When Kip Hansberry agreed to a GHR article on the 1948 Ford Coupe he and his brother Jesse are building, he sent me some pictures of it. Along with his ‘47 Plymouth. And ‘31 Chevrolet Victoria. And ‘65 Chevy II. All of which he has built out of his family’s shop, Hambone’s Speed Shop.
Kip provided me with lots of pictures. You can see all of them by using the link at the end of this article to go to the GHR Photos page. You can see even more by following Kip on Instagram at @yrrebsnahpik.
But before we get to the cars, here’s a little Hansberry family history. When Kip’s dad Kim was a little kid, his mother called him “Hambone”. That’s why the 4-car garage the Hansberrys work out of is known as Hambone’s Speed Shop.
That’s a picture of Kip (on the right), his dad Kim, and brother Jesse in front of Kim’s Z/28. “My dad was always a Chevy guy,” Kip told me. The other picture is Kip and his brother and cousin playing at the drag strip while his Dad and uncle were racing.
So you can see the family history with Chevys and drag racing.
You can see why Kip’s hot rods are built like gassers, and in fact, have all actually been raced, even though they’re all also street legal and driven regularly.
And you can see why Kip and Jesse are members of the Border Bandits Drag Racing Club in Wisconsin. The Border Bandits have several cars that compete in the Southeast Gassers Association vintage (1960s style) drag racing series.
Turns out the Border Bandits, and the Southeast Gassers, and the Hansberrys, all have some pretty strong ideas about how a vintage hot rod should be built.
1947 Plymouth Coupe
“I’ve had the Plymouth a couple of years,” Kip told me. “It was an old hot rod. I got it as a rolling chassis at a swap meet. It was pretty rough.”
The Plymouth had a 400 cubic inch Chrysler, but Kip said he had “no plans” of sticking with the Mopar engine. “I planned to put in a small block Chevy and a 4-speed,” he said.
Kip told the Border Bandits what he was thinking. As he recalled the conversation: “One of the club members told me ‘That’s just wrong. You can’t put a Chevy in that.’ And this guy wasn’t even a Mopar guy!”
And since Kip agrees with a more purist approach to building hot rods, he changed his mind on the engine. He bought a used motorhome for $600 that had a 440, and that engine, with dual quads on a high rise manifold, now resides in his Plymouth.
Kip likes to bang gears, and he found an A-833 4-speed on Craig’s List that said it had an aftermarket bellhousing. But when Kip went to see it, it actually had a Mopar cast steel bellhousing that was only available on factory Hemi race engines, and only in two years, 1965 and 1968. It’s a rare find – Kip says it’s probably a $1000 bellhousing – that’s a cool feature in his gasser.
Last fall Kip took the Plymouth to the strip. He made an easy half pass just to check everything out. Then, on his first full pass, the driver’s side axle broke. (At least he knows he’s making good power and getting good traction!) Kip’s in the process of installing some stronger aftermarket axles right now.
The Chevy II was Kip’s first major custom build, completed in 2010. As he says, “It was my first major build where there was no turning back. This wasn’t just bolting parts on to a muscle car.” From the photos you can see it’s a full-fledged example of a first generation altered wheelbase factory experimental car, the precursors to funny cars.
What you might not notice is the license plate. I asked Kip if it was really street legal. “Oh yeah!” he replied. “I drove that thing around. It actually drove really well for what it was.”
It must have been a really nice hot rod because Kip ended up selling it for three times what he had in it. “I’ve never made money on a car before or since,” he added.
After the Chevy II, Kip built and sold the ‘31 Victoria and a ‘55 Chevy gasser. A self-described “big guy”, Kip sold the Victoria because it was pretty crowded in there for him and a passenger. The ‘55 was built exclusively for the drag strip, and Kip found he didn’t have any interest in a race-only car.
Jesse had his sights set on a T-bucket roadster, but as the project took shape, he felt it was too small for his liking. He found the ‘48 Ford, and the Hansberrys started working on it last November.
The body came off and work began on fixing up the chassis. In 1948 the Ford had a transverse leaf spring rear suspension. Kip’s replacing that with a coil over suspension – originally purchased for the T-bucket – with a Strange Engineering center section, 3.50 gears, and 35-spline axles. The gears were selected for the 1500 pound T-bucket, and might not be ideal for the 3000 pound coupe, but for now they’ll stay in. The rear end is located with 1¼” square tubing ladder bars and a panhard bar. (Interestingly, the Ford was equipped with front and rear panhard bars from the factory in 1948.)
The Ford’s front suspension will use largely stock components, but Kip has split the front wishbones and brought them out to the frame rails. That required moving the front spring perches since they were mounted on the wishbones.
The coupe has four wheel disk brakes. Jesse works at an auto parts store – as Kip described it, “an old school parts store, not an ’air fresheners R us’ store”. With some research Jesse found out that the rotors from a late model Crown Victoria Police Interceptor would fit the Moser rear axles, if the center hub was slightly bored out – a job Kip took care of at the machine shop where he works. Front spindles and brakes were purloined from the T-bucket.
In keeping with the period-correct look, there are polished aluminum slotted mag wheels on all four corners, 15 x 4.5 on the front and 15 x 10 on the rear. Those rear mags are wrapped with 10.5 inch drag slicks. The front features period correct Firestone bias ply tires. (Kip thinks having radial tires on a 60s style gasser is just not right.)
The Ford is getting a big block Chevy, and I got the impression that no one from the Border Bandits is going to be able to talk Kip out of it this time. It’s originally a 454 truck motor, but has been updated with closed chamber cylinder heads which bring the compression ratio up to 9.25:1 – healthy, but still allowing the use of pump gas. Valves will be opened by a Lunati Bootlegger cam. The intake side features the Hansberry standard dual quad carbs on a high rise manifold.
Amazingly, if you position a big block Chevy in a ‘48 Ford such that the distributor has ½” of clearance from the firewall, the #1 spark plug sits over the axle and a set of Speedway headers for a ‘55 Chevy fit perfectly. No firewall modifications are necessary and there’s even room for the original 1948 steering system. That factory steering has been refurbished and will remain on the car – including the original steering wheel.
Jesse prefers an automatic, so the coupe will have a TurboHydramatic 400 with a manual valve body. Kip had to weld in a new transmission crossmember for the TH400. The Coupe’s “three-on-the-tree” shifter is being converted to operate the automatic.
The original body is complete, minus a few trim pieces. The yellow paint is fading, but Kip said, “We’re not doing anything to the body. Because as soon as you paint the car, the chrome doesn’t look good. Right now, the chrome and the paint kind of match. It’s earned its battle scars. It’s got an old Engle Racing Cams sticker that’s so faded out you can hardly read it. We’re leaving that too.”
The Ford is designed for the street, but Kip is guessing his brother’s car will run mid 11s at the strip. “He had a similar motor with a single 4-barrel in a 3700 pound Chevelle,” he said, “and it ran in the 12s.”
The day after he and I talked, Kip emailed me to say the chassis had been completed. The next step will be to break in the engine, and then do some sheet metal work on the floors. Kip expects the Ford to be out on the road this summer.
“I think it’s going to be a pretty cool car when it’s done,” he said.
As if replacing the axles on the Plymouth and finishing a ground-up build of the Ford are not enough, Hambone’s Speed Shop already has its next project lined up.
Kip has a 1969 Rambler American. A 1969 car is too new to run in the Southeastern Gassers Super Stock class Kip wants to compete in. But he’s got a solution.
He has the roof off an earlier model American (the roof line changed in 1968). He’s going to transplant that roof onto his Rambler to make it “older” and eligible to race.
I thought a roof swap sounded like a pretty difficult project, but apparently it’s not – if the Border Bandits are involved.
“Every Tuesday night we have a shop night,” Kip told me. “One of the guys has us over to his garage. He supplies the food and we work on his car.”
The Tuesday shop nights (currently on hold due to the Corona virus) allow the club members to get together and use their individual expertise on each other’s car. Although, Kip pointed out, “A lot of times, not a lot of work gets done. We’ll get a little something done, and then bench race for 2 to 3 hours.”
But Kip explained how the club’s shared expertise would help his Rambler roof swap. “Two of the guys in the club are brothers, they own Brothers Auto Body and Repair. Replacing a roof is a joke to them. And when I sold the Victoria, part of the deal with my buddy Jeffrey – he’s a body guy – included him painting my next car. So the Rambler will be that car. He’s got to worry about the fit and finish, not me.”
I think it’s pretty cool that Kip has built Plymouths, Chevrolets, Fords, and coming soon, an AMC. He’s a renaissance hot rodder, covering the Big Four American automakers.
But you know what’s even cooler? Hambone’s kids are still playing at the drag strip.
Photos courtesy of Kip Hansberry
Click here to see more photos of the Hambone SS cars.
You can follow Kip on Instagram at @yrrebsnahpik.