High Build Primer Build: 1940 Ford Coupe

It really is amazing what we can do with antique cars today.  Parts to completely rebuild many of the most popular cars of the past are being sold by numerous companies.  Craftsmen can duplicate almost any part, be it metal, wood, or plastic.  The future, with desktop CNC machines just around the corner, looks even brighter.  Whoever ends up purchasing this car had better be thankful that these blessings exist, because that person is going to need parts, fabricators, and a credit card with a high limit on this project.  Somewhere in the woods of Shell Lake, Wisconsin  lies an American icon that has seen a lot better days.  This 1940 Ford coupe, found on EBay, is currently sitting at an untouched starting bid of $2000, will need a number of parts to get it back on the road again.  With the cost of restored 1940 Ford coupes ranging from around $30,000-$40,000, can this one ever be brought back to life without going under Titanic style?

If you purchase this car, there is a man in Concord, North Carolina that you will get to know well.  His name is Dennis Carpenter, and he owns Dennis Carpenter Ford Restoration Parts.  While there are many companies that sell these parts, Carpenter is pretty much the 800 pound gorilla of the business.  He has spent the time and money to produce all of the sheet metal needed to build a 1940 Ford coupe body, and will even sell you a completed body with your choice of firewall.  The firewall choice would depend on whether you wanted to return the car to stock, or make the street rod of your dreams.  While I think a lot of this car is savable, the whole car wouldn’t be if this were a 1940 Plymouth coupe.  At least you probably couldn’t restore a Plymouth of the same year, in this condition, to stock without expending tons of money and time.

As you can see from the pictures, this one sets the standard for rough.  It looks like the fenders, deck lid, and doors are useable.  The lower end of the body itself could probably be repaired with patch panels, and you at least have a rear end, transmission, and engine.  Their condition may be another story, but you do have something to start with.  The real concern is the floors and the thickness of the metal that is there.  While primer is there in some places, others look to have heavy surface rust.  The frame condition is another big question mark, but, once again, frame rails are being reproduced.

The other bit of good news is that there are still a lot of Ford parts out there, both new old stock (NOS) and used.  You can also get a new wiring harness from Rhode Island Wiring Service, all the dash trim from Dennis Carpenter Ford, and the needed upholstery from Le Baron Bonney.  If you want to go first class on the engine, then you could contact H&H Flatheads for a rebuild and maybe some go fast goodies.  You can even get an overdrive unit from Mitchell Overdrives.  To prime and paint the car, you would need a lot of high build primer from Southern Polyurethanes to make that surface rust disappear.  There are many more suppliers, both big and small, out there to purchase from.  I provided the links for you not as product ads, because these companies don’t even know I am writing about them.  They are here for you to peruse in order to demonstrate how many parts are out there to resurrect this car, and how far in the hole financially you would be if you went all the way.

Yet, it could be done.  Or, you could piece and patch it together and make a running car out of it.  It wouldn’t be pretty, and it wouldn’t be a show winner, but I have seen some cars that were this rough cobbled together into something that runs and drives down the road just fine.  I met a man a few weekends ago that rescued a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air coupe that was a popular racecar in the area.  It had been sitting for years in a swamp, so you can imagine the condition.  He had it running and driving at a cruise in, and it was back to the gasser configuration it raced in.  You could even make out some of the old lettering, and he had a sign painter friend bring back the rest.  Where there is a will, there is a way.

It just breaks my heart that it got to this condition in the first place.  However, bad things happen in this world every day.  If you remember, I wrote an article about a 1935 Ford coupe that discussed the “I’m gonna fix it up someday” phenomenon.  This 4’40 Ford is another prime example of that.  If this car were offered at a reasonable price years ago, a restorer would have snapped it up.  Now, with all this damage and all the missing parts, the list of potential buyers is much smaller.

While out enjoying a drive today, I stopped to look at a 1967 Ford Galaxie coupe that I had seen before.  The car has been sitting for a long time, and is parked just outside a cleaned out garage that has plenty of room for the car.  A neighbor happened to be outside, and he told me that the car has been there for ten years, and it is owned by his cousin.  The cousin says that he is going to fix it up someday, but the fellow seriously doubted that he would ever follow through.  The cousin has rejected over twenty offers.  Give it a few more years and the car will not be worth saving.

For the love of God, if you have a car just sitting, and you have neither the ability or the intention to restore it, please sell it to someone who can before it is too late.  They sure aren’t making any more of them (though Dennis Carpenter is trying).  This one is borderline restorable now only because it is a popular car.  Most cars don’t have that kind of luck.


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  1. Chuck

    This would make a good base for a hot rod build, but not restoration. Maybe if it was a Ferrari 250 California Spider, but it isn’t.

  2. Jim1965

    I agree with you Chuck. As far as a hot rod build, it’s a clean slate, with some real promise. I live its potential

  3. geomechs geomechs Member

    This one is rough but not impossible. But from the condition I wouldn’t condemn anyone for making it into a street rod. Now, saying that, if you think making this into a restomod or a streetrod is going to cost any less than a restoration you should think again.

  4. lawyer George

    It’s too far gone. Depressing just to look at it. Good for body parts only.

  5. Mark S

    Work on your skills, build up your toolbox, and be resorceful. Example the seats in my fifty one dodge were shot so I went to the local pick and pull found some beautiful grey leather seats in like new condition for $120.00. I then rebuilt the door panels using the old ones as templates I reused the chrome trim I put new vinyl where old was where there was fabric I left expose wood ( oak ) which I stained and varithained. The head liner I bought some heavy fabric I made a paper patern from the remains of the old headliner and sewed together a new head liner. It’s in the car and looks great. Total cost on interior so far under $400.00. All I have left is flooring I even have 5 shoulder restraints out of the same car as the seats. Bottom line is this could be a very nice driver quality car on a budget. My dad always said if you to want get anything done you need to apply 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. If a forty Ford coupe is your dream car and your on a budget I guess it comes down to how bad you want it and how much sweat your willing to put in it.JMHO.

  6. Chuck Cobb

    Most of what is missing wouldn’t be used in many street rods. I would rather see this car put into a street rod and back on the street as a usable car, than see it wait to be restored outside in the elements, and never be used again.

  7. stillrunners lawrence Member

    For some – having an old car and just looking at it at times or maybe sitting on one of it’s old fenders is good for the heart in their case. If they wish to let it decay to a point of no return it is or my choice.

  8. TouringFordor

    Paul Bradley makes floor pans. http://bradleyfloorpans.com/

  9. Peter

    You guys have no get up and go!!!!! This is what is wrong with our country..It is a 1940 ford….

  10. Peter

    Rust… you guys have no get up and go, no enthusiasm, what is wrong with this country..it is a 1940 ford…

  11. John

    If there are no other parts included with this car then it looks like someone had previously been using it for a parts car. I semi restored a 40 Coupe back in the day. This one will need a LOT of work and $$$ just to get 90% there. And who knows how bad the frame is rusted from sitting out all that time. So sad.

  12. Tommy

    Yank the engine and move on.

  13. Ryan Manson

    This car is being rebuilt as we speak by a former editor of Classic Trucks Magazine and contributor to Street Rodder Magazine, Ryan Manson. The build will be covered on http://www.clampdowncompetition.com, Ryan’s shop and media outlet. The car is rough but as the new sheetmetal panels are installed, it’s slowly coming back together. Plans call for a new Fat Man Fabrications chassis and an early blown Hemi!

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