Kennedy coupe 50 years in the making

06/22/2013 6:20 AM

06/22/2013 6:20 AM

When Bob Kennedy was a kid, he used to make the rounds, throwing newspapers on a route in the southern part of Wichita. That’s where he fell in love with the 1934 Ford 5-window coupe.

“There was a guy who had one of these and if it was sitting out, my papers didn’t get thrown,” Kennedy recalled. He decided right then and there that someday, somehow, he would own one of the beautifully sculpted coupes.

He knew exactly how he would build it if he ever found one. He almost bought a ’33 coupe at the Sunflower Swap meet several years ago, but talked himself out of it — for a while. When he turned around and went back, the car had just been bought by another gearhead who was counting out the cash when he walked up.

Over the years, Kennedy built and owned some really nice cars, including a beautiful red ’62 Impala SS powered by a Corvette LT1 engine.

Then, about 31/2 years ago, his patience paid off. He found a ’34 5-window coupe body and frame for sale by Butch Dillon in Hutchinson.

“It was a nice, nice body. There’s not a patch panel anywhere in that car,” said Kennedy, who wasted no time making a deal this time around.

“This car, including the color, I could see in my mind for 10 years.”

The stock ’34 frame rails were sandblasted and then had boxing plates welded in for additional strength by Shawn Standerfer of RJ Enterprises in Arkansas City. The frame was then powder-coated by Lorac. Standerfer then installed the 4-link rear suspension that would mate up with a Ford 8.8-inch rear end narrowed by Rob Holzman to fit under the coupe.

To get the right stance, a chromed Super Bell front axle, dropped 4 inches and drilled to reduce weight, was bolted in place. Disc brakes were installed at all four corners.

Tom Bay, the owner of RJ Enterprises in Arkansas City, came up with a slick, smooth firewall for the body, which already had the factory fabric top replaced with a contoured steel panel when Kennedy bought the car.

Butch Dysart took on the overall project in his home garage, smoothing out what little body work was needed, using lead to fill the imperfections.

“Butch knows how to work that metal. This car doesn’t have enough Bondo in it to wad a shotgun,” Kennedy said.

Did he ever consider chopping the top on his coupe?

“No. Chopping is something that just gets under my skin,” said Kennedy. “I wanted her to look like an old stock ’34 Ford. I didn’t want no chrome on this car but what Henry put on there.”

Of course, Henry put some beautiful chrome on these cars, the gorgeous “cow-catcher” style grille supplied by Bob Drake being the most obvious. The original back bumper was rechromed and a reproduction Speedway front bumper bolted in place. Vintique headlight buckets and a set of chromed horns further enhance the finished front end.

Kennedy, with the help of his friend Kham Molla, set about building a worthy powerplant for the 5-window. The starting point was a 351 Ford V-8, bored out .040” and then fitted with GT40 aluminum heads, an Edelbrock RPM Air Gap intake, a FAST XFI fuel injection system and a Comp Cams roller camshaft. Duane Saum Engineering handled the job of balancing the rotating assembly.

Gene Hughes at Hall’s Speed Shop was instrumental in tracking down parts, Kennedy said.

Patriotic headers were mounted to the engine and flow back into a Kevin Kaiser-built custom exhaust system featuring a set of Flowmaster Series 50 mufflers. A Ford automatic overdrive transmission coupled with the positraction differential’s 3.73 gearset makes the coupe a natural Interstate cruiser.

Inside, no effort was spared to reflect the ’34’s heritage, while at the same time upgrading both creature comforts and operating systems. Dysart retained the stock steel dashboard, but extended it downward with a fiberglass panel to contain the Vintage Air heating and air conditioning vents and controls. The dash insert was filled with off-white AutoMeter gauges, with the whole dashboard and the window moldings finished in a stunning burled walnut finish by Zack Noel of All Angles Collision Repair and Restoration.

Morgan-Bulleigh used buckskin tan Cessna Citation leather to cover the Glide bench seat and door panels, along with the custom fiberglass floor console built by Dysart. A Lokar shifter sprouts from the console, while a Juliano’s banjo-style steering wheel perches atop a GM tilt column.

Despite all that, the cowl vent still works, the windshield can still be cranked out and the rear window cranked down, just the way the coupe came from Dearborn.

When Dysart was satisfied he had the body exactly right, he called in Howard Barnett of Santa Fe, N.M., to shoot the paint. Kennedy had envisioned the coupe clad in a 1938 Ford color, Cloud Mist Gray. For the custom-built Wheelsmith wire wheels, again mirroring original equipment, 1934 Ford Tacoma Cream paint was specified.

“Every ’34 is either red or black,” Kennedy said. “I thought I would catch a lot of flak for this color, but it really knocks people’s socks down.”

He had to sell his ’62 Chevy to build this car, but he figures it was well worth it. He and his wife, Connie, have already put 1,200 miles on it and won awards at Goodguys shows with the car.

She shows off a scrapbook she made for him showing the various stages of the build. On one page, there is even a prescription his doctor wrote for him, instructing him to rebuild his coupe “for mental exercise, stress reduction and time consumption.”

“I’ve wanted this car for 50 years and now it’s mine, with the help of an awful lot of people,” Kennedy said. “I sit out here in my lawn chair and I look at it and I can’t think of anything I would do to change it.”

It pays to follow doctor’s orders.

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