For over 15 years New Jersey hot rodder and Radir Wheel company owner Rich Conklin has been gathering parts to restore the famed Dorman-Koopman ’32 Ford AA/Street Roadster. Originally built in Michigan, the car epitomizes the wilder drag roadsters of the ’60s with its towering stance, thunderous blown Hemi and show car detail. Recently Rich finished the rolling chassis, and we had the opportunity to photograph it before the body is bolted to the frame. Look for more on this bitchin’ roadster in the not-so-distant future.

We recently traveled to Montville, New Jersey, to visit Radir Wheels owner Rich Conklin, who’s restoring the Dorman-Koopman AA/Street Roadster. The blown Hemi-powered Deuce went through several iterations before it was mothballed in the ’80s, but it’s best known for its mid-’60s #496 guise as seen in this snapshot from the Tom Davison collection. We believe this was taken at the ’65 NHRA Springnationals in Bristol, Tennessee.

We recently traveled to Montville, New Jersey, to visit Radir Wheels owner Rich Conklin, who’s restoring the Dorman-Koopman AA/Street Roadster. The blown Hemi-powered Deuce went through several iterations before it was mothballed in the ’80s, but it’s best known for its mid-’60s #496 guise as seen in this snapshot from the Tom Davison collection. We believe this was taken at the ’65 NHRA Springnationals in Bristol, Tennessee.

The trip also gave me the opportunity to look at the cool stuff around Rich’s “World Famous Hot Rod Farm”—18 acres that have been in his family for over 100 years. Today, in addition to serving as Radir Wheels’ headquarters, it remains a working farm as well as home base for the Dead Man’s Curve car club he co-founded in 1978.

Adjacent to Rich's main workshop is his ’39 Ford DeLuxe woody surf wagon, which looks killer with its nose-down rake and whitewalls with fully polished Radir Tri-Ribb IIIs. In the background is his son’s steel Simca body—the French version of the popular Fiat Topolino.

Adjacent to Rich’s main workshop is his ’39 Ford DeLuxe woody surf wagon, which looks killer with its nose-down rake and whitewalls with fully polished Radir Tri-Ribb IIIs. In the background is his son’s steel Simca body—the French version of the popular Fiat Topolino.

Next to the woody is Rich’s ’55 Chevy, which he’s owned since 1974. It’s powered by a 327-inch smallblock with double-hump heads hooked to a Muncie four-speed, and wears the same dark green paint Rich sprayed in 1976 (which still looks great). He still drives it everywhere, though the starter gave up the ghost a few days before I stopped by.

Next to the woody is Rich’s ’55 Chevy, which he’s owned since 1974. It’s powered by a 327-inch smallblock with double-hump heads hooked to a Muncie four-speed, and wears the same dark green paint Rich sprayed in 1976 (which still looks great). He still drives it everywhere, though the starter gave up the ghost a few days before I stopped by.

New Jersey’s always had a colorful hot rodding scene, and for decades Rich and his friends have done their part to maintain that reputation. A few years before forming Dead Man’s Curve, he built a raucous 327/four-speed-equipped ’55 Chevy in the vein of the Gasser-style hot rods and “Street Freaks” of the time. He still owns it today, having racked up over 100,000 miles traveling to shows all over the east coast and Midwest. It shares garage space with a ’39 Ford woody surf wagon, a ’37 Plymouth pickup, a ’67 Corvette with a factory 400hp 427, and a large number of other projects.

Here’s the Dorman-Koopman roadster’s chassis today, as restored by Rich. After the car was retired from the drag strip, it was put on the street around 1970 and then parked a decade later. The last owner, Bob Newman, used the body for another hot rod project and sold the rest to Rich in 2000. He’s assembled all the missing pieces (a reproduction steel body will replace the original) and is close to wrapping up the complete restoration.

Here’s the Dorman-Koopman roadster’s chassis today, as restored by Rich. After the car was retired from the drag strip, it was put on the street around 1970 and then parked a decade later. The last owner, Bob Newman, used the body for another hot rod project and sold the rest to Rich in 2000. He’s assembled all the missing pieces (a reproduction steel body will replace the original) and is close to wrapping up the complete restoration.

Among those projects is the one I traveled to see: the Dorman-Koopman Deuce. It’s always been one of my favorite drag roadsters (along with the equally meticulous ’28 Chevy AA/SR campaigned by Hugh Tucker). Rich found the car in 2000—a few years after starting Radir (which, with their mag wheels, spindle-mounts and cheater slicks, is another extension of his obsession with ’60s-era drag racing style). The roadster’s steel body wasn’t for sale because it was already being used for another hot rod project, but Rich was able to buy most of the remaining parts including the heavily modified Deuce frame, much of the original suspension, the magnesium five-spokes with slicks and rare Michelin X radials, and even the original upholstery.

Most of the major components, like the boxed ’32 rails, elaborate tubular X-member, headers, engine and suspension were there, but there were several important pieces that needed to be found or recreated. Among the toughest to find were the big 17-inch three-spoke, three-hole steering wheel and the Hilborn injection, which Rich purchased from racer-turned-racing historian Don Montgomery.

Most of the major components, like the boxed ’32 rails, elaborate tubular X-member, headers, engine and suspension were there, but there were several important pieces that needed to be found or recreated. Among the toughest to find were the big 17-inch three-spoke, three-hole steering wheel and the Hilborn injection, which Rich purchased from racer-turned-racing historian Don Montgomery.

A call to Brookville for a steel Deuce roadster body solved the sheetmetal issue. Tracking down the rest of the missing pieces was a different story. Mike Dorman passed away in the ’80s, but Don Koopman is still living in Michigan and was a huge help. He’s provided a wealth of information, as well as some amazing vintage photos and even an 8mm film of him and Mike building, running, wrecking (!), rebuilding and racing the roadster at Indy. We’ll be sharing it all with you soon.

Rich will have the chassis on display at Dead Man’s Curve’s annual spring party on June 17th at his farm, located at 65 River Road in Montville. And he plans to have the car completed in its metallic blue 1965 livery for their Wild Hot Rod Weekend car show over Labor Day weekend in nearby Mahwah, New Jersey. You can visit deadmanscurveusa.com for details about both events.—Curt Iseli

Currently in the shop, in addition to the Dorman-Koopman roadster, is this very solid ’39 Ford convertible sedan that’s also getting the surf rod treatment. In the background is the reproduction steel body that replaces the original Dorman-Koopman sheetmetal. The seats sitting inside it, however, are from the original car.

Currently in the shop, in addition to the Dorman-Koopman roadster, is this very solid ’39 Ford convertible sedan that’s also getting the surf rod treatment. In the background is the reproduction steel body that replaces the original Dorman-Koopman sheetmetal. The seats sitting inside it, however, are from the original car.

Cool hot rodding relics are tucked in just about every corner of the farm—even beyond what’s in the barns and garages. One example was this 1967 Ford cabover box truck Rich purchased from the well known California Speed & Sport Shop, which has been a staple of New Jersey’s hot rodding scene since 1945. It's still in business, and it's operated by the Barzda family—just as it has been since the beginning.

Cool hot rodding relics are tucked in just about every corner of the farm—even beyond what’s in the barns and garages. One example was this 1967 Ford cabover box truck Rich purchased from the well known California Speed & Sport Shop, which has been a staple of New Jersey’s hot rodding scene since 1945. It’s still in business, and it’s operated by the Barzda family—just as it has been since the beginning.