Meet MSD President Russell Stephens

By: Todd Veney | 04/13/2018 < Back to Motor Life Home
MSD President Russell Stephens' car is the hot rod he always wanted, a 5-window '32 Ford coupe like the one actor Paul LeMat drove in the classic 1973 movie American Graffiti. Built from the ground up at MSD engineering headquarters in 2014 and unveiled early the following year, it's a showcase for MSD ignition products at events like Power Tour and the SEMA Show and a blast to drive in general. "It's no trailer queen," said Stephens, who's put about 5,000 miles on it in a little over three years. "It gets driven. I'll take it to dinner Friday nights, take it to church on Sundays, take it to car shows on the weekend. As a kid growing up in the '60s and '70s, I always loved those cars. To me, that's a hot rod, so when I got one, it had to be a 5-window. I wanted it to be a little different from some of the ones you see, so it's got the door handles on outside, the traditional buggy spring, and a solid front axle but with a modern-day drivetrain." The drivetrain is as modern as it gets, an LS3 with a GM hot cam and, naturally, a boatload of MSD products under the hood. The 377 cubic-inch powerplant is cranked to life with a DynaForce starter, fueled by an Atomic LS EFI system, fired by MSD multi-spark coils and Super Conductor spark plug wires, and relieved by a sanded-smooth Hooker exhaust manifold. Stephens went with a 4L65-E transmission that's monitored by an Atomic Transmission Controller and hooked to a Ford 9-inch rear end with 4.11:1 gears. Old-school Rocket Racing Ignitor wheels ride on Coker BFGoodrich rubber. Pete & Jake's Hot Rod Parts built the chassis, POSIES Rods and Customs helped the MSD guys assemble the rolling chassis and running gear, New Age Motorsports supplied the all-fiberglass body, and Brookville Roadster built the grille and grille shell. The immaculate paint was applied by Squeeg's Kustoms using their own custom color, Hot Rod Red. "We had a lot of products coming out when we were building this car, and it was a perfect way to show them off," said Stephens, 55, who has worked at MSD for 37 years. "It's a lot of power in a small package, and the thing gets 20 miles per gallon despite being about as aerodynamic as a brick."

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