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Bill Phelan's Dream of Owning a 1940 Ford Coupe

It was my freshman year of high school, 1959, in Brentwood, CA., when I first saw it drive through town. It was owned by a fellow named Reddick. It was white at that time. I fell in love with the car instantly and knew that I had to have one someday. It was a 1940 Ford Coupe.

Several years later, a friend of mine acquired this same car. That gave me my first chance to see the car up close and sit in it. He later took the car to Tiajuana and had a red and white tuck and roll interior installed and the car painted lime green. I loved the interior but never cared for the color of the car. He drove it for a year or so and then my brother, Jesse, worked out a trade with him and got the car. At that time it didn't have an engine in it.

Jesse had a 1951 Ford two door sedan with a hopped up '53 Mercury flathead. Back in those days we called it a 3/4 load. Since I was the mechanic in the family, Jesse and I quickly got started pulling the engine from the '51 Ford and installing it into the 1940 Ford Coupe. We had to buy a bell housing adapter and water pumps to make it fit. Within a week it was up and running. Now I was cruising all over Brentwood and the country with my brother in the '40 Ford that I had dreamed of owning myself. What a thrill it was for me.

Later that year, Jesse got in some trouble but I won't go into that at this time. He was invited to leave the state of California, so he chose to go to Oklahoma to live with our Grandmother and Uncle Lloyd. To my surprise and delight he gave me the '40 Ford Coupe before he left. I was in heaven. I had many dreams and plans of customizing the car but I stopped for four years to go into the Army.

When I returned home from the service, I had grown up a bit and decided that I did not want to customize the Ford, but wanted to keep it stock. The engine was pretty tired by this time so I found a '48 Ford 3/4 load flathead and installed it. I still have the two deuce manifold and heads that were installed on that engine. I wanted to go faster so I came across a pretty healthy 265 Chevy engine with two fours on it. I proceeded to install that with some modifications and transmission adaptors. While I was running the flathead I seemed to break an axle about every two or three weeks. After I installed the Chevy engine, it had so much power I didn't have to worry about axles breaking, but blew a transmission about every two weeks. I got pretty fast at pulling and fixing transmissions.

Of course marriage and having to support a family with two children began to take me away from my hobby cars. I never really cared for the Chevy engine in my Ford. I have pretty much been strictly Ford all my life. So, I pulled the engine and gave it to my brother, Tom, to put in his '55 Chevy. Probably around the late '60s my Ford went into storage. I was still dreaming of how it could have been, but I just didn't have the time. In 1980, we packed the family and moved to Missouri. I brought the '40 Ford Coupe along and it stayed in storage for another ten to fifteen years. Most of the time it sat outside and the weather took quite a toll.

In the early 1990s I started the shop known as Trucks and Roadsters By Bill in Ozark, Missouri. Joined now with son, Ves, we were commissioned to build a '40 Ford Coupe for one of our customers. As we did the custom work to the car we chopped the top two inches, removed the drip rail and left the grove in the body where the drip rail had been, and rolled the rear pan. It was looking so good we asked the owner of the car for permission to make a mold of the car. After agreement, we began developing the fiberglass '40 Ford Coupe that we now have in production. It took almost ten years to get it to this point.

This car renewed my interest in my '40 Ford that was still in storage. We decided to remove the body and completely rebuild the chassis and install one of the fiberglass bodies. The floor pan was pretty well rotted and gone on the original '40 so we purchased a brand new metal floor pan. We put it together and used it for making a mold for our fiberglass cars. Presently, we are in the process of cleaning up the original '40 and installing the metal floor pan in that car. We have also used the front fenders, trunk, rear fenders and running boards from the original '40 to make our fiberglass molds for the fiberglass cars. By doing this, the original '40 is getting restored as we go.

We decided to build the first fiberglass car as a nostalgia hot rod. There will be no mechanical parts on the car newer than 1960. We have installed a 1956 Thunderbird 312 engine with three twos and a vintage Mallory ignition system. I saved this three two manifold from my early years. I also had a set of 1956 Thunderbird valve covers that I had saved. I didn't have any carburetors so I began looking for some. A couple of weeks later a friend walked in with an Offenhouser three two manifold with some chrome Stromburg carburetors and the Mallory ignition. He said, "Here, I will probably never use these. Put them to use." They really look good on the 312. Many thanks go to my good friend.

So far, I have built custom fender well exit headers since there is nothing on the market for the 312. The car is not completed yet but I hope to have it ready for this year's Power Cruise. We also have a new project, a 39 Deluxe Coupe we are building for one of our long standing customers using our fiberglass parts.  It will be a full blown street rod with all the goodies including a 514 big block Ford, 4stb auto transmission and Dutchman quick change rear end for starters. We will update the progress on this car on our projects web page.

It looks like my dream is coming true each day as we build more and more '40 Ford Coupes. Give us a call anytime or visit us here on the web often.

- Bill

Email Bill at roadster@centurytel.net

Phone: 417-679-3834

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