the Great 8 finalists — but the photo albums and memories of everyone that attended will be full of images of this car, and to owner Beau Boeckmann and builder Dave Shuten of Galpin Auto Sports, that’s way more important.

First published in the January 2014 issue of Street Machine

“I was ready to shake it up a little bit, I’m tired of seeing all the mundane monochromatic soft-coloured cars, you know, they all kind of just disappear. I was at the Ridler and I can hardly remember the cars that made the Great 8, but everybody is still talking about the one I built, so I guess we did the right thing,” Dave says.

Dave started off with a genuine steel body that was chopped 3.5 inches but done in such a way that the pillars were not leaned back. Dave reckons that’s a great look if you’re going for a Bonneville racer, but he wanted to keep the lines more in keeping with Henry Ford’s original vision. This meant a few inches were added to the length of the roof along with a host of other custom touches; the roof was filled, one-off splash aprons fabricated, the rear panel was stretched two inches to accommodate the ’65 Corvette taillights (all four of them!), the deck lid was louvered, rear quarters rounded and custom hood sides were made by Bobby Walden to incorporate acrylic inserts.

Those acrylic inserts give you a great look at the 427 side-oiler which, although it’s chromed to the hilt and detailed to perfection, still pumps out almost 700 horsepower! The blue acrylic was also put to good use on the top loader transmission: “You can literally watch it shift gears when you’re driving. It winds up with fluid pretty quickly, but it looks really bitchin’ just sitting there static and you can see all the gears and everything in the trans. I just tried to think out of the box and do stuff that’s clearly traditional but not what people have seen before, and that was just one of those ideas. Like with the hood sides, just bring attention to what’s there without opening it all up. I wanted to expose as much as I could just to bring attention to things that would otherwise be overlooked.”

Dave also featured many other parts of the car that would normally be hidden on a show car. Check out that Ansen scattershield, it’s been polished and chromed to perfection, so why hide it with a transmission tunnel? The floor-mounted Schroederr steering box is another cool touch, but like everything with this car, has been done just a little different. The only place it would fit was down low, which solved the problem of having a long Pitman arm sticking out of the middle of the cowl — which, on a ’34 Ford can be a real problem when you’ve got the wheels turned to the right and you can’t open the door!

The key to building a car like this and pulling it off is to use all the right parts and that takes time, and these days with genuine 60s speed equipment becoming quite collectible, a fair bit of money too. “The challenge is to take the time to accumulate all the right parts and not settle for the stuff that was second or third best,” Dave says. “A lot of that stuff is really hard to find now. There is nothing newer than ’65 on the whole car, unless I made it or had it specially made — like the tyres.

I was ready to shake it up a little bit. I’m tired of seeing mundane soft-coloured cars

“I actually own a NOS set of those rear tyres, but the biggest you could get those in was 27 inches tall and it just didn’t look right. I had these custom-made into 30s. I just really like the dual white line with the red line in between because it just instantly dates everything and nobody has really seen them before. I guess that’s what I go for more than anything, all the shit that people either have never seen or haven’t seen in 50 years.”

Dave adds that finding parts for an FE motor these days is difficult because there wasn’t that much stuff made for them when they were brand new, but that didn’t stop him finding a brand new Mickey Thompson cross-ram manifold: “It’s from 1965 and called a Power Ram. I found out after getting it that stock Holleys or Carters won’t work because the height of the manifold body is too close to the carb base platforms, and I didn’t have any room to run spacers, so I had to find the original centre-squirter carbs off a 426 Hemi. That manifold cost $3000 before I got it chromed!”

Another big ticket item which most people probably wouldn’t even notice is the shifter boot. Check it out, it’s white rubber! “It’s a NOS Fenton boot from ’59 and I’ve only ever seen two, and I owned both of them. I’ve never seen another one. The one in the car I found on eBay, but someone else wanted it really bad because we paid almost $500 for it! But it’s one of those things that really makes a big difference, because everybody would have just thrown a leather boot in there and it just wouldn’t have looked period.”

Dave even stepped outside the box with the wheels. Whereas most would have headed straight for a set of chromies or Radirs, his choice of Astro steel slots — a favourite of Ed Roth — was for a couple of reasons: “They are an original set from the 60s that I’d been sitting on for years. I just sent them to Steve and let him do his thing with them. He smoothed all the welds and made the backs as pretty as the fronts. I take painful lengths to use parts that aren’t reproduced somewhere and they are one of the few period wheels that nobody is making a knock-off of. I try real hard to stay on that side of things so people know I’m using the legit shit as opposed to just what everybody else can find. A lot of people think ‘period perfect’ is the Speedway catalogue, but that’s not really the case.”

Panel painting was all the rage back in the 60s, although you would usually see it on the more way out creations of Ed Roth. Iron Orchid has a masterful combination of colours and patterns that were laid on by Darryl Hollenbeck at Vintage Color Studio, one of the best in the business. “It’s ice blue with two different gold pearls, candy burple fogs with a little bit of pink mixed in to lighten them up. All the pinstriping is hand laid. All the lacework, the starbursts, the fades, it’s absolutely perfect. Darryl is literally a god when it comes to this,” Dave says. The panel work also continues under the car and onto the Moon fuel tank in the boot.

The interior is just as stunning with pearl white leather stitched in a diamond tufted pattern by Mark Lopez from Elegance Auto Interiors. The seats are from a Ford Thunderbolt and the dash has been modified to accept the centre gauge panel from a ’52 Willys Aero coupe. “There are even upholstered panels under the car that you can’t even see and the firewall is trimmed to match as well. He went over the top in five days and knocked this out for me.

“One of the most important things about this car that almost everyone misses is the grille. Between myself and Steve Tracy at Advanced Plating, we made that a one-piece ’34 grille with a moulded and sculpted-in bullnose and radiator cap. It’s an absolute work of art. I can’t say enough about the work that they do there, they really go the extra mile with everything they do. I’ve never got back anything that was even remotely close to not perfect. Everything is perfect and accounted for, I sent him 2020 parts and they didn’t lose a screw.”

For Beau and Dave, the crowning touch was to have the car christened by Robert Williams: “He’s a close personal friend of ours and he and his wife Suzanne were involved and interested in the car right from the beginning. Basically he wanted something that was powerful and beautiful at the same time.”

Yep, with 700 wild horses on tap, blinding chrome and flawless paint, that pretty much sums it up.


Paint:Ice blue, gold pearl and candy burple panels
Type:427 Ford side-oiler
Inlet:Mickey Thompson Power Ram
Carb:Holley centre-squirters x 2
Heads:Ported medium rise with full roller valvetrain
Cam:Solid roller
Radiator:Fully chromed
Exhaust:Custom tube headers
Ignition:Fomoco dual point distributor
Box:1965 top loader
Clutch:McLeod dual-plate with hydraulic throw
Diff:1960 Ford 9-inch
Front end:Four-inch drop I-beam filled centre
Steering:Schroeder cowl steering
Rims:Astro steel slots 15×4.5 (f), 15×8 (r)
Rubber:One-off 30x15x9.00 replica M/T Super Stock by Hurst Tire Co

Robert Williams, Pete ‘Hot Dog’ Finlan – chassis paint, Ryan Shostle – headers, Bobby Walden – one-off hood, Steve Tracy at Advance Plating – all chrome work, Manuel Lopez & JD Hendrickson – help with bodywork, Lucky Burton – help with the chop, Darryl Hollenbeck at Vintage Color Studio – paint, Rory Pentecost – pinstriping, Mark Lopez at Elegance Auto Interiors – trim.