Can you identify this Ford Flathead Special?

This is a car that certainly represents something different, and I’d love to know the full story behind it. The owner believes that the car is based on a 1939 Ford chassis, although he hasn’t been able to locate a VIN to verify this. The custom Ford is located in Italy, with bidding currently sitting at €1,334 (approximately US$1,487). To get more information on the vehicle, you will find it listed for sale here on Catawiki.

Mounted on the Ford chassis is this really interesting body, which is said to be a combination of steel and aluminum. The styling is a mass of confusing lines. At first glance, the workmanship doesn’t look great. But then, you look at things like the creases that have been formed in the front fenders, and they have a neat, crisp, and quite a professional look to them. The rear has a touch of Buick Riviera boat-tail about it, which is a bit unusual. That also doesn’t appear to be in character with the remainder of the vehicle. I originally thought that the car may have been designed and built for track or endurance racing, but there is evidence that it has worn plates at some point in its life. This suggests that it has seen at least some road use. While the body is looking battered and bruised, it doesn’t appear as though there are any rust issues. Therefore, it might be possible to restore the body and return the car to its original form.

The interior of the Ford continues the confusing theme, and this is where we get some indication that this custom vehicle may have been something less than a professional upgrade. The interior has obviously been the home of some fairly plush upholstery at some point, but this has now deteriorated beyond help. The give-away though is the gauge placement. The speedometer makes a certain amount of sense being placed close to the center of the dash. However, the remaining gauges appear to have been fired out of a cannon, with the highlight being the oil pressure gauge, which resides down under the center of the dash hard against the fire-wall, in front of the shifter. If the car is really based on a ’39 Ford chassis, then the seating position is a long way further back than that of the donor vehicle. This would explain the remote linkage system from the shifter through to the transmission. It isn’t elegant, but I think that it would probably work okay.

Powering the special is a 239ci Ford flathead V8. I get the impression that this has been mated to a standard Ford 3-speed manual transmission. It isn’t clear whether the engine turns freely, but the owner does admit that it doesn’t run. If it is locked, then that won’t be the end of the world, as another 239 could be slotted in to replace it. The car is missing a few pieces, such as the radiator. However, the buyer will have to option of purchasing some additional components for the car. These include a pair of Edelbrock cylinder heads, and a pair of carburetors on an aluminum intake, complete with an air cleaner.

As strange as this custom Ford is, I do know a few people who would relish the prospect of restoring it. The sticking point is the location unless we have some Italian readers who would be willing to take it on. The styling is a bit of a jumble, but the beauty of the car is that if the next owner can’t trace its history, then they can take some liberties in the restoration. On the positive side, there is enough of the original car remaining to be able to at least attempt to source the right replacement pieces for the restoration. It’s also worth remembering that under that custom body, what you are dealing with is an old Ford, and just how complicated are they?


  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    With the original hood now on the rear you could almost wind up climbing into it facing the wrong way in the dark. Interesting, but a lot of pretty good metalwork even if the design comes up short in some places.

    Like 5
  2. Bob

    Those are 1940 Plymouth front fenders

    Like 6
    • speedy d

      And 36-39 Plymouth rear fenders heavily modified

      Like 1
  3. Larry Member

    Wow just imagine making this car into a Auburn Boattail Speedster? That would be wild

    Like 1
  4. Coventrycat

    Identifiably ugly. It hurts my eyes.

    Like 8
  5. JerryDeeWrench

    Makes me see sick

    Like 3
  6. IkeyHeyman

    It’s weird but I actually kinda like it. I wondered if there is any possible galvanic reaction caused by putting steel and aluminum together but, heck, it has lasted this long, I guess not.

    Like 5
  7. the one

    It always blows my mind how some of you guys can pick out stuff like, the fenders! very cool.

    Like 5
  8. Lance

    A Corvette designed by a committee

    Like 3
  9. Jack Quantrill

    This is the rare, and almost unobtainable “Ugly-Mobile”!

    Like 1
  10. Leman

    i saw a similar cae in an auto history magazine and it was listed as the first edsel but sidelined by higher ups that did not like the looks of the design so it was scrapped, until 1957 when the final edsel was produced. there very well may be somewhere in ford motor history about the coming of the edsel car. i never did a ford history.

  11. George Albright

    I sold this car to the guy in Italy a decade ago. Unknown history then. Boat tail rear is 1930s hood turned upside down. Cord expert Randy Ema told me the oval front is from a Cord. Looks European to me style wise. Probably built in USA around 1950. Sincerely George A.

    Like 7
  12. Paul

    Looks like a future demolition derby car to me!

  13. Jimmy king

    Heck, I’ll play!….pretty nice worksmanship with questionable style…..if you tied a porkchop to it a dog MIGHT chase it !…..but nic craftsmanship!

  14. John

    What a piece-

  15. Robert G.

    After seeing this car i have one thing to say: “No Comment”.

  16. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Guess there are a bunch of millennials commenting because this was built way before when home builts are what you did with available parts. And yes a lot of 1939 and earlier parts there….nice for the period of Popular Mechanics .

    Like 1
  17. Bob H.

    If based on a 1939 Ford…. All 4 hubs were changed 39 had wide 5 wheels..

  18. Kenn

    Looks like someone skillfully modified the plans for a $500. sports car highlighted in a 1950’s Mechanic’s Illustrated. Ugly? By whose standards? Low, curvy, probably reasonably fast due to low weight. Must have been fun.

  19. Paul

    The fit and finish of the body panels looks a little better than the
    78 mustang II I had!! I’m sure it drives and handles better as well!

  20. Norton Rider

    This is what car culture started out as. Take a bunch of stuff you have, throw it together as well as possible, and voila, custom car. I think it’s cool and shows some originality. When I was 17 (a very long time ago) I had a 1954 Ford station wagon that was our beach mobile. Blew the engine up in that, so I took motor and trans out of my ’53 Olds, and we had a beach wagon again. Soo many Tri-Fives and $100k shop built cars that the owner knows zilch about, but people think those are cool. I LIKE THIS.

    Like 1

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