The final product. Compare this photo with the pile of iron oxide Cool Hand Customs started with, and you can’t help but be impressed with the work that went into this car.

The final product. Compare this photo with the pile of iron oxide Cool Hand Customs started with, and you can’t help but be impressed with the work that went into this car.

What do you do when you find the remains of a 1937 Dodge sedan? If you’re EJ and Amy Fitzgerald of Cool Hand Customs in Middleton, WI, you drag it home and transform it into a custom sedan delivery.

To say the Dodge was rough would be an understatement. “I got the car in the shop and started to remove all of the rust,” EJ said. “When I was done and saw how little metal was left, I just dropped the tools and went home. It was bad!”

Bad perhaps, but nothing the Fitzgeralds couldn’t handle. EJ and Amy have been into hot rods and custom motorcycles from a young age, and tinkered with old iron when not running a construction business. When the economy tanked in 2008, so did the construction business. EJ and Amy decided to roll the dice and open a custom bike shop. Up came lucky sevens—the shop quickly expanded to include custom car builds and Cool Hand was on the map.

Once EJ recovered from his shock, the decision was made to turn the four-door Dodge into a custom two-door sedan delivery. Untold hours of fabrication included these mods:

  • Welded rear door
  • Fabricated trunk lid and floor, firewall, rear skirting, and other body panels
  • Body channeled 8 inches
  • Eliminated vent windows
  • Custom side windows

Once the bodywork was finished, the Dodge was sprayed two-tone cream and tan with a gold separation along the belt line. The paint was custom-mixed by Specialist Paints.

The Dodge’s frame was reused as issued by the factory. Cool Hand Customs took the whole thing apart and gave the frame and chassis components a makeover with KBS products—Klean Surface Cleaner, Rust Blast, Frame Coater, Rust Seal, and TopKoat paint. The front and rear leaf spring suspension was retained, supplemented by Monroe shocks. Cool Hand even kept the stock drum brakes and manual steering.

The chassis is painted a classy copper flake over black (call it root beer), also custom-mixed by Specialist Paints. The whole shebang rides on 15 x 4.5-inch factory front and 15 x 8.5 slotted aluminum rims shod with Coker Classic bias-ply whitewall tires.

The Dodge came with a rebuilt 318 cubic inch small block backed by a four-speed transmission. Cool Hand left the engine’s insides alone, but added some go-fast parts including an Edelbrock Performer intake and 500 cfm carburetor, a Pertronix Ignitor electronic distributor conversion, Taylor ignition wires, Tuff Stuff 100-amp alternator, Powermaster Mastertorque gear reduction starter, and a Be Cool aluminum radiator.

EJ wanted to run T-bucket style headers on the Dodge, so he fabricated a set using a Summit Racing Sprint Car Header Kit and a pair of Patriot Performance header flanges. He then covered the headers with Thermo-Tech header wrap to keep the heat in the pipes and away from his tender skin.

The interior was Amy Fitzgerald’s domain. She built the front seats from “some import seats we had in the attic” and upholstery foam, then covered them with microfiber material in two-tone brown. The rear seats are wood-framed with foam. Most of the floor is custom oak planking with a splash of caramel-color carpet on the transmission tunnel and the toe board. The gauge insert is also custom oak, filled with a set of New Vintage USA Woodward Series gauges. A Grant wood steering wheel tops the stock steering column.

If you dig this Dodge—and why wouldn’t you—Summit Racing has created Cool Hand Customs 1937 Dodge Parts Combos that have the major upgrade parts used in the build. You don’t have to go all-out like EJ and Amy did, but you can get creative and use combos for most any mid- to late-1930s Dodge or Plymouth hot rod project.

So what’s next for Cool Hand Customs? Let’s just say it’s about 20 years newer and will sit very, very low. We’ll spill all the details as soon as we get them.

old car on a flatbed trailer covered in snow
floor of a hot rod build project in progress
man making template for a custom hot rod radiator cowl
dodge hot rod coupe body fabrication
seam weld on a hot rod body in bare steel prior to paint
modified hot rod coupe body prior to paint
old car body in a paint spray booth
masking a vintage dodge car frame during paint process
floorboards of a hot rod build in progress
interior of a vintage hotrod
2318 small lock mopar engine in a dodge hotrod
vintage hot rod in front of a shop

This is what EJ and Amy Fitzgerald at Cool Hand Customs started with. The ’37 Dodge came with a rebuilt 318 V8 and a four-speed, but minus hood, fenders, and other parts. Plus, it had two doors too many. The snow was free.

The entire floor was ripped out, and a new toe board and transmission tunnel were fabricated from sheet steel. The outer frame rail area at the door opening got decorative sheetmetal covers that will be molded into the door frames and rocker panels.

Here is EJ Fitzgerald creating more sheetmetal magic, this time on the Dodge’s grille shell. A Be Cool aluminum radiator will sit inside it. Note the cool expanded metal grille insert.

The really serious body surgery was out back. EJ welded up the back doors, filled in the unwanted windows to create the sedan delivery look, modified the trunk and rear valence, and created a custom skirt from steel tubing and sheetmetal.

More body surgery. Since there won’t be any hood, EJ smoothed out the seams where the hood would meet the cowl area. He also modified the lower leading edge of the cowl to clear the Sprint-style headers he made from a Summit Racing header kit.

Here is the much-modified body, ready for final metalworking and a trip to the spray booth.

And here is the Dodge in its cream, tan, and gold paint, waiting for some clearcoat. Check out the cool door hinge covers. EJ guessimates he has about 1,000 hours in body work and paint.

The Dodge’s frame was solid, but a mess cosmetically. Cool Hand rehabbed the frame with KBS products— Klean Surface Cleaner, Rust Blast, Frame Coater, Rust Seal, and TopKoat black paint. EJ topcoated the frame with custom-mix copper flake, which you can just make out in the photo.

Amy Fitzgerald was in charge of the interior. The floor is custom-made oak planking with caramel-color carpet on the toe board and transmission tunnel. Note the Thermo-Tec insulation behind the carpet.

The dash inserts and door panels are also custom oak. The gauges are New Vintage USA’s Woodward Series, and the steering wheel is from Grant.

A 318 cubic inch small block powers the Dodge. The engine was rebuilt before Cool Hand got it, so they concentrated on upgrades like an Edelbrock Performer intake and carburetor, a Pertronix electronic conversion for the points distributor, a Be Cool radiator, and a set of headers EJ fabricated from a Summit Racing header kit. A Powermaster Mastertorque gear reduction starter gets the small block cranked over. EJ also painted the block to match the gold trim on the body, and gave the Edelbrock valve covers and air cleaner a dull satin finish. He also gets credit for the custom-bent copper fuel lines and about a million little brackets and tabs.

The final product. Compare this photo with the pile of iron oxide Cool Hand Customs started with, and you can’t help but be impressed with the work that went into this car.

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Author: Alan Rebescher

Editor, author, PR man—Alan Rebescher has done it all in a 25 year career in the high performance industry. He has written and photographed many feature stories and tech articles for Summit Racing and various magazines including Hot Rod, Car Craft, and Popular Hot Rodding, and edited Summit Racing’s Street & Strip magazine in the 1990s. His garage is currently occupied by a 1965 Ford Mustang.