Photos by Jim Coventry, courtesy Auctions America.
Oliver Hine didn’t set out to build a custom that would set the show world on fire and continue to win awards nearly six decades after it was built. Instead, he wanted a car to go drag racing, but by 1953 it was clear that his 1933 Ford five-window coupe was destined for glory in another arena. Nicknamed 25 Varieties, a spin on his name, the number of cars that contributed to the build and condiment maker Heinz’s famed “57 Varieties,” the distinctive custom heads to auction for the very first time in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, April 1, as a featured offering in this year’s Auctions America sale.
Hine, who hailed from Charlotte, Michigan, raced the car in 1951 and 1952 before changing directions and opting to build the five-window coupe as a show car. It isn’t clear if the distinctive Brewster town car grille (cut down by seven inches to better fit the Ford body) was added before or after the car was raced, but it soon became the focal point of the build.
From there, Hine used sheet aluminum to fabricate a custom hood, liberated fenders from a ’37 Chevy, lengthened the frame to fit the Cadillac V-8, and channeled the body by four inches. The frame was also stretched in the rear to add the spare tire (which also conceals the fuel filler neck in the center of the spoked wheel), and the modifications to the frame alone are reported to have used parts from five different cars. Conventional bumpers rode too high and ruined the car’s lines, so Hine opted to fix nerf bars instead.
In its stock form, the 331-cu.in. Cadillac V-8 used in the build was fed by a single two-barrel carburetor and rated at 160 horsepower. To boost output, Hine added a trio of Holley 94 two-barrel carburetors and dual exhausts ending in lake-style side pipes. The original transmission was most likely a Hydra-Matic, but today the car (which was restored in 2011) uses a 700R4 Turbo Hydra-Matic to send power to the Oldsmobile rear end.
Completed in early 1955, Hine’s custom coupe received an invitation to a rod and custom show taking place in Ford’s Dearborn rotunda. Though the blue oval brand had been a favorite of hot rodders for years, Ford’s special event manager, J.G. Mullaly, recognized that Chevrolet’s then-new small-block V-8 would have an impact on the custom market, and wanted to make certain his company remained a desirable brand for young buyers. Devoting prized space in the Rotunda to hot rods and customs was one way to ensure this.
Hine’s coupe was one of 15 customs and five hot rods hand-picked for display by Mullaly, and it spent the duration of the 13-day show (which ran from March 15-27, 1955) parked alongside Ford’s futuristic FX-Atmos show car. During its appearance, Hine’s coupe earned the “Sweepstakes Award,” one of several trophies (including Best of Show at the Detroit Autorama) the car would earn during its debut year on the show circuit.
The copper-colored coupe would continue its winning ways into the late 1950s, ultimately amassing 32 first-place trophies and 21 best-of-shows, including two additional Best of Show awards at the Detroit Autorama, in 1956 and ’57. It would also grace the pages of numerous publications in-period, including the April 1959 issue of Rodding and Re-styling and the 1959 Hot Rod Annual.
Hine still owned the coupe at the time of his death in 1985, and eventually, it passed to his son Jack, who had the car repainted in jade green. A friend of the family offered to address the car’s mechanical needs, and ultimately presented an offer to buy 25 Varieties. A deal was struck in 2001, and for the first time since the car was completed in 1955, it was titled outside the Hine family. It took another seven years for the restoration to begin in earnest, but by 2011 the coupe was finished and once again on the show circuit. Fittingly, it was displayed at the 2011 Detroit Autorama, where it revisited past achievements by capturing the show’s “Preservation Award.” As a testament to its continued significance, Hine’s five-window coupe was named one of the “Top 100 Cars in the Nation” by Street Rodder magazine in 2015.
Given the car’s history, Auctions America predicts a selling price between $110,000 and $130,000 when the ’33 Ford crosses the auction stage in Florida. For more on the upcoming Fort Lauderdale sale, visit AuctionsAmerica.com.