High Hopes: 1938 Ford 5-Window Coupe

Prices vary wildly for 1937-1940 Ford Coupes. A quick snapshot of current offerings online range from $22,000 to $75,000. But … these prices are for finished examples. The potential buyer for this 1938 Ford 5-Window Coupe Business Deluxe 81A, listed for sale here on eBay, (with bidding currently at $10,000 and reserve not met), will need to really sharpen their pencil to determine if “Purchase Price+Transportation+Restoration” equals “Good Deal”. Special thanks to Ikey H for this tip!

All things considered, this coupe is in decent condition for an 80-year old car. The plate mounted on the rear indicates that it was last licensed in 1977, and the Arizona/California provenance jibes with the seller’s description as a car with “very little rust”. The gorgeous, curvy, art-deco body panels appear solid, and corrosion is limited mostly to surface rust.

Interior images confirm the mostly-solid theme, but it’s basically an empty cavern. This is both good and bad: good because it allows the creative restorer to let their imagination run wild; bad because a ground-up rebuild will be required. All rubber pieces are long gone and most, if not all, glass needs replacement.

But the better news begins upon examining the front of the cabin. The plump bench seat is intact and in very good condition for a car of this age. Door panels are in place, and sills are in decent condition. The A and B pillars are strong, with solid bones intact for a successful restoration.

The best news is that the really hard-to-find items like gauges and dash accessories are mostly in place. A few knobs must be sourced, and complete removal of the dash will probably reveal that a few intricate items have gone missing. The entire drivetrain is gone, and the seller mentions the availability of a Lincoln 337 engine, though at additional cost. Original paperwork (old title, registrations, etc.) is part of the sale, but it’s a little worrisome that seller also reveals, “I have not titled the car in my name.”

This is an intriguing find, and the end result—whether into original condition or street mod—would be a truly outstanding collectible. The million-dollar question remains, however: Will the final investment reflect the initial purchase price and the weeks or months of labor involved in the project? In my opinion, a wiser option would be to purchase a finished car and let the restoring seller take the loss.

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  1. Camaro Joe

    I wouldn’t bid $1000, much less $10,000 on this car without knowing FOR SURE what the title status is. It says there is an “Old title” but the seller says he “Has not titled the car in my name.” That could be minor, or a big problem.

    The car is in Texas, so you need to contact your state DMV and see if it is possible to title it in your state with the Texas title work that is available. In some states it’s easy, others might be difficult or near impossible.

    I’ve been in this type of situation, a lot of people said it could be a big problem but I did my homework and it turned out to be easy. It’s way better when you know that going in.

  2. TimM

    Great car really but $10,000 and the reserve is not met!!! What the heck it needs everything!! Sometimes I think this is just getting out of control!!!

    • JerryDeeWrench

      Amen to that brother.

      • Tort Member

        Asking a whole lot of money for all it needs. Owned a 38 Ford Coupe years ago. Is was not a show but nice with 265 Chevy with a Carter 4 bbl. , stock trans and rear. The first attempted hole shot resulted in the need of a new rear end. Bought another complete stock unit from a junkyard. Got in trade for a 62 327 Corvette F.I. motor minus the fuel injection. Can’t remember what I sold it for but it could not have been much. Those were the days!!

  3. geomechs geomechs Member

    Time for some debate. Looking at the grill I see a’39 STD. The ‘38 didn’t have that bite taken out of the upper rear corner. I guess a person will need to look at the brakes to determine the year. $10K is out of my budget but if it ended up at my place I would throw in a flathead and continue with the restoration. The last engine I would consider would be the 337 flathead. The Lincoln engine would outweigh a Ford component by close to 200 pounds…

    • Camaro guy

      I could be wrong on this but I’m pretty sure that’s a 38 Deluxe grill which became a 39 standard grill and the 39 deluxe had a new design when the 40 deluxe grill changed again the 39 deluxe grill became the 40 standard

      • bog

        Camaro Guy – what I didn’t catch in my own comment earlier, (had to revisit the eBay ad to again see front end) and that no one seems to be mentioning here re: grill treatment is where the headlights are. Both ’39 and ’40 Fords had them up on the top “prow” of the fenders, not down in the “valley” between fender and grill as shown on this car…Now I’m going to have to find photos of all versions ’38-’40 to satisfy my curiosity !

  4. Terry Bowman

    They just had one on “Pickers” Sat. , but it was a sedan in original non – abuse, original paint, from original family with the “Banjo” steering wheel as with the coupe here. I know the coupe is a more valuable car, but the pickers were at ten grand and the owners were around $25,000.00. Car looks too complete to chop it up or change anything, including the motor. $10,000.00 sounds like a good number, if the title is clean. It’s going to take a lot of work to bring it back to life, but it will be worth the journey as a keeper.


    It does have a 1939 standard front. But the interior, dash and steering wheel, trunk latch, bumper and guards are all 1938. I believe it’s a 38.

  6. Sal

    Certainly a nice looking car.
    I guess I never understood the high prices these cars command. If this wasn’t a Ford; it would be listed for $2k tops in this condition.
    I get that certain models will always have insane prices due to demand. But what makes these Fords stay so high when other cars from that era have fallen?

  7. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    BS – was listed on Craigslist twice here in Texas – watched it as I was intrested – started out about $6500 and dropped down and was most likely bought at $4500.

    Car looked a lot better and was complete with Texas registration way back going by a window inspection sticker…..it was a lot better the way it was.

    I have the print out of that listing somewhere……..the seat is the tell tale – same car.

  8. John C.

    Well current bid is 10,100.00. yes seller says “I have not titled car in my name” aka (because I intended to flip it). Yes I agree, the prices of old cars has really got out of hand!

  9. bog

    I actually like this front end better (whether it’s ’38 or ’39 STD) than the ’40 Ford. The more inboard teardrop headlights and non-chrome horizontal grille slots and those on the sides of the hood appeal to my design sense. On the sale page you can just make out the very faint (and large) “V” and “8”. Sadly, the pictures also show the inside of the trunk lid and that is rust rotten. Neither time nor money allow further interest for me… Hope someone brings it back !

  10. Dennis M

    I agree with David, I think that is ’39 front sheet metal. Note the lovers at the rear of the hood side panels.

    Geomechs is right, a look at the brakes will show the year. ’38 had mechanical brakes, ’39 were hydraulic.

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