There are many kinds of reunions, but one involving a '32 Ford roadster, its current owner and its former owners are quite different. This story starts in 1950, when the Berardini Bros. (Pat, born on August 31st, 1927, and Tony), took Pat’s’32 (#404) Ford, and Tony’s ’29 (#7) Ford, to the Santa Ana Drag Strip. Both cars had very hopped up engines. When the last flag came down in 1955 for the Berardini Bros. Racing Team, both cars had won hundreds of races and had set many drag strip records. They were top in their respective classes and they were the very first, over–all points champions, including the gas AND fuel classes, at the Drag Racers, Inc. Awards Banquet, in 1954. They achieved recognition from racers and fans alike. Not only were the ’32 and ’29 fast, but they caught the eyes of fans, as two beautiful racing hot rods.
In late 1954, because of its black paint with white flames, the “404” was chosen for a small part in the motion picture, Blackboard Jungle, starring Glenn Ford, Anne Francis and Sidney Poitier. The black-and-white-classic film was set to Bill Haley and His Comet’s, “Rock Around The Clock”. The ’32 was sold in July of 1955 to Jeano LaCoste for $975.00. Under his new ownership, Jeano watched the “404” blast by the Gas Roadster record by the Berardini Bros. Racing team. For years Jeano hardly changed a thing on the ’32, and even kept the name “404” alive. (Side note: The “404” is a racing cam, built by Ed Iskenderian, which helped give the ’32 its incredible speed.) The “404” continued winning and breaking records, at many of the Northern California drag strips.
The “404’s” racing legend, gained the title of, “The Racing Man’s Deuce”. In the early ‘60’s, Jeano put a blown Chrysler in the “404”, and it put Jeano into the winners circle many times. He held the World’s Record in A/Street Roadster class at 136.36MPH. The “404” was then sold in the late ‘60’s to Rudy Perez for $1000 dollars. Rudy was now the proud owner of the “404”. Gone were the black-with- white flames of the Berardini Bros. Racing Team. It was painted a bright yellow and the “404” became a street rod. Rudy took the blown Chrysler out and dropped in a Corvette engine. Rudy changed a few things, but he kept the number “404 Jr” (Jr was for Pat's son) alive by putting the number on the license plates. Now the “404 Jr” was not only a street rod, but a show car as well. Unlike many other show cars, Rudy drove the “404 Jr” cross-country to each show and he took home many awards for the “404’s” beauty.
In 2003, at the Grand National Roadster Show in San Mateo, California, Rudy won the Brizio Family Award, as the Best Street Driven Hot Rod. Like previous owners, Rudy had kept the “404 Jr” in great shape and felt it was time to reunite the car with one of its original builders... Pat Berardini. It has been some 50 years, and many miles since Pat had seen his old roadster. Rudy drove the “404” down from his home near San Francisco to Southern California and the Reunion took place in Garden Grove at Pat’s home. Pat had never met Rudy, but both had the love of the “404”. Pat had not ridden in the “404” since he sold it. Now, here he was taking a ride with Rudy. Once a hot rodder, always a hot rodder! Hours were spent in the language of drag racing and hot rods. The past began to come alive, as white flames on a black ’32 roadster rekindled their memories. For Pat, seeing the “404” was more than seeing an old friend. It was a passion in steel.
The “404” has had some kind of an awesome history, but it was only going to get better! And did it ever! In October of 2003, the Berardini Bros. Racing Team was honored with the first ever NHRA 12th Annual California Hot Rod Reunion’s, Golden Age Award, at the drag races in Bakersfield, California. Pat and Tony were given the award for their dedication, innovations, and achievements during the infancy of organized drag racing. Rudy had vowed that he would never sell the “404”. He had owned it for 37 years and had driven “404”, nearly 200,000 miles. But, one day in January 2004, at the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, along came an offer Rudy could not refuse. Roger Morrison, an avid car collector from Salina, Kansas, was looking for an original hot rod of the early 1950’s to restore. And what better car could have had more history than the “404”. Rudy sold his beloved roadster so that its history would be preserved. Roger would restore it, to its former racing glory of the early pioneer days, when the Berardini Bros. Racing Team owned it. It was a “win-win” situation. Dave Crouse and his talented crew from Loveland, Colorado worked overtime to get the roadster completed for the 2005 Grand National Roadster Show. Roger interviewed and filmed Pat at his home, for several hours. He wanted to know every detail about the “404”, and how Pat and Tony came to race two of the coolest looking and hopped up roadsters of their time. Yes! This story is certainly not over yet.
The “404” restoration won the prestigious Bruce Meyer Preservation Award acknowledging the extraordinary job done by Dave Crouse’s Custom Auto Crew. Roger gave Pat Berardini, Jeano LaCoste and Rudy Perez one heck of an unveiling and reception at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum on January 19th, 2005, almost one year to the day after he bought the “404” in 2004. There were several hundred people attending, with old friends, new friends, family, photographers and journalist, who came to see what a world class restoration looks like. No one was disappointed! Jeano and Rudy made the night come full circle, as they are the two men who helped make the history of “404” complete. The “404” was driven, by Roger, from the Grand National Roadster Show, on January 23rd, 2005 into the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. It stayed thru-out the NHRA Winternationals drag races. Afterwards it resided for several months between the Wally Parks NHRA Museum, and the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. In October it was taken to the 14th Annual California Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield, CA where it was on display in the lobby of the host Double Tree Hotel. The highlight of the weekend was when Blackie Gejeian asked Roger Morrison to show the “404” at his annual Autorama in March 2006. An honor indeed!
The “404” was featured in the celebrated 32nd edition of The Rodder’s Journal. And the fun wasn’t over yet…at the 2007 GNRS, the “404” was chosen by the Ford Motor Company to be one of seventy-five hand selected ‘32’s to commemorate Fords 75th Anniversary of the '32 Ford and the Ford flathead engine. The "75” Most Influential ’32 Ford Hot Rods were selected by a blue-ribbon panel of automotive authorities across a variety of fields. The panel included members from around the world, and represented all facets of hot rodding. The journey for the "404 Jr" commenced at Pebble Beach, Concours d'Elegance (August 19, 2007) where it was honored with the prestigious Dean Batchelor Award for the most significant hot rod.