April 20, 2013

A glorious gray ’40 coupe

Jim Pond is like a lot of hot rodders. He likes building them even more than driving them.

Jim Pond is like a lot of hot rodders. He likes building them even more than driving them.

But his latest hot rod, a beautifully understated 1940 Ford Standard Coupe, may challenge that point of view a bit.

"It rides and drives really well," he says, almost apologetically.

The coupe wasn’t much to look at when Pond, a retired Butler Community College administrator, got it from fellow rodder Terry Scroggins in a trade for a 1931 Ford pickup a couple of years ago.

"The truck was an unfinished project I had bought. It was kind of a rat rod deal. It got me interested in flatheads again," Pond said.

He had been interested in ’40 Fords since he was a kid, building scale model versions of them, including a black coupe with bright red wheels. A friend had owned a similar full-sized ’40 and Pond enjoyed riding around in it. So it didn’t take too much persuading for him to take on the timeworn ’40 coupe.

"It was a ’50’s-’60s hot rod in need of a complete rebuild. It had the old black diamond tuck interior in it. The floor pans and the rear deck panel were rusted out. It was pretty much a beater," Pond said.

Perhaps the worst thing was its color — a loud purple. Chipping away at the paint showed it had been painted a lighter purple before.

"But I found a trace where it might have been a green car. I didn’t like the purple, so I started tearing it all apart," he said.

He ordered new running boards and a trunk lid, as well as replacement floor pans and set to work.

"I had a Chevrolet motor bought for it," Pond said. "But everybody’s got a `belly button’ 327 or 350 small block Chevy in their car. So I thought I would defy convention and go with a flatty … I’ve had a lot of old cars and I know my way around flatheads."

He dispensed with the original flathead V-8 in favor of a later model 8BA engine he bought through an Internet listing. It turned out to be a "smoker" so he sent the engine to Rex Gardner at Flat Motor Research in Grove, Okla., to be rebuilt.

"He does a great job," Pond said, noting that the engine he got back now produces 130 horsepower using a new Holley 94 carburetor and a 3/4 race camshaft.

The flathead V-8 is beautifully detailed, breathing through a period-correct chrome air cleaner that Pond happily paid a good price for, in its original box.The car has also been upgraded to a 12-volt electrical system using a modern alternator.

But there’s no air conditioning, killer sound system or power steering. He kept things basic.

Pond installed a fresh clutch and rebuilt 3-speed manual transmission and still uses the old "banjo" style ’40 Ford rear end. "I don’t go fast and I don’t bang it, so it should be okay," he said of the basically stock drive train.

He did lower the front suspension with a 4-inch dropped Super Bell axle, to which he added disc brakes for improved safety. Bigger Lincoln rear drum brakes were used as well.

For rolling stock, Pond chose a set of Wheel Vintiques chrome wheels topped off by aftermarket spinner-type hubcaps embellished with the Ford V-8 emblem. Hankook radial tires, 195 /65 /R15s in the front, and 215 /75 /R15s at the rear, improve the coupe’s handling.

The 1940 Ford was the first to feature a column gear shift and Pond retained that, along with the old toggle-switch style ignition. He used an engine-turned dash insert fitted with black-faced AutoMeter gauges, augmented by an under-dash accessory gauge panel that includes a water temperature gauge for each cylinder head.

For upholstery, Pond said, "Since this is a Standard Coupe, a no-frills car, I wanted the interior to reflect the character of the car: very functional." He had earlier bought six nice grey leather hides, which he took to Rick Fisher Upholstery, where Fisher stitched them into just that kind of interior. The only major change was a switch to a new Glide bench seat with center armrest.

Fresh carpet and a new headliner was added to the package, which included upholstering the surprisingly big trunk of the car.

When all the body work was done and it was time for paint, Pond also had the low-key theme in mind. He had seen a 1940 Ford pickup at a car show painted a nice, neutral gray. Some research revealed it was a factory Ford color that year called Folkstone Gray. Bill Dietrich of Arkansas City applied the finish, which is also used to accent the spinner hub caps.

"I got all fired up. If you’re a real flathead enthusiast, you run straight pipes, so that’s what I did," Pond said. "It’s kind of loud in the garage, but out in the open, it’s all right. It’s kind of cool … really brings back the old days.

"It’s just a throwback to the honor of the traditional flathead hot rod," Pond said.

And it’s a blast to drive, to boot.

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