Though he'd built many different types of cars in the past 30 years, Mickey Smith, from Roland, Arkansas, wasn't going to ignore the wishes of his wife, Vicki, when she told him the type of car she'd like to have herself. It's a wise hot rodder who listens to a spouse's suggestions but, in this case, Vicki wanted something besides a typical 1-800-type hot rod.
Vicki had found what she liked-a '40 Ford convertible-and Mickey set out to find one (not the easiest thing to do). But he'd remembered hearing about just such a car 10 years earlier and, as luck would have it, it was available. Ron Schmidtz, a rodder in Ohio, had what Mickey was looking for, and he was told the car had once been owned by Jim "Jake" Jacobs of Pete & Jakes fame. But the most unique feature on the car was it had a '40 Standard nose when every other '40 convertible typically had the factory DeLuxe trim design. (The main difference between the two is in the grille: the DeLuxe uses horizontal bars in a two-step design and the Standard uses singular vertical bars, much like those found on a '39 DeLuxe). Mickey used to own a '40 Ford truck that he'd converted to a Standard layout, so he was familiar with the concept, but the Standard grille on the '40 convertible was a new one for him. The car was a runner/driver and, at first, Mickey was just going to go through it and clean it up a bit, but, as any rodder will tell you, that just never happens in real life!
Mickey started taking the car apart, detailing and painting things as he went. With a wheelbase of 112 inches the chassis is original, but fully boxed. Up front a Kugel independent suspension was used (with 2-inch drop spindles) while RideTech airbags were used on each corner. Mickey also contacted Wheel Smith in Santa Ana, California, for a unique set of wire wheels, 17x7 up front and 18x8 out back (the 18s were the first set of that diameter Wheel Smith made). The wheels are wrapped in Goodyear Eagle 215/45-17 and 235/50-18 skins.
The light tan leather interior...
The light tan leather interior was expertly stitched together at Krist Kustoms (Ft. Wayne, IN) and is an excellent choice to complement the car's burgundy color. VDO gauges fill the five-hole gauge insert in front of the Billet Specialties (La Grange, IL) banjo steering wheel that is bolted to a chrome ididit column. A JVC stereo is hidden by a second dash grille, located in the center console, and the Vintage Air climate controls (yes, this convertible has air conditioning) are center stage. Under the wool carpet is a fair amount of Hushmat insulation, and the electronics are wired up using a kit from Painless Wiring.
The drivetrain consists of a 700-R4 trans, which was prepped by Bowler Transmissions in Lawrenceville, Illinois. The engine is a small-block Chevrolet that has been bumped to 383 inches via an Eagle crank, stock rods, and J&E pistons (10.5:1). A COMP Cams roller camshaft was also used, as was an Edelbrock Performer manifold and polished heads topped by a Barry Grant six-shooter induction with a trio of O'Brien Trucker aluminum air cleaners. A Tuff Stuff water pump, a cooling fan from Air Mobile, and electronics from MSD make up the rest of the build sheet.
Besides the previously noted Standard nose, the body also benefited from a 2-inch chop, a smoothed trunk, and a firewall that was recessed 3 inches. Smitty's Custom Automotive in Tiffin, Ohio, had done the original nose transplant, and had painted the car its DuPont burgundy hue, too, but during the redo Robert Roland (from Little Rock's Custom Royale) repainted the front fenders, and the owner painted the running boards, trunk, and hood as well as sanded and buffed the entire car.
Inside the cockpit Mickey started with Hushmat insulation before Krist Kustoms in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, laid out the tan wool carpet. Krist also stitched up the bench seat and door panels with tan leather-a great contrast to the car's color. The dash is basically stock, but with a second speaker grille added to a center console to hide the JVC stereo system. Painless Wiring was used to wire up the VDO gauges set in the aluminum gauge panel, and a Billet Specialties banjo steering wheel is coupled to a chrome ididit steering column. To keep Vicki cool, a Vintage Air climate control system was also added to the convertible.
It's safe to say the idea of a quick go-through was abandoned as soon as Mickey started messing around with the car. But Vicki and Mickey know they ended up with something very special. Not only are the Smiths satisfied with the way it turned out, but the 'vert has picked up a few awards along the way, too, including a STREET RODDER Top 100 pick at the Goodguys Ft. Worth show in 2009. The pair will be showing the car more in 2010 before they start to use it as it was originally intended: a great summertime cruiser.
The 17x7 and 18x8 Wheel Smith...
The 17x7 and 18x8 Wheel Smith wires are shod in Goodyear Eagle 215/45-17 and 235/50-18 rubber.
Part of the car's stance is...
Part of the car's stance is due to the Kugel IFS that features 2-inch drop spindles and the use of RideTech airbags on each corner. Another subtle trick was the 2-inch chop-just enough to make a difference without going overboard.
Mickey's mouse motor must...
Mickey's mouse motor must have been fed steroids as it now boasts a displacement of 383 cubes. Riverside Engines (Tiffin, OH) did the assembly using an Eagle crank, J&E pistons (10.5:1), and a COMP Cams roller camshaft. Polished Edelbrock Performer heads are used in conjunction with a Barry Grant six-shooter induction system that is topped with O'Brien Trucker (Charlton, MA) air cleaners. The headers are coated by HPC and the spark is delivered via MSD electronics, and all of the chrome work was done by Street & Performance (Mena, AR). The small-block is bolted to a 700-R4 trans, prepped by Bowler Transmissions.