Purple Passion

Bellevue Man Juices Up His Fourth ‘32 Pontiac

By Jeff Barnes

For Jim and Jan Nekuda, 1932 was a very good year for cars. But only if they’re named for an Indian chief.

The Bellevue couple is now on their fourth 1932 Pontiac, and their last is the best – a frame-up restoration of a four-door sedan that took thirty years to finish.

The project began in 1984 with a ’32 Pontiac sedan found in Homer, Neb. “It had been in the flood of ’52, and was in really rough shape,” Nekuda said. “I wanted to buy it as parts car for my ’32 Pontiac coupe but he didn’t want to sell it. I eventually traded him a ’42 Chevy four-door sedan in running order for it.”

The car sat on a trailer in the Nekudas’ backyard for many years until he decided to turn it into a street rod. He stripped, sandblasted, and painted the frame, having it boxed to hold a modern engine. The body was in too poor of shape for the project, but he found another ’32 sedan at in Sioux City.

“We brought it home and found out the transmission was bad,” Nekuda said, “so we decided to use the body from it on the frame of the other.”

The merging of the two cars also brought pieces of others. The rear end was from a 1957 Oldsmobile and the front end with rack-and-pinion steering from a Mustang II. The 350-c.i. engine is from a Pontiac Firebird and bored 30 over. “It’s got a ‘mild’ Crane cam,” he added. “We can drive it on the street, but it’s got a little more lift to it.” The power seats are from a ’98 Pontiac Bonneville and the steering column from an ’81 Olds.

Nekuda said the car is a mutt, “but that’s the way you want it – a true rod will have pieces from all kinds of cars.” The door handles are still original, he said, as are the ash trays. The original dash is now outfitted with Mooneyes gauges; a stereo system and disc player are included, along with a LeCarra steering wheel.

Nekuda, 69, has worked on cars virtually all of his life and did most of the work on this one and his other cars. “The welding, the paint, and the interior were all farmed out,” he said, “but everything else – from the motor to the electrical – I did myself.”

Former owner of an Omaha liquor store – the “Hooch Hutch” on L Street – Nekuda’s ’32 Pontiac specialization began in 1969. He was just getting out of the hospital and was looking for a project to keep him busy while home recuperating.

“A friend had three cars and told him if you ever want to sell the ’32 coupe, let me know,” he recounted. “The following year I bought it from him.” The Nekudas still have that coupe and run it regularly. He didn’t do a street-rod conversion on that, or even a complete restoration – that car has only 25,000 original miles on it and he wants it to continue to age gracefully.

The ’32 draws Nekuda’s interest because it was the lowest production year for Pontiac during the Great Depression. They were less common than their GM cousin Chevrolet and less expensive than the Cadillac.

Although the sedan is essentially “done,” tweaks continue for the car. The couple installed a hitch for it and bought a tear-drop camper to pull for out-of-town shows; they’ll eventually paint it purple and black to match the ’32.

“(This car) was a long time in the making, but well worth the wait,” said Jan.

(Originally published in the Omaha World-Herald, August 9, 2014)

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