A simple task for Gibson, until he was told he had less than five months to complete it.
Gibson, owner of Hoot’s Rod and Custom in El Mirage, Ariz., took Bridgewater’s requests and made them a reality Thursday evening at John Ascuaga’s Nugget when he pulled the cover off the ‘37 Ford and allowed Bridgewater to sit in his ride for the first time. The ear-to-ear smile spoke volumes for the reserved Bridgewater.
“It has all the original steel,” Bridgewater said, “That's why I decided to rebuild it because it was so original and I didn't want to change the posture of the car, I didn’t want to alter it. I wanted to make something special inside.”
Keeping the original steel intact and untampered added to the beauty of the car, which also houses a Ford Racing Coyote engine, dishing out 412 horsepower. The engine, six-speed push-button transmission and nine-inch Ford rear end were just some of the “amenities” Bridgewater spoke about.
“It’s probably one of the few cars at the show that is Ford, Ford, Ford,” he said. “Most people build a hot rod and they put a Chevrolet motor in it or a Chrysler Hemi. This has a Racing Coyote.
“One thing I insisted on was that we did not alter anything that Henry (Ford) built on the car. The dash has never had a grinder on it. It is all original. All the controls were built into the console so nothing was compromised on the original dash.”
Inside the trunk of the ‘37 hot rod, painted a faded adobe metallic color, was access to the air conditioning, battery, stereo and wiring for the car; an amenity removing the need for Bridgewater to make adjustments laying upside down inside the car. Gibson said the modifications made to the car were part of a fairly simple build, but the time constraint posed the biggest challenge.
“When he bought this car and he brought it to us, it looked fantastic,” Gibson said. “We had people who came into the shop that didn’t even want us to touch the car. It was the original, complete ‘37 Ford.
“After pulling the paint off of it, she was a little bit rougher than we thought. We actually replaced all the floorboards and the trunk area. It was a great build but we had our hands full with a lot of body work. The time crunch was by far the worst.”
Bridgewater said, hyperbolically, that Gibson and his team worked 24 hours per day to finish the vehicle on time. While Gibson said every day was not a 24-hour day, the job did come with a few of them.
“We loaded the car up Monday morning at 6 o’clock and the Sunday night before we were still cleaning the car at 1 o’clock,” Gibson said. “We had a couple 24-hour days on it. We wanted to make him happy and we wanted to get it here for him.”
Still, despite the hours and labor poured into the project, it was worth it to see Bridgewater’s face and have the handiwork on display in Sparks, according to Gibson.
“Honestly, about 10 minutes ago I was ready to throw up because I was so nervous,” Gibson said after the unveiling of the car. “He had not seen the car fully completed yet so this is his first time. He seems to be happy and everybody that sees it loves it, so I am okay now.
“I definitely want to thank the Nugget for letting us do this and being so great with everything that we needed, and allowing us to show off our work like this.”
As for Bridgewater and his 1937 Ford Coupe, he says it will only be a show car for a short period before it hits the streets.
“I might keep showing it for about a year then I am going to drive it,” he said. “It’s not a radical car, it is very driveable. I have another ‘37 at home, but I am looking forward to driving this one.”