Fork In The Road: 1940 Ford Deluxe Tudor

Once upon a time, a poet once threw some words together about encountering a fork in the road.  As the lines between hot rods and restored cars becomes somewhat blurred these days, anyone taking on a new project these days is at a fork in the road.  The same could be said for the hobby in general.  So, what would you do with this 1940 Ford Deluxe Tudor being sold on craigslist in Felton, Pennsylvania?  This incredibly solid car was in the middle of a restoration when the former owner went to his reward.  With a lot of the heavy lifting already done, whoever purchases this car will have to decide which way to go with this $7,000 beauty.  Furthermore, we need to take a sober look at how projects like these are determining the direction of our hobby.

There is a lot of talk among the members of traditional antique automobile clubs about the persistent negative effects of declining membership rolls.  The biggest problem is that formerly active members are dying off and there are few new, younger members to replace them.  Only now are they hitting the panic button.  The reasons are many.  Many younger people have found themselves the products of homes lacking a strong role model who is interested or experienced with mechanical hobbies.  There is also a plethora of other hobbies and pastimes that draw their interests away.

Even if they can afford the initial purchase price for a classic car, gathering up the tools and finding space to work on it is difficult.  If they get that far, then the next obstacle is restoration parts.  Parts are often non-existent for orphan makes, and the ever shrinking number of restorers is threatening the existence of the parts houses that produce new parts.  Online sellers such as eBay have done wonders to help restorers find NOS (new old stock) parts, but even that is a patience game.  Many clubs do a good job of helping out new members with their projects, but joining a local club can be intimidating if you are the only one under 50 in the room.  A lot of these clubs don’t even have a presence on the internet to let prospective members know where and when they meet.

So it is no surprise that the diminished number of younger enthusiasts we currently have are doing things differently.  Full restorations are taking a back seat to getting a car running and throwing blankets over the seat.  Chopping and channeling are giving way to LS swaps and modern bolt on suspensions.  Many are also purchasing older restorations and hopping them up with period style speed parts and conversions such as the current trend of shoehorning a Flathead Ford V-8s in Model As.  We could also talk about how economics has driven the rat rod and barn find crazes, but you get the idea.  The world is changing fast.

So, what can be done to help the hobby survive the coming winter?  One suggestion made by a few members of  a club I belong to that greatly emphasizes restorations is to welcome modified cars in some form.  Another is to expand the club’s scope to include cars and trucks outside their original focus.  This has greatly upset traditionalists in the club, and they have many valid reasons for their protest.  Diluting the focus of the club destroys the very reason the club exists in the first place.  However, ignoring the financial realities of a declining membership is no answer either.  Nobody wants to see great clubs, both national and local, wither on the vine.  I am sad to report that financial and demographic reality is going to force many harsh decisions on established clubs in the immediate future.

Whoever buys this pretty 1940 Ford tudor will be in for some decisions of their own.  Partially stripped to enable a full restoration, the previous owner got as far as restoring the frame and chassis.  The brake system has been completely refurbished as well.  While there is some rust to be repaired on the right front fender, the rest of the sheet metal is original and shows no indications of previous repairs.  The seats and the dash are also in very good condition.  In the ad, there are pictures of the boxes of parts that go with the car.  Only the engine is missing.  However, one can be included with the sale for an extra charge.  With all of the Flatheads that are currently being sold on local craigslist ads, not having an engine is hardly a deal breaker.

If the car were mine, I’d probably finish it out as a mostly stock car.  Under the hood would be a later Flathead with a plethora of speed parts.  As for a transmission and rear end, my preference would be an original three speed with a floor shift and a Columbia rear axle.  I’d settle for one of the popular five speed S-10 transmission conversions that so many are doing now to make freeway speeds more comfortable.  Topped off with dual exhausts, the car would bridge the gap between restoration and rod.

Too bad so many would say I modified it too much, and an equal number would likely say I didn’t go too far.  Like our current situation in Washington, the dividing lines have been drawn for so long that it is hard to live in the middle ground.  I fear if we don’t soon start working toward some common goals in our hobby, then there won’t be much of a hobby to pass on to the next generation.

Tell us what you think in the comments.

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Comments

  1. ed the welder

    Jeff, that was a really heartfelt and well thought out post . I don’t know where we are going with the old car hobby but whatever direction this ’40 Ford goes in is still better than it sitting in darkness unfinished .

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  2. stillrunners

    What Ed said…….

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  3. Beatnik Bedouin

    The future of the old vehicle hobby has become a real conundrum, globally, Jeff. Between an ageing population and increasing regulations – along with your already mentioned competition from other interests and amusements – things are very much in flux.

    I mentioned on another post a few weeks ago that attracting younger enthusiasts into the Vintage Car Club of NZ has been a topic of discussion in recent years. The organisation realises that young people are not necessarily going to be interested in the kinds of cars, trucks, motorcycles and scooters their grandparents related to, and have opened its doors to newer machinery (a 30-year eligibility rule has been in place for more than 20 years), including those that have had some modifications done to them.

    A dozen years ago, the VCCNZ Auckland Branch ran an open day, with a view of attracting ‘young people’, especially the grandchildren of the local membership. For some odd reason, and in spite of some amazing machinery on-show, my ‘hot rodded’ Vespa 50 (see photo) attracted the most attention…

    …That same generation is now participating in the local Old School and Moped Army scene, and the Vintage Car Club understands that this sector may provide the next generation of members.

    The VCCNZ runs an annual, national charity event that all of its branches participate in. It’s open to all vehicles, not only to raise funds for the NZ Cancer Society, but to connect like-minded enthusiasts, no matter what their interest might be. So far, it’s been a success on all fronts.

    The ’40 Tudor looks like it would be a great project for someone. You are aware, Jeff, that 1940 was the first year for column-shifting the three-speed? I like the idea of adding some bolt-on bits for more go, etc, but then I am one of those dreaded hot rodders. At least a purist could reverse the changes should they feel the need to.

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    • geomechs Member

      The hobby is changing but I don’t think it’s fading away. Our club membership is holding its own quite well, with new members coming in every year. Of course we’re losing some too but I think the numbers are on the positive side. Many years ago we decided to allow modified vehicles and there are some but the majority still prefer the genuine antiques. The only downside to our club is the average age is still well above 50. But then, when I joined the club at the age of 31 (that’s 34 years ago) the average age was above 50 then. I don’t think things have changed all that much; in my high school senior class of 34 kids, there were only a couple of guys really interested in cars with others sort of attracted but more interested in being nerds or jocks. I look at my kids’ generation and it hasn’t changed much. The next generation is coming up and I’m still seeing interested kids at the show and shines. Only difference now is they’re more attracted to the cars they knew when they were in school; they go all crazy over a Fiero or something that we would be reaching for a paper sack to put over our heads before we allowed ourselves to be seen in them. We’ve really got to open our minds to allow the hobby to continue to flourish…

      3
      • Beatnik Bedouin

        Thanks for sharing your observations, Geomechs. I read a lot of the posts discussing late-1970s through early-1990s cars and enjoy reading the perspectives of our fellow, albeit younger, enthusiasts, even if I found many of those vehicles cringe-worthy back when they were new – got a spare paper bag?

        The VCCNZ’s membership numbers, in fact, have been increasing since the issue was first discussed and the decision made to be a lot more open to owners of more modern and diverse vehicles. It’s upset a few sticks-in-the-mud, but the majority see the benefits.

        I’m pretty well known within the Old School Rides community (through my announcer’s role at the local drag strip and social media) and the Kiwi version of the Moped Army (via my being one of the organisers of The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride in Tauranga, as well as social media), which has helped me better understand what might motivate one of them to join the VCCNZ. In fact, this is the age demographic/interest area that many of the club’s newest members come from.

        Here’s hoping that more of us old farts step up and welcome our successors into the fold…

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      • John Schiessl

        When I was in high school in the first half of the 60s My friends and I drove cars that were around 10 years old. We read every car mag. we could get, Hot Rod being the most popular. So we grew up hot rodder. Did we like new 409s, 427s, V8 comets and falcons of course. Todays hot rods are still out of reach to the younger set. Today there are more 40 willies than there were in 1940! I’ve. seen rat rods made from S10s and the like. So I believe the hobby is alive and well, and we just don’t hang out with the the same group. Now how would one make a mini van cool!?

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  4. geomechs Member

    This is a real nice project to assume. A lot of the bullwork has already been done so it’s clean up and continue to the finish. I’m a little confused over the possibility of the engine not being available. Is the vendor thinking about using the engine for something else or selling it separately. If it is the original it would be a shame to separate it from the car. If I got this project, I would want the engine if it was original, even if it needed major work. If not, I have one I can use. Not very many people are going to notice that it’s a 59AB…

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  5. Fred W

    No where is it more obvious that the hobby is changing than when attending an AACA event (at least the one I go to, in Red Boiling Springs TN, a regional event with a 50+ year history). If they didn’t allow modifieds, the whole thing would fit in a grocery store parking lot instead of the huge pasture and motel grounds it occupies. Seems like it’s 1 original car to 5 modified cars.

    This Ford brings back memories of the one I bought for $75 in the early 70’s. I don’t think I got anywhere on it before selling.

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  6. Nick G

    You can’t treat a hobby as though it is a commodity market, and expect it to remain healthy. There is also the problem with those who insist old cars must be kept stock. A stock 40 ford is somewhat of a white elephant. I know as a youngster, the main goal was to have a car that was safe and usable on the roads. Not too many kids have the wherewithal, first off to buy the type of car that kindles a desire to dump all your spare time (and cash) into.
    When the hobby was healthy, the projects were cast-offs. often at 2 or 3 digit prices, not over priced and over lauded potential museum pieces.
    The car hobby used to be a buyers market, where a kid with minimum wage could afford an 8-10 year old car that a little TLC would keep running for years Such is no longer the case.

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  7. Joseph Floyd

    Jeff: This is a good time to bring up the subject of where the restoration hobby is going. As secretary of the Early Ford V-8 Club Eastern South Dakota Regional Group #155 I just sent in our charter as out membership had declined to less then six. Mostly due to old age and lack of new members. Our remaining members all joined the local Ford Club that welcomes all Ford owners. This may be the answer at least for a while. then try to keep the large national clubs to preserve the purity of the hobby like the Early Ford V-8 Foundation, located in Auburn, IN.

    1
    • geomechs Member

      Hi Joseph. I’m sorry to hear that your regional group has dwindled that low. I’m sure that I read about some of your exploits in the V8 Times not all that long ago. At least the #155 rings a bell. I agree that some regional groups are suffering. Some of the problems are not especially due to an aging membership but a lot of people are having an increasingly difficult time making ends meet. So often they have to start downsizing and that starts with the cars. It’s a heart breaking situation, something that none of us are immune to. I sure wish you luck and hope that your group can find new life…

  8. Denis Flaherty

    I think the car is a bargain at $7000….I would install one of my big block Olds or look for a Buick nailhead. . I wonder what shipping would cost..hmmmmm……

  9. John C.

    I am from eastern Pa. and back in the day I had a 40 Ford coupe, there was a lot of interest in these cars in my area, in the 70’s, 80’s early 90’s. I didn’t have to look too hard to find fellow car buffs and found a lot of parts I needed for my car locally. One fellow in Media Pa. had just about every part needed to restore a 40 Ford and was very knowledgable about them. Plus the fall Hershey car show was just a 90 minute drive away, (if that) and anything else I needed could be found from one of the repro companies in Hemmings. I’m pretty sure someone will jump on this sedan soon!

  10. bog

    I’d love to have it. Was raised on mostly FoMoCo products. Rebuilt my first car, a ’50 Shoebox with my Dad’s tutelage. Just recalled that either Revell or Monogram had a 1/24 scale kit of this model…perhaps with an additional grille to make a ’39 (which I think is classier). Were it mine, I’d want it as stock as possible and just drive it around town on nice days….

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    • geomechs Member

      I remember an AMT kit that offered both grills. I had the sedan and the coupe. I remember my brother being rather indignant when I built both of them bone stock…

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      • bog

        geomechs – What colors did you use ? Growing up, my neighbor’s Dad had the sedan in dark green, so I copied that…tan interior. The coupe I did in black as another neighbor had one like that. My memory says that Revell and possibly Monogram also had their versions…had one or the other that I made into a “competitor” AA/Gasser to complete with my “Stone, Woods & Cook” Willys. Heck, if I’d saved the money I’d spent on THAT hobby I could afford to buy more REAL cars. “Shoulda, woulda, coulda”…..

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      • geomechs Member

        It’s funny that they came in light blue plastic. I painted the coupe Testor’s ‘Red Velvet’ with an off-white interior. The sedan was more of a sandstone with off-white interior. I painted one engine orange and the other Ford blue. Interesting that in later years, I got real fanatical over the detail and I painted my projects as close to the factory colors as I could get…

  11. Jon Berndlmaier

    the hobby is dying off we all are getting older, I just turned 60 last month, time goes by faster the older you get. I want my friend to sell off my collections when I pass, I do not my lazy ass children to get any of my cars or bikes or guns.
    I want all the money to go to my wife, My kids do not deserve any of my things, never did they help me build or buy trade ect any thing, very sad to say and see.
    but today’s young adults are lazy, not like us. I bought my 1st house when I was 20 years old, but get off that subject , the 70’s bikes are bringing very good money, and if you can find the parts you can make alot of money easier then restoring the cars, it has to be in your blood, some thing you love. my 69 chevelle is almost done, I have to fix each and every car we own, not just my collection cars, but I will drive my 69 chevelle every day like I did 35 years ago. live life the best that you can these cars are made to be driven and enjoy them.

  12. joe haska

    I have owned two 40 2- door sedans, one deluxe and one standard. The deluxe was all late model drive train ,327 ,350 turbo, late rear end. The standard was stock 40 drive train mated to a stock 265″ small block. I drove both cars like I stole them, even long road trips. They were like my children, I didn’t love one more than the other, they wer just different. Forty Fords are awsome and the stock body lines , proportions and trim is perfect and needs no custom modifications. However updating the drive train is simple nin envasive and makes for great driving.

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