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Customs Customized '40 Fords

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by 50Fraud, Feb 8, 2020.

  1. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 9,430

    50Fraud
    Member

    A few years ago, I wrote a number of articles on the H.A.M.B. concerning design elements of customized cars. I haven’t done one in quite a long time, and I thought it might be interesting to consider some of the customized ’40 Fords that influenced the design of my own phantom convertible.

    My ’40 convertible was built between 2008 and 2017. Its construction was covered in detail by Don Dillard’s excellent build thread, “Tony Miller’s phantom ’40 convertible”. Don is also the guy who built the car.

    From the time I bought the derelict ’40 coupe that became my convertible, we heard frequent comments that ‘40s were perfect as they were built, they didn’t need customizing, and other judgmental comments that might have discouraged us. I was confident that we knew what we were doing, and the end result was quite successful, so all’s well that ends well.

    There is a lot of truth to the comments we were getting. 1940 Fords are truly good-looking cars, and a lot of unfortunate mods have been done to them in the last 80 years. On the other hand, guys who preceded us sometimes got it right, and some very nice cars resulted. I did a lot of research during our project, and I thought it might be interesting to review some of the customizing that was done to ‘40s back in the day.

    Two of the features of my car, the top and the grille, were original to us and can be judged on their own merits. The other significant detail is that the car is channeled/sectioned, and that has been done on other ‘40s for more than 70 years.

    A word about the design of the top: I’ve liked ’40 Fords since I was a pre-teenager. I never bought one because I thought that they didn’t need any help; that they were great looking cars as they were originally built. The one exception, in my opinion, is the convertible. The ’40 convertible top is awkwardly proportioned, and the huge expanse of canvas behind the door windows looks like a Conestoga wagon. I thought that if the stock ’40 convertible top was replaced with one similar to a ’42-’48 convert, with quarter windows for the people in the back seat, that it would be greatly improved. Like this:

    upload_2020-2-8_0-42-20.jpeg
    upload_2020-2-8_0-43-4.jpeg

    That Photoshop exercise seemed to prove my conviction that the appearance of the top could be improved, so I recklessly decided to build a car that looked like the rendering. The proportions were a little funny with the later style top on the stock ’40 body, so I decided to section it to reduce some of the body’s bulk.

    My car
    Started out as a ’40 Standard coupe. In addition to cutting off the top and building it into a phantom convertible, we channeled the body and sectioned the hood and rear quarters. The idea was to reduce the body mass in proportion to the new Carson-type top.

    upload_2020-2-8_0-45-20.jpeg
    upload_2020-2-8_0-45-47.jpeg

    Here are some other, earlier ’40 Ford and Merc customs that are sectioned and/or channeled:

    Ralph Jilek
    The earliest and most significant influence on my car was a feature on Ralph Jilek’s ’40 Convertible in a 1952 issue of Hop Up magazine. I loved the car when I saw that article, and I have admired it for the 60+ years since I first saw it. Jilek’s car was channeled and sectioned, and we did the same mods to my car. I thought that the 4” section on Jilek’s was a bit much, so we used 2 1/2” on mine. Don Dillard observed that the uncut ‘40 grille looked too large on Jilek’s front end, so we agreed to extend the front edge of the hood (reducing the height of the grille) by half the amount of the section.

    upload_2020-2-8_0-47-48.jpeg
    upload_2020-2-8_0-48-34.jpeg
    upload_2020-2-8_0-49-8.jpeg

    Jimmy Summers
    Summers’ ’40 Merc is channeled with the fenders moved up and a chopped, tan Carson top. It appears to be sectioned as well. What a beautifully proportioned car!

    upload_2020-2-8_0-50-39.jpeg

    Glen Hooker
    Glen’s ’39 Merc, built by his brothers-in-law at Valley Custom, was channeled. The bottom of the body and fenders (which were rotten) were trimmed off. The windshield was cut to match a used, chopped Carson top. The fender wells were radiused, but the fenders were not raised on the body. What an amazingly handsome car this was, considering that it was built on a minimal budget.

    upload_2020-2-8_0-51-25.jpeg

    John Geraghty
    Geraghty’s car appears to be channeled and wearing a white Carson top, but the body is not sectioned. It appears that the front fenders are raised and the hood sectioned, but the rear fenders are stock.

    upload_2020-2-8_0-52-15.jpeg

    Stan Baker
    The Baker car had most of the same mods as Jilek’s, but its proportions and details were more nearly those of a stock ’40 Convertible, and overall it’s less striking.

    upload_2020-2-8_0-53-0.jpeg

    Doug Rice
    Rice’s 1939 coupe was chopped, channeled, and sectioned, which appears more obvious on the coupe body style than it is on the convertibles.

    upload_2020-2-8_0-53-46.jpeg

    Jim Chapkis
    Chapkis’ coupe was severely channeled and sectioned, but the top was stock height.
    upload_2020-2-8_0-54-42.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2020
  2. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 9,430

    50Fraud
    Member

    1939 Ford convertibles had a rumble seat (no internal back seat) and a much shorter top than the ’40. The ’39 top is more nicely proportioned than the ’40, and I seriously considered using a ’39 body before the quarter window idea was developed fully.

    Unger ‘40
    Chris Unger built this convert using a gennie ’39 convertible body with ’40 DeLuxe trim. With very few traditional custom details, it is a really beautiful car.

    upload_2020-2-8_1-8-9.png

    Frisbee ‘39
    Steve Frisbee did this lovely ’39 resto-rod. It has all the normal ’39 features, with a very few hot rod details. The only influence on my car here was to discourage me from painting my car green (it would have been too similar to Steve’s).

    upload_2020-2-8_1-8-41.png

    Texas ‘40
    This great-looking ’40 is based on a fiberglass replica ’39 convertible body, built with a ’40-style full trunk lid, and detailed with 40 DeLuxe trim. I seriously considered building a car like this before I bought the coupe.

    upload_2020-2-8_1-9-35.png

    Cutoff Coupe
    This car is a coupe with the top cut off, similar to mine. Its builder constructed a top which is shorter than the ’40 convert, with a novel side window shape and minimal quarter windows.

    upload_2020-2-8_1-10-9.png

    Wild Card
    Built by Coachcraft Limited for Clarence Salomon in 1940, this car uses ’40 Ford fenders and nose, but the entire convertible body was hand-formed from scratch by Paul Endos at Coachcraft. The body is channeled and sectioned compared with a stock Ford body, and the wheelbase is shortened too.

    upload_2020-2-8_1-11-0.png

    Many of the cars shown here influenced the modifications we did to my car. In the end, I think we achieved a better looking ’40 convertible which is still all Ford in its shape and detail. The faux ’40 Merc grille, one of Don’s most remarkable achievements, confuses spectators at shows, but I think it fits all the Ford pieces nicely.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Feb 8, 2020
  3. Excellent read! Great to hear how your ideas evolved. So many things could have gone wrong, but did not. The results are spectacular. Thanks for taking the time to fill us in on all of the details......Don.
     
  4. scrap metal 48
    Joined: Sep 6, 2009
    Posts: 5,777

    scrap metal 48
    Member

    What he said ^^^....
     
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  5. ronzmtrwrx
    Joined: Sep 9, 2008
    Posts: 425

    ronzmtrwrx
    Member

    Thanks a lot. I thought I had a direction nailed down for my ol turd39, and you go and throw these out here, Hahaa. Seriously, I was leaning towards a style about like the Unger 40 and even kicking around the idea of converting to a trunk instead of the rumble seat. Of course your car looks awesome and nicely proportioned. Thanks for the pics.
     
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  6. i.rant
    Joined: Nov 23, 2009
    Posts: 2,709

    i.rant
    ALLIANCE MEMBER
    from Illinois
    1. 1940 Ford

    No doubt the 39 convert is better looking than a 40, but your design and execution is the one Ford shoulda built.
     
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  7. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 9,430

    50Fraud
    Member

    You can't go wrong copying Chris Unger's car. It's extra nice.
     
  8. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 9,430

    50Fraud
    Member

    Thanks, all you guys. I appreciate your comments.
     
  9. manyolcars
    Joined: Mar 30, 2001
    Posts: 8,208

    manyolcars

    You are right and thats why the 1940 Mercury is so ugly. You did real good on your car.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2020
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  10. 34Larry
    Joined: Apr 25, 2011
    Posts: 1,111

    34Larry
    Member

    PM'd you pictures.
     
  11. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 9,430

    50Fraud
    Member

    Thanks again.
     
    lothiandon1940 likes this.
  12. 41woodie
    Joined: Mar 3, 2004
    Posts: 1,060

    41woodie
    Member

    In my view 40's are one of the most difficult models to customize and make look good. Many have tried and many have failed. The ones you selected are great examples of what took a lot of hard work and vision to accomplish
     
  13. alfin32
    Joined: Jun 20, 2006
    Posts: 1,356

    alfin32
    ALLIANCE MEMBER
    from Essex, Ma.

    I don't usually like customized '40 Fords, but WOW, nice job!
     
    lothiandon1940 likes this.
  14. jim snow
    Joined: Feb 16, 2007
    Posts: 925

    jim snow
    Member

    X2 on what Don said. Snowman
     
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  15. 19Fordy
    Joined: May 17, 2003
    Posts: 6,607

    19Fordy
    Member

    More compliments are coming your way. You did an outstanding job of taking "humpy -dumpy" roofline and body mass of the 40 convert. and making it look like a well proportioned car. $40 converts. are nice cars but the back seat always makes the extended roof look out of proportion to the body. That's why the 39's look better.You solved that problem.
     
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  16. 40LUV
    Joined: Dec 30, 2003
    Posts: 1,726

    40LUV
    Member
    from Mid Jersey

    I never get tired at looking at your car. IMG_7942.JPG
     
  17. 40FORDPU
    Joined: Mar 15, 2009
    Posts: 2,686

    40FORDPU
    Member
    from Yelm, Wa
    1. Northwest HAMBers

    I own a '40 convertible, and agree, the top is disproportionate and looks like an after thought.
    I love '40 Fords and always wanted a '40 convertible in spite of its heavy/bulky looking top.
    I have no plans to ever drive my car with the top up. Part of the reason is because of the look, but also because I don't drive any convertible I own/ have owned with the top up.
    I have others for questionable weather days.
    Your customized phantom convertible is a beautiful car, you nailed the top, and overall look.
    Its side profile looks like what Ford should have done.
     
  18. okiedokie
    Joined: Jul 5, 2005
    Posts: 3,753

    okiedokie
    Member
    from Ok

    Tony your 40 will be the one that future custom builders will look to, IMO. You and Don just killed it.
     
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  19. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 9,430

    50Fraud
    Member

    I love all the kind words about my car, but I thought there would be some comments on the earlier cars that served as my research. I actually like my car better than the Jilek car, even though Jilek's certainly pointed me in the right direction. Today, I would be perfectly happy to drive either Hooker's Merc or Unger's Ford; I think that both are just about perfect.
     
  20. ... man !! Anyone know if the Jim Chapkis coupe survived ?
     
  21. i.rant
    Joined: Nov 23, 2009
    Posts: 2,709

    i.rant
    ALLIANCE MEMBER
    from Illinois
    1. 1940 Ford

    IMHO the Jilek car loses some style points with the use of the heavier bumpers.
     
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  22. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 9,430

    50Fraud
    Member

    I agree with you. I've never understood why, years ago, it was thought that massive bumpers improved the looks of a car.
     
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  23. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 9,430

    50Fraud
    Member

    Can't say. The picture I posted was from a 1951 magazine; Customrama has an article on the car that identifies two later owners and two subsequent magazine features, the last in 1957. I haven't seen any later reference to the car than '57.
     
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  24. socal34
    Joined: Feb 25, 2007
    Posts: 290

    socal34
    Member

  25. adam401
    Joined: Dec 27, 2007
    Posts: 1,909

    adam401
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    I am in love the with Doug Rice coupe. For years Ive had a 3 window version of that car rolling around in my little brain.
     
  26. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 9,430

    50Fraud
    Member

    I LOVE that black convertible. It's a totally different approach to customizing a '40 convert, but it works extremely well. I should have referenced it in the original thread, because I first saw it before my car was finished, and it helped confirm a lot of what we were doing. Its severe chop, stock body proportions, and all-black color scheme gives it a gangster/badass look that is entirely different from my car's vibe.

    I had the opportunity to park next to him at the Outriders' Picnic a couple of years ago, and it was great being able to compare the two cars.
    !1030.jpg
    !0430.jpg
    The similarities between the two are entirely coincidental. That may be difficult to believe, because so many of the details are alike, but this is a case of "great minds think alike".

    Socal34, are you the owner of the black '40? If you are, I remember that we met at the picnic, but I'm afraid that I don't remember your name.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Feb 9, 2020
  27. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 9,430

    50Fraud
    Member

    Unusually for a custom, an interesting detail of the Rice car is that he raced it at Bonneville -- not once, but three or four years in a row!
     
    1947knuck likes this.
  28. Bandit Billy
    Joined: Sep 16, 2014
    Posts: 6,104

    Bandit Billy
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Yours? Magnificent! Will you share with me the size of the tires and the offset of those wheels if you recall? They fit like they were made for it...just better. A lot better.
     
  29. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 9,430

    50Fraud
    Member

    The black car isn't mine. I hope the person who posted those pictures will see your question and respond.
     
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  30. 40ragtopdown
    Joined: Jan 13, 2015
    Posts: 1,866

    40ragtopdown
    Member

    FB_IMG_1581298478630.jpg Here's an early chopped convertible. Not sure who it belonged to.
     
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