Sweat Equity: 1937 Ford Tudor Project

Sometimes your budget just won’t allow you to go out and buy a freshly restored version of the car of your dreams.  So, when a cheaper but rougher car comes along, we convince ourselves that buying it cheap and then spending the money and time to fix it will get us to the same place in a way we can afford.  If you have the drive, tools, space, and enough cash, then that is great.  However, cars like this 1937 Ford tudor being sold on eBay can test that plan.  This neat little Ford out of Augusta, Missouri has significant rust problems that need to be addressed by a restorer with talent.  Would the effort plus the current $2,225 bid be worth it in the end?  Would the average restorer reach the end?

The declining general interest in prewar cars has deflated prices and made the manufacture of reproduction parts less attractive for businesses.  Yes, there are exceptions to every rule and we all hope that the decline will reverse itself.  Yet if you look to what has happened to interest in cars from the teens and twenties, a continued decline is the most logical outcome.  Of all the prewar cars, Fords are the only vehicles to maintain a fair amount of popularity and parts availability.  They are not, however, immune to a decline in value and have been losing value at a lesser rate.

Take for example this 1937 Ford tudor with a humpback trunk.  1937 is not a bad year for Ford styling, but collectors seem to love 1932, 1933-34, 1936, and 1940 Fords the best.  The tudor is a practical body style for a driver, but it doesn’t attract the attention of a coupe or an open car.  In terms of desirability, it is OK but not great.  The overall condition, however, is pretty poor.  There are numerous dents, the chrome is in poor shape, and the broken back window almost certainly means rusted out floors and a destroyed interior.

There are extra parts that go with the vehicle.  Some of the ones you see above are extras, while others are parts off of the car.  A complete spare front end is a nice ace in the hole if you have a front end collision.  Being that this is a car that has not been converted over to hydraulic brakes and still wears its mechanical binders, those extra fenders, hood sides, and hood might come in handy.

The interior overall is in pretty rough shape.  Fortunately, the dash area isn’t that bad.  The gauges are still intact and look to be restorable.  The steering wheel is cracked, but the horn button and headlight switch both look restorable.  The rust on the dash doesn’t look too deep and can be brought back to life.  The center of the dash is intriguing.  At the top there is a crank to extend the windshield out at the bottom for ventilation.  Below it looks like a control for a radio.  There is an antenna mount on the driver’s side of the cowl to back up that theory.  It just doesn’t look like a Ford radio.  Below that is an ash tray.  One more problem is that the seller does not have the key for the car.  On a Ford of this vintage, the key not only turns on the ignition.  It locks the steering as well.

The picture above shows us that anything cloth or vinyl in the interior is a moldy, rotten mess.  Some of it is intact enough to use as a pattern.  The rear package tray and the seat coils are in pretty good shape and can likely be reused.  If you look closely, Dennis Carpenter and Bob Drake Ford parts catalogs are resting on the seat springs.  The seller probably threw the calculator to add up the parts in a lake.  The seller does tell us that the floor in the rear is in good shape.

The floorboards and door sills, however, are toast.  About the only rational thing to do would be to remove everything, brace the interior, remove the body from the frame, and start cutting.  Floor boards are available and are rather inexpensive.  The problem is that you need the talent to brace the body properly, the space to remove the body, and the ability to cut and weld the new floors back in.  Add in there fabrication skills for the times when everything doesn’t match up quite right or you find rust in an area that you hadn’t planned for.  There just aren’t that many people out there that are capable of making this repair, which further shrinks the market for this car.

Under the hood is the usual 85 horsepower Flathead V-8.  The seller tells us that it will not turn at the present.  The missing air cleaner, generator, and fan are all in the parts pile seen above.  Perhaps some Marvel Mystery Oil could be poured into the cylinders to get this engine free.  A rebuild can cost up to $5,000 or more on one of these engines.  Of course, it can be done cheaper if you do all the work yourself.  It can also run higher if you add some go fast goodies to it.  Once again, a rebuild will add to the overall costs to get this car back on the road.

I guess it all comes down to three things: talent, time, and resources.  You can find a 1937 tudor that has been through an older restoration for around $15,000 if you look for a while.  Restoring this one would likely cost you more than that, even if you did the work yourself.  Don’t believe me?  Just look around the early Ford V-8 parts vendor websites and start adding up everything you see here that needs to be replaced.  Add to that an engine rebuild, paint and body, and a full interior and tell me you don’t make it to $15,000.

Is this car worth restoring?  Ever got in a rough car cheaply and made payments in the form of parts and restoration?

 

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Comments

  1. TimM

    I could see her with a banjo steering wheel and a sweet paint job with a couple of go fast parts on the old flat head!! New interior to sit in comfort!! Cruising down the road!!

  2. geomechs geomechs Member

    I’m thinking that it’s still got the original 21 stud engine in it. Most people wouldn’t notice if you had to substitute a 59AB. I would do my best with the 21 stud engine. The floor would be a challenge but there are a lot worse things to repair on something like this. So if the floor is the major problem have at it. I’d keep everything original, right down to the mechanical brakes. Worthwhile fixing for sure…

    Like 1
  3. Joe Haska

    This car is not worth restoring, it is not worth making a hot rod.. The numbers don’t add up, more money to fix, than its worth. Only way is if you are in love with it! Love is blind and expensive.

  4. Benjy58

    USS Rust bucket! Abandon ship.

  5. bobhess bobhess Member

    Lots of work and money ahead on this one… but you just don’t see many of these any more unless you go to a museum. The Don Gartlis museum in Ocalla, Fl has one of these but sure haven’t seen any on the road or at car shows. Unique design that should be preserved… maybe a stock bodied restomod, old wheels and all.

    Like 3
  6. SRG

    I’m doing a 37 humpback right now. This car is perfect for a rod guy with talent. You are pretty hard on this car in your comments. It is a rust bucket/ ton of work but it has some good things going. That’s not a control for a radio on the dash. That’s a blank plate to fill the hole for the radio, with holes drilled in it, just like your head. You can do better with your write -ups.

    Like 2
  7. Jim King

    For many of us buying a finished car is like kissing your sister….much of the enjoyment of the hobby for us is the satisfaction of doing a job well by ourselves…it’s about the journey, not just the destination!

    Like 2
  8. geomechs geomechs Member

    If you’re going to fix it, drive it–a lot. There’s a guy in our group has driven his essentially stock (and original) ’37 all but to the moon and back. And still has plans to drive it some more. He’s had some near misses but has always made it home in one piece…

    Like 1
  9. Little_Cars

    The conversion to sealed beam headlights years ago does nothing for the looks on the front of the car. Even the spare fender has the ugly bezel. Unless, this is a 1938 Standard Ford. I like the looks of the blue 37 Sedan geomechs included. If anyone on Barn Finds buys this project in Augusta, Missouri, I have two original wheels with tires and tubes that still hold air.

    Like 1

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