Reshaping the '40 Ford coupe...
Reshaping the '40 Ford coupe profile is no small chore, but this coupe managed to keep proportions perfect by matching a 2-inch pie-cut hood with a rather radical top chop. The hood has been filled and the V-butt windshield keeps things clean. Appleton spots add vintage flavor.
Great hot rods have a certain intangible appeal; a head turning, stopping power that draws you in for a closer look, even in a sea of similar cars. And so it was this year at Bowling Green, among rows of finely built hot rods and surrounded by the vintage dragstrip and amusement park, this bright red hammered coupe managed to stop us in our tracks. With the roar of vintage dragsters in the background, the red flamed coupe had that perfect mix of sinister and vintage flavors.
With the wave of vintage-style street rods rolling out of garages everywhere it is difficult to determine the old from the new, but this coupe had the look of an early hot rod. Maybe it was the aggressive 3 1/2-inch top chop with the 20-degree laid back windshield, or it could have been the traditional flames and rubber running boards, but by its package you get the feeling this coupe has been a hot rod for a long time. As it turns out this particular '40 coupe has been a hot rod for 50 years or more, and come to think of it, so have the owners, Caledonia, Mississippi, residents "Killer" Thompson and his wife Faye.
As the story goes, this coupe was originally built in California in 1960, by persons unknown. The coupe stayed there until several years ago when the '40 was sold to a new owner in Florida. The Florida owner advertised the car for sale and that's how the Thompsons came to own the coupe. Now this isn't Killer Thompson's first rodeo by any means, with six prior '40 Fords, which include three coupes, a sedan delivery, and a convertible, the man knows his way around a '40 Ford. But for the first time he purchased a car sight unseen, based only on photographs and the owner's description that it was a solid car, but the paint could use a little touch up. The car was picked up at the Cruisin' the Coast event in 2008 and it turns out the sellers description may have been a bit enhanced. But then again, one man's "touch-up" is another man's repaint and so the car went directly to Kirby Stafford where it underwent a complete transformation on Dillehay Street in Danville, Kentucky.
Now, Kirby Stafford is a guy who can build hot rods with or without paint, is an accomplished pinstriper, sign painter, and all-around hot rod guy, so the coupe was in good hands. As it turns out the "touch-up" part of the description involved stripping off about 10 coats of cracked lacquer, the coupe was covered from front to back with crow's feet in the paint. The good news is the coupe was very solid and looking good in bare metal. Of course from there the inevitable "while we're at it syndrome" set in and before long the now bare metal coupe was resting on a new TCI Engineering chassis. The chassis rides on Mustang II-styled front suspension while out back you'll find a Currie 9-inch Ford rear and Pro-Shock coilover suspension.
Power for the coupe comes in the form of a 400ci small-block Chevy motor. A COMP cam handles the valves, while an Edelbrock intake and carb feed the small-block, with Sanderson headers exiting the spent gases. A Joe Hunt magneto/HEI adds a traditional look as does the Technostalgia air cleaner. The engine work was handled by Columbus Engine and Crank in Columbus, Mississippi. A 700-R4 from Hollman in Columbus, Mississippi, mixes the gears.
The vintage top chop, which actually involves a 3 1/2-inch drop up front with almost 4 inches out of the rear of the roof, was left exactly as it had been cut in the '60s. The other all-steel panels were finished to perfection and remain basically stock with the exception of the hood, shaved door handles, and shaved decklid. The hood was pie-cut 2 inches from front to rear to reduce the somewhat bulbous nose of the stock '40 Ford hood. Shortened side trim adds visual length to the hood and the center seam was filled after removing the hood opener and ornament. The hood rests in front of a clean V-butt windshield. The result is a hood that closely follows the rake of the car and gives a gentle bend to the body lines. With the modifications and bodywork complete, Kirby laid down a few coats of PPG Flame Red urethane. Stock headlight bezels, bumpers, and a set of Appleton spots add chrome to the car.
At this point the coupe was red, rolling on Rocket wheels and Coker whitewalls, but there was one thing missing to complete the early hot rod message: flames. Forties and flames just go together, and we can't help but recall a dash plaque on Barry Lobecks old '40 coupe. While the content of that plaque may be a bit too racy for these pages, suffice to say Kirby put a set of hot licks on the front of this '40 that are traditional in every way.
With the running gear and bodywork complete the coupe was rolled into Hudson's Rod & Custom in Strawberry Plains, Tennessee, for a traditional-style interior. While the styling is traditional the workmanship and materials are completely modern. Beginning with a pair of Cerullo Performance seats, Will Hudson stitched up black and white Rave vinyl, a material with the comfort and look of leather but the durability of vinyl. The wool carpets add a touch of class to the interior.
The dashboard and wiring where handled by Kirby, and Dolphin gauges are custom faced with Killer logos on each dial. Vintage Air handles cabin comfort and Killer could find no reason for a radio when you have a warmed-over small-block for entertainment.
And so after 11 months, '40 Ford No. 7 rolled into Caledonia with Killer Thompson behind the wheel. This hot coupe was built to drive and it shares garage space with the Thompson's hot rod collection, which includes two Deuce roadsters, a '39 Ford convertible, a '37 Ford Tudor, and a '35 Ford truck. While this coupe may be the latest, we're betting it won't be the last '40 Ford to roll in and out of the Thompson garage and through the streets of Caledonia, Mississippi.
A 400-inch small-block Chevy...
A 400-inch small-block Chevy sets the stage for power as it comes from a COMP Cams 'stick, Joe Hunt magneto/HEI, Edelbrock intake and carb, while the spent gases exit through a pair of Sanderson headers. Old-school looks are helped by the Technostalgia air cleaner.
Kirby Stafford laid down the...
Kirby Stafford laid down the traditional flames that dominate the front view while a chrome deluxe grille ties in perfectly with the stock bumper and headlight bezels for a timeless '40 Ford look.
A pair of modern Cerullo seats...
A pair of modern Cerullo seats was stitched up in a traditional pattern by Hudson's Rod & Custom in Strawberry Plains, TN. Clayton Machine provides the inside door handles.
The Thompson coupe rolls on...
The Thompson coupe rolls on Rocket wheels wrapped with Coker rubber. Speaking of rubber, the stock running boards are both practical and good looking. The roof profile on this coupe is spot-on.
The white-face Dolphin gauges...
The white-face Dolphin gauges with bright red pointers blend perfectly with the coupe, while the pinstriped Killer logo reflects both the owner and his tastes.
A study in simplicity, the...
A study in simplicity, the dashboard has been reduced to two gauges and the former speaker grille that now dispenses cold air from the Vintage Air unit. A Lecarra '40 Ford style steering wheel completes the look.