California Dreaming: 1934 Ford Roadster

By Jeff Bennett

We have discussed the concept of patina before on Barn Finds.  Nowadays, patina is basically a word used to describe a rusty wreck, a clear coated rusty wreck, or a car that is in fair condition, but the seller has faked patina with a sander and then clear coated it.  While there are fans of this concept, I find these descriptions of patina to be nowhere close to what the word really means.  I have a word for those descriptions, but this is a family website.  The automobile pictured above is my definition of patina.  Every blemish, primered panel, and period correct part tells the story of one of the greatest periods in automotive history.  This authentic 1934 Ford roadster hot rod is currently being auctioned on EBay, and is located LaCanada Flintridge, California.  If you want it, you had better hurry.  The bidding has passed $40,000 as of this writing, and I am sure the sale price will be well north of that number.

This car is mildly famous.  Hot Rod magazine wrote a story on it for a Barn Finds issue, and the article is still up on their website.  The Reader’s Digest version of the story is that this is a car that somehow escaped restoration for decades.  Even the convertible top is original to the car.  There are a few non-original parts on the car, but they are original Ford parts rather than reproductions.  The driver’s side fenders, the seat back, a patch panel behind the driver’s door, the gas tank cover, and the hood sides were the visible changes, and a drop front axle gives the car a slight rake.

There have been a few changes from when it was in the magazine.  The Kelsey-Hayes aftermarket wheels are history, and appear to have been replaced with 1935 Ford wire wheels.  This was a common change for many pre-war Fords, as 1935 Ford wheels are 16 inches in diameter, and all earlier Ford wire wheels were larger.  For example, the original wire wheels on a 1934 Ford were 17 inches in diameter, so adding the 1935 wheels would drop the car one inch.  Every little bit helps when you are going for the lowered look.  As for braking, vintage Ford hydraulic brakes have been added.  This was, and still is, a very popular modification to early Fords.  Some people get upset over this, as they think the mechanical brakes provided by Henry Ford are sufficient.  However, hydraulics are nice to have when you drive in modern traffic, or in the hills and mountains.

Mechanically, the car sports an early Mercury flathead and a McCulloch supercharger.   This unique combo, added the other vintage speed parts attached to it,  probably gives this engine around 150 horsepower.  The above photo is from the EBay ad, and it is a picture of the magazine article.  No other photos of the engine were provided, but we are told that this is the engine provided in the sale.  While we don’t know if they are original to the car, a 1934 Ford transmission and banjo rear end round out the drivetrain.

The truth of the matter is that this car needs a caretaker.  It would be a sin to do anything other than keep it on the road.  While it is a good candidate for restoration, there are plenty of restored 1934 Fords out there.  To make it into a modern street rod would be sacrilegious, bordering on a crime against humanity.  This car needs a new owner who will drive it, show it, and enjoy this trip back to America’s glory days.  The few major modifications it has are the correct vintage to depict a post-war California hot rod.  As the reality, memories, and participants in the west coast California hot rod scene fade away, it would be nice to keep a few mementos from this spectacular era in American history.

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  1. Robert A

    Quick nitpick, if the wheel diameter is changed from 17″ to 16″ then if everything else is equal, ie the tyre size, then the net drop is 1/2″. Just saying.

    • Jeff Bennett Staff

      You got me there. Sorry for the mistake.

  2. Todd Fitch Todd Fitch Staff

    Great find, Jeff. The first picture sold me, and the Hot Rod back-story makes it even more interesting. I’m not sure primer by itself qualifies as patina but it’s in the right spirit – having come by its appearance honestly. Here in Virginia I’ve heard of some ‘shine cars using the truck-sourced McCulloch supercharger. You’ll find a bunch of perfectly restored ’34 Fords before you’ll find another that’s just been improved and kept (or put back) on the road, which is what hot-rodding is all about.

  3. doug6423

    Time to modernize it for the next generation. Anybody ever put hydraulics on one of these before?? 🙂

    • Fred W.

      The writeup says it already has juice brakes. I’m wondering why they couldn’t bother to raise the hood and take a photo of the engine as it is currently, instead of using a magazine photo.

      If you bought this and took it to any car show, people would walk away from flawless cars to come look at it. And if a kid leaned on it, instead of shooing him away, you could open the door and let him jump in the seat.

  4. joeinthousandoaks

    The engine in the photo is not the original to the car. The original had top radiator hoses entering the heads in the front of the head while these enter in the center. A ’39 and later engine improvement along with many others of the later flat heads. Great car. Wish it were mine.

  5. Fred W.

    Wow, hate to be the bearer of bad news but everyone here will want to know about this. There are 150 fewer classics in existence this morning. Huge fire at Country Classic Cars in IL. BF may want to write this one up.

    • 86 Vette Convertible

      Just saw that news item a little while ago. Shame it happened but sometimes bad things happen no matter what you do.

    • Jeff

      I had just stopped there last Friday to take a look around. What a loss.

  6. whippeteer

    That’s the rare 1934 Ford Harlequin! I usually think of patina of being the naturally aged state, not mismatched paint and primer on the panels.

  7. jeff6599

    If the tire OD is the same, no matter the wheel size, then there is no drop at all.

  8. geomechs

    For me this would get the restoration treatment for sure. But it would be a driver resto, not a tralier queen. There’s a fully restored one in my neighborhood and the owner is sure to be the next segment of ‘Captain Kirk’s’ Rescue 9-11 if a seagull bombs his car. I’d probably run the Mercury engine but I’d be itching to get an earlier one under that hood. Since someone has converted it to juice brakes I sure wouldn’t change it back; but I wouldn’t have changed them if the car would’ve been mine. Mechanical brakes can lock up the wheels too; they just need constant adjustment.

  9. Joe Haska

    This is certainly a nice piece, I am not sure I can believe it is not a made up car, it just depends on your definition. The car is certainly not original, but it is a Hot Rod original to the era it represents, which would be pre-1940, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was built before 1940, it could have been built last week or last year with vintage parts. But what difference does it make, the sum of all the parts, makes the complete car. I have not read the article, so maybe the explanation of where this car has been, and the time frame in which was built , will explain that. No matter it is a real 34 Ford Roadster, and I would leave it alone, it totally represents an era of Hot Rod History!

  10. Joe Haska

    I guess I have to add to my last comment, I just read the article about the car, and it hasn’t changed my opinion, it is a VERY cool 1940’s era hot rod, and done extremely well and correct. I also think the article was correct and explained the car very well, and I respect the people who built it. But that’s it! It is a built car, no different than any other Hot Rod , but it is put together to exact specs according to availability at the time it represents. It is not unlike a well restored car to original condition, it wasn’t found that way, it was built that way, to represent an original car. It doesn’t make it any less of a car, but historically and for documentation, it didn’t look like that in the 40’s or 50’s, and who really cares!

  11. Graywolf

    Folks, you don’t see many of these vehicles on the road! In high school in 1963, a student had one and it was rare back then. This is a very rare vehicle!!

  12. Brakeservo

    The current bid of over $52,000 doesn’t mean a thing – it’s a “Reserve Not Met” situation so those bids might very well be just the seller’s good friends and neighbors! This particular flipper has been a purveyor of similar type junque on eBay for years and it all seems ridiculously over-priced, over-hyped and overbid on a “Reserve Not Met” basis. Come to your own conclusions.

  13. El Chinero

    <>> Copy … this engine is a (newer) “59AB”


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