Kelly Ingle didn’t know much about old cars. But she did know her husband, Rick, was looking for one to fix up.
So when one of her beauty shop clients mentioned she was going to have to dispose of an old car that had belonged to her dad, Kelly went on the alert.
"She is a good friend and customer. I said, `What’s it look like?’ " she recalled. When she was told it was "some old Ford," she had no idea if that was something her husband would be interested in.
So she had her son, Corey, go along with her to look at the car in the storage unit where the old Ford Super Deluxe coupe had been housed since 1997. He immediately gave the car a thumbs-up and Kelly bought it on the spot.
"About a week later, she took me down to the storage space and told me to open the door," Rick recalled. He was flabbergasted at what he saw.
"It was a 100-percent complete car. It had all the glass in it. It still had the flathead V-8 in it, but it was locked up," he said. His wife asked him several times if he liked it.
"I was speechless," Ingle said.
He never expected to have a post-war coupe dropped in his lap, especially one in such good shape.
"The odometer showed 88,000 miles. There was no rust on it whatsoever. It was amazingly clean," he said.
It turns out the car had been bought in Arkansas sometime in the 1990s and hauled back to Wichita by a local aircraft engineer who put it in storage. He was transferred to Holland on a project and died there, leaving the old Ford to languish.
Rick Ingle decided he would not restore the car, but build a fat-fendered street rod out of it. But he figured if he was going to do it right, he needed a place where he could work on it, so he built the car a garage of its own and began tearing the ’46 coupe apart.
Using a set of double-thickness rafters, he hoisted the body up off the frame and rolled the chassis out of the way.
"I built it to be a driver, so I didn’t want to mess with a cantankerous overheating flathead," he said.
When his wife’s cousin totaled a 1969 Mustang, Ingle wasted no time in giving him $250 for the 302 V-8 engine that had powered it. He picked up a C4 automatic transmission for another $50.
The engine was mildly warmed over, with an RV cam, a Holley 650 carb, electronic ignition and stainless headers.
Sterling Classics installed a Chassis Engineering 4-inch dropped front axle, along with GM power steering and disc brakes on the car. They also did what little body work was needed before painting the car a rich, deep Washington Blue color, a correct hue for a 1946 Ford.
“In 1946, they were just gearing up for production after the war. They used a lot of parts from the ’42s," Ingle said. "There were not many ’46s of any kind made because of the war."
He worked on the project as time and money permitted, never getting in a rush.
"It was truly a family affair … even my wife did the interior," Ingle said. Sons Corey and Justin built the custom center console for the car and Corey wired it.
A pair of bucket seats from a Dodge Avenger were installed, with the back seat sourced from a Pontiac Grand Prix. A tilt steering column topped by a wood-rimmed Grant steering wheel was used, along with a Lokar floor shifter.
Ingle had to replace the deteriorated plastic dashboard faceplate with a nice chromed steel piece from Obsolete Ford Parts. He found that Omega Gauges made a speedometer and an oversized tachometer that fit perfectly in the twin instrument panel bezels; Omega gauges also fill the rectangular gauge holes on the left side of the dash.
To ensure a smooth fit for the new headliner, Morgan-Bulleigh was called in. The front and rear bumpers were cleaned up and rechromed and all of the other brightwork was polished up and installed, along with fresh glass.
Bill’s American Muffler Shop handled the pipe-bending duties, installing Flowmaster mufflers under the car, which sits with a nice nose-down rake.
"I had in mind the stance I wanted. We took three leaves out of the springs to get that hot rod angle," Ingle said.
Accenting that stance is a set of American Racing Torq Thrust II wheels. The rear wheels wear 255x60R17 Goodyear Eagles, while the fronts are fitted with 225x60R16s.
The car was roadworthy again in May, 11 long years after the project began. Some small touches, such as carpeting, remain to be done.
"We could have done more with it, but I wanted to build a nice cruiser,” Ingle said. “I’m not into smoking tires anymore. I drive it to work on Fridays — when the weather is nice.”