Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes? 1940 Ford Coupe

George Jones sang a great country song called “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?”  It was about who was going to replace the legends of country music when they passed.  As we can now see, it was a good question considering country music now is pretty much what used to be called light rock.  In the automotive world, we should be asking the same question.  Who is going to step up to restore, hot rod, or even serve as caretaker for cars of the past?  Take for example this 1940 Ford Coupe for sale on Craigslist and located in Chula Vista, California.  Between being priced at $8500, and being in the condition that it is in, who is going to step up to save a rough, but beautiful, car like this?  Maybe we can convince Larry S., who found this car for us, to adopt it…

It is sad to see a car this beautiful descend into such a condition.  A 1940 Ford coupe is a very desirable car with a lot of admirers because it represented a real change for Ford. Ford was pretty slow to make improvements, and they often made changes only when drops in sales forced their hand.  In 1939, Ford had finally switched to hydraulic brakes, and that particular brake design would remain unchanged until 1948.  In 1940, styling was freshened up, sealed beam headlights were added, and sales took off.  Everyone loved the coupes and convertibles most of all, and these body styles were the basis of many a hot rod after the war.  Under the hood, the insanely popular flathead V-8 was the foundation of hot rodding until the Chevrolet small block V-8 came along.  On the restoration side of the equation, 1940 Fords are some of the most popular early Fords to restore.  By 1940, they were making a pretty modern car, and restorers favor them because of their great styling and comfortable driving characteristics.  They are, in short an easy car to live with, by prewar Ford standards.

This particular 1940 Ford coupe appears to be a hot rodding experiment that somehow never made it very far.  The body, thankfully, hasn’t been chopped or cut on in any way.  The panels look to be very useable, although the surface rust seems to be pretty advanced.  The steel on these old Fords is pretty thick, so you should have enough to work with after you apply multiple layers of high build primer to them.  Just start doing the Mr. Miyagi exercises now, substituting the words “sand down.”  I would like to get a good look at the area where the body panels meet, as they can hide rust where they are separated with fender welting.  Looking at the pictures, I am not too concerned about any of the panels being unrestorable.  However, pictures are a leaky vessel to put your faith in when it comes to old cars.

Speaking of leaks, the interior does have me a little worried.  The metal panels that hold the windshields in seem to be in an advanced state of rust, and that is bad news for the area below where the dash attaches to the cowl.  Likely it wouldn’t be anything you couldn’t fix, and it would be in a covered area, but it is a pain in the rear to repair perfectly.  The rest of the dash looks restorable, but everything that isn’t metal would have to be replaced.  The upholstery and floor mat are useful for patterns only at this point.  Restoring the interior of a prewar Ford to factory correct condition is a very pricey undertaking.  A company called Le Baron Bonney is the undisputed 1,000 pound gorilla of the Ford interior industry, and their products, while beautiful, don’t come cheap.  If you were going to make it a driver, then the costs will go down considerably if you chose lesser materials and did the work yourself.  Either way, adding insulating material throughout the cabin would be a good idea.  These Fords can get very warm inside on a summer day, and every little bit of heat reduction will be a blessing.

Under the hood is the most visible clue of the car’s hot rod past.  The “Nailhead” Buick engine was a popular power plant to put in early hot rods.  Built from 1953 to 1966, these engines could pack up to 425 cubic inches of displacement from the factory.  Conversions such as this were made popular by a cottage industry of companies that made bell housing conversions to mate these engines up with almost any transmission you can dream of.  These companies also made custom motor mounts that made an engine swap easier for the average joe working out of his one car garage.  When I look at the picture of this engine, I don’t think the conversion ever got totally off the ground.  It looks like the stock radiator is still in the car, and one of the hoses is just hanging in the air.  The generator is lying on the valve cover, and some sort of cobbled up bracket is laying next to one of the carburetors.  These engines are not as cheap to rebuild as a flathead Ford or a small block Chevrolet, conditions being equal, and it could probably be sold to another hot rodder if it isn’t frozen up.

The owner also states that it is missing the front bumper and the grill.  In looking at the picture above, the rear bumper doesn’t look like a stock Ford item, so it would need replacement if you were to restore the car.  Fortunately, there are a lot of parts available for 1940 Fords.  The restoration industry makes nearly everything you need, and there is a healthy used parts market for them on EBay, the HAMB message board, and the Early Ford V-8 Club forum.  Dennis Carpenter Ford Restoration Parts even makes whole reproduction bodies for these coupes, so body parts shouldn’t be any issue at all.  I just hope your checkbook can handle the strain.

The costs required and the skills needed are the big issue here.  Twenty years ago, this car wouldn’t be on the market for long, especially in California.  The people who coveted these cars were in their prime earning years, and a lot of them were very skilled mechanically.  Now, the number of people who lust after prewar Fords grows smaller by the day, and working with your hands has been shamed for years now by people who shall not be properly named on a family website.  The costs for the tools and materials needed to perform a restoration have skyrocketed as well.  All of this leaves us in a quandary.  This car is worth saving, but the owner will have to come down in price to attract a buyer who can bring this car back to life.  By the looks of the bias ply tires and the rust, the car has been sitting around for a log time, waiting for its return to the road.  If prices on cars such as this don’t become more realistic, and the rest of us don’t start mentoring the next generation, then we may be seeing a lot of one way trips to the crusher.

We are running out of people to fill our shoes, because our passion isn’t hereditary.

Fast Finds


  1. Lee Hartman

    ’40 Ford Standard. The rear bumper is from a ’49 Plymouth. If I had it, I’d leave the Buick engine in there.

  2. Al

    Maybe I should bid on this, as it appears to have sealed beam headlights.
    I don’t know exactly why I have NOS ’40 Ford headlights and bezels in my shop, but I have had them for years. I also have a grill for it, but have never owned a’40 Ford, hhhmmmmmmmmmmmm.

    • Rob

      Well there you go, the missing car for your parts.

    • Joanna

      We recently became the proud owners of a garaged 40 Ford convertible. It was last driven in 80s . It need lovins . Some mechanical work ( I am sure ), interior and new top and paint! It is primed . My hubbys dad always wanted to fully restore but he sadly aged out of that opportunity.
      So with that being said …we need someone capable of repairs so we can pass vehicle on to our children and enjoy Sunday drives!
      If you know of capable repair persons please let me know.
      We are on Long Island NY.

      Like 1
  3. jw454

    Gone already. I hope it gets good treatment and is back on the road soon.

    • Bob

      I drove it yesterday runs great

  4. Todd Fitch Staff

    I’m with Lee – love the ’40 Ford AND the Nailhead. I’d pick a year, depending on the year of the engine, and make the ultimate Nailhead-powered ’40 Ford from that year. Since nobody wanted “patina” in those days, it would need to be painted. My Dad had a ’53 Roadmaster (last year of that body, first year of the Nailhead), and as soon as we got that nailhead running it settled to a nearly imperceptible idle. Great motor.

  5. Joe Haska

    Jeff, You have brought up allot of ideas and topics ,that us old time Hot-Rodder’s talk about all the time, and you have hit the nail right on the head. Who is going to fill the shoes, honestly probably no one, its pretty simple formula, age and supply and demand, coupled with money and economy.
    No doubt about it a, 40 Ford Coupe was an icon Hot Rod, I had a couple and loved them. At the peak a nice 40, depending on body style, could easily be over 50K, and more. Not now, my contemporaries have been there done that. Younger people are not interested, thus we have supply and demand. Who is going to take this 40 Coupe, and spend more money on it, than they can get in return. If you really want one shop around, and buy the best of the best,for less than you can build this one.
    Its sad for old timers like me, with several old Ford Hot Rods in the garage, realizing you are no longer driving the car everybody wants, and being the cool guy they want to be. That’s life, as much as things stay the same, they will change with age, and if you live long enough, you will probably fall behind he power curve.
    If it bothers you too much its sad, with me I love my cars so much , I don’t really care, they never were an investment! I liked the fact that more people use to appreciate them more, than they do now, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that, I still drive them everyday, and its still as much fun as it was 50 plus years ago. Fact, my 34 Ford Coupe, I bought in 1963, I was 19 years old, I still drive it, and I enjoy it as much as I did then.
    Someone will fill those shoes, it will just be with different cars!

    Like 1
  6. geomechs geomechs Member

    No damn way! Too many of these got anything from modified to completely butchered. Pull the Nailhead and put it into another Buick. A flathead is the only way to go here. You want to hotrod one of these, get a complete repro ’40 coupe and knock yourself out. This one is worth a full restoration, maybe a warmed over flathead with two or three carbs….

  7. John

    I had a 40 Coupe back in the day, That car has a original 40 Heater in it, I paid a small fortune for one when I needed it!

  8. Bob Hess

    Junior/Senior year in college four or five of us had modified cars for transportation and drag racing. In addition to my ’53 Olds powered Studebaker
    Lowery coupe I was the driver for a friend’s ’40 Ford Olds powered coupe. In addition to it being good on the drag strip I think my favorite time with it was sitting in the dorm parking lot drinking beer and just looking at it.

  9. Joe Haska

    Geometrics, if you think original 40 Fords are that rare, why don’t you got to an Early Ford V-8 Event, and then buy this one, and spend 50K on it making it the car of your dreams!

    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Hi Joe. Maybe I’m going to the wrong events but I seldom see a stock (Std. or Deluxe) ’40 Coupe. I see a lot more of them with SBCs (local one with a 351W) than I do original. I’ve seen lots of great ’40s at these events but they’re sedans, equally split between 2 and 4-door, the odd convertible, a woodie and a couple of pickups. I can honestly say that I’ve seen more ’41 to ’48 coupes than I’ve seen ’40, or ’39 Deluxe. I know that ’40 coupes are highly desireable, otherwise the aftermarket wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble to come out with a complete repro unit. I sort of doubt you’d see a ’48 coupe in kit form….

  10. GP Member

    Hey Jeff- Light rock? More like Rock, Acid rock, Rap crap, hip hop, pop etc. They don’t have the right to be called a Country station any more. And the Ford has a lot going for it. I think it will become a very sharp car again.

  11. Cattoo Member

    My friend has three 1940 Ford. Coupe. Deluxe, and a pickup.

    Like 1
  12. Bonnie

    I grew up watching my dad restoring a 1940 Ford Coup. Black,and I remember the original running boards were brown. I remember how he searched for parts. How hard some parts were hard to get. He sold it for a pretty penny.

  13. R.H. Roberts

    Henry did not build a bad 40 Ford! Many were just treated poorly. Some one should step up and save this old guy! My garage will only hold one 40. Joe Haska is dead on right about the age group that will appreciate this 40 and other models like it. Kids in my neighborhood think of me as an old dinosaur with a garage full of funny old cars that they have no interest in. One kid would be a real rarity. If you want to build this old coupe it will take some big bucks and you probably won’t have a great following. After all this is 2019!

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