Battered Barn Find: 1934 Ford Five Window Coupe

For such a practical company, Ford certainly found a way to produce some of the most beautiful cars of the prewar era.  Even after these Fords ended up on the back row of used car lots, many were re-imagined by hot rodders into an even more diverse collection of stunning automobiles.  1934 proved to be one of Ford’s best years.  The slightly warmed over 1933 styling has aged beautifully and demand is still high for all body styles.  Take for example this barn find 1934 Ford coupe being sold on craigslist out of Little Rock, Arkansas.  While it needs almost everything, its beauty still shines through the dirt and rust.  Is that beauty worth the $21,000 asking price?  Thanks to Gene P. for the awesome find!

Make no mistake, this five window coupe will need a lot of work and cash to bring back to presentable condition.  Stored in a barn since the 1950s, the car was owned by the same person for 75 years.  Unfortunately, the barn leaked and the extra moisture had a decidedly negative effect on the car’s overall condition.  To add to the misery, there are a number of dents in the body work.  The front fenders, along with the barn leak caused rust will be a challenge to repair.

Still, it is a 1934 Ford five window coupe, so there is a lot of incentive to bring the car back to life.  A quick check on eBay revealed an authentic Ford left front fender with a price of $500, and certainly some online auction patience would soon be rewarded with a right side fender.  The fenders on the car could be repaired by a very talented body man.  However, good used fenders would be cheaper in the long run and would produce a better end product.  Of course, a fenderless street rod wouldn’t need fenders at all….

Once you get the fender problems worked out, the body itself is in pretty good shape.  The various dents here and there can be worked out with minimal fuss.  Only the under the trunk lid panel will be an issue.  Reproductions have been made for this panel, but some complain that the quality isn’t that great in regards to matching the rest of the bodywork.  Once again, a good body man would be needed here.

Inside, the effects of long term storage with added moisture are apparent.  The steering wheel is cracking open, the front floor boards are in need of replacement, and you can bet that the instruments are in shabby shape as well.  The seat frame is still intact as is one set of springs.  If I were buying this coupe, I’d ask the seller to search high and low for the second set of springs.  These are not easy to replace.  While they were once offered by Bob Drake Reproductions, they are listed as obsolete now.

As expected, the floor pans and trunk pan will have to be replaced.  Cutting out the rusty areas and welding in patches would work if you were building a rat rod.  If you aren’t, and who in their right mind would rat rod such a car, then there are patch panels available.  This kind of work is rather labor intensive if done properly, and this extra effort drives up the costs of the project.  Rod or restoration, this one is going to terrorize your bank account.

The view under the hood gives us a good indication of how untouched this car really is.  While the details are hard to make out in the picture, the engine appears to be a 21 stud Flathead Ford of the appropriate vintage.  The aluminum intake manifold, generator, and fuel pump look stock.  However, I cannot identify the carburetor.  A Stromberg 97 would be correct, as 1934 was the first year Ford used these famous carburetors,  Regardless, the whole set up is likely due for a complete overhaul.  Once you factor in the cost of rebuilding the engine and its components, you are looking at over $5,000.  The good news is that what we can see of the cowl is in very good shape.

$21,000 is a lot of bread for a car in this condition.  While it is hard to estimate the costs of restoration, my guess is that you would be into this car for another $15,000 or more if you did the work yourself.  This starts to put you into the price range of a drivable car with an older restoration.  The cost of converting the car into a street rod would depend on the owner’s wants and tastes.  At the asking price, I think this one might be a bit over its value.

What do you think?

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  1. geomechs Member

    Wow! An original ’34 that hasn’t been subject to the hot-rodder’s torch. Full stock restoration would be the order of the day if this car was to head in my direction. I’d even keep the 21 stud engine although I would definitely blueprint it. If the block hasn’t been changed it would still be running the poured babbit mains. A lot of these got changed out through the 30s to the newer block that came out during the ’36 production. If it ran the babbit mains, I’d be inclined to keep them.

    Incedentally, Jeff, the correct carburetor for this would be a Stromberg 48; the 97 didn’t come out until ’37. The carbs are very similar although the 48 used 1.050″ venturis versus the 97 which used .970.” The 48 got its title from the .048″ main jets (someone must have thought it tacky to call it a 1050, or else it was already used). I might add that a lot of 97s found their way onto pre-’37 engines because they ran a little smoother. Consequently a lot of people think that the 97 came out in ’34. Interesting enough, the Model 40A (’34) engine and its successors put out 85 hp although it wasn’t until ’37 when Ford officially called it the V8-85.

    • Beatnik Bedouin

      Geomechs, the engine looks like it could be original to the car – note the location of the water pumps.

      As far as price, finding a ’34 coupe in pretty much original condition is as rare as rocking horse poo, so it may be worth the price of admission assuming the buyer isn’t interested in turning it for a profit.

  2. grant

    I just learned a lot about old Fords that I didn’t know. Thanks, Geomechs. 21k for a car this rough seems insane to me, though.

  3. Kenneth Carney

    Here you have the quintessential barn find–the stuff of both dreams and legends are made. Trouble is, it is now
    out of reach pricewise for most of us.
    As an artist, I would take the car and
    build a diarama to set the car into and
    then open a Barn Finds museum exhibit
    along with several other cars displayed the same way and charge gearheads
    like me $5.00 just to see ’em!! Would
    make a great painting don’t you think?
    In my day, the called this vintage tin.
    Wonder what they’d call it today.

    • Fred W

      I had the same idea Kenneth, a “Barn Finds Museum” – one version of the car in the barn, the other completely restored, right next to each other. BF fans would eat it up. I even have an empty, clearspan metal 6000sf building to house it- but it’s 50 miles from the nearest interstate, so won’t work.

  4. Terry J

    My RaTT Rod’s frame is from a 1925 Model TT (Ton Truck) . The seller got it from the pasture it had resided in for over half a century. He used phone booth body on his project. The front fenders? They were destroyed by generations of cows that used them to scratch their butts. :-) Terry J

  5. Bruce Jackson

    $21K may seem a little high, except that a 1934 Ford brings a premium over other US conventional brand (Chevy, etc) vehicles with the same vintage. Kind of akin to the demand for a 1955 Ford pick-up… If you could get it down to $15K, that does sound a little more reasonable, but ’34’s that are un-retouched are pretty rare, so keep that in mind if you decide to pursue it.

    A nice driver is worth way more than $36K ($21k + $15K doing the work yourself), but for those of us who are ill-equipped to do the work, I think that price easily pushes to $50 to $60K. Somewhere before you reach that price point, perhaps one just buys a ’34 that is already “restored” or “resto-modded”?

  6. stillrunners

    Been listed before and again….still looking for a home run…….

  7. Joe Haska

    I have owned my 34 5-window since 1963, and it has always been A “Hot Rod” and its fair market value, it has always been at least equal too, or usually more than an original or restored car. I believe that to still be true, except all early Fords are now declining in price “Supply and Demand” not worhless, but definitley going down.
    As some of the comments noted, this is a math problem, you can’t pay 21K and restore it,or build a Hot Rod for less, than you can just go buy one. It is a fact, but people will continue to try!

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