Probably the best decision hot rodders can make is to marry someone who is as crazy about cars as they are. That's exactly what happened to the owner of this beautiful black '40 Ford DeLuxe coupe. Diane Walsh has a husband who loves hot rods just as much as she does.

In fact, both Diane and Tom are big '40 Ford fans. For Diane, it's a car she's always admired for its style. For Tom, it goes back to nostalgic memories of the Flathead-powered '40 his older brother, John, owned back in the mid '50s.

That was the first car Tom ever drove, and he didn't get far before being pulled over by the friendly neighborhood cop. "Does your brother know you have his car out?" the officer asked him. "No sir," answered the 10-year-old peering up from behind the steering wheel. "Then why don't you drive it home right now and put it back right where it was, and I won't say anything to your brother. And don't drive again until your get your license."

In addition to liking hot rods, Diane's husband builds hot rods-and he's really good at it. Tom Walsh has built record-setting Bonneville racers and America's Most Beautiful Roadster finalists and winners, including the red '32 roadster you saw in these pages a few months ago and may have seen at the Grand National Roadster Show in January. In this case, the goal wasn't to win a trophy or set a land speed record, but to drive a cool-looking resto rod. It didn't have to be radical-just practical, reliable, and fun.

The buildup of this coupe was a two-year project, preceded by 25-year hibernation covered in a barn. When the Walshes bought the car, the body was nice, and it showed signs of having been hot-rodded at one time. From the looks of the frame and the position of some crossmembers, Tom figures it might have been Olds- or Cadillac-powered in a previous incarnation.

Now it's Chevy-powered, courtesy of an 0.030-over 350 small-block, balanced and blueprinted, and nostalgically dressed with a Cadillac air cleaner and Corvette valve covers painted red to pop against the black paint. Fuel and air are fed through a 650-cfm Edelbrock carburetor and Edelbrock manifold, and exhaust exits through HPC-coated headers and stainless pipes and tube-type mufflers.

Tom fitted the frame to accommodate the Chevy engine and re-fabricated the center X-member to allow the Turbo 350 transmission to be removed without having to pull out the engine. With driving in mind, he added a Heidts independent front suspension and a 3.08:1-geared Lincoln Versailles rearend, with antiroll bars and Strange double-adjustable shocks at both ends, plus coil springs in front and leafs in back. With stopping in mind, he added four-wheel discs. Goodyear radials were also chosen for the road, wrapped around 15-inch red Ford steelies spiffed up with more red paint and rings and caps.

Neither Diane nor Tom had a good reason to make body mods on a car with iconic lines and well-preserved stock steel, so it stayed stock. Tom had to put some effort into lining up the hood, but the results are right on. Rich Souza at D&S Body Shop performed some pre-paint sheetmetal work and shot the paint-black of course. The color choice was never in question; it was always their favorite color for '40 coupes. Steve Moal provided the pair of outside mirrors.

The '40 DeLuxe dash was kept stock with the original gauges converted to 12-volt power. The rest of the interior retains resto rod styling, from the '40 steering wheel to the seats. Ken Nemanic at Vintage Automotive Upholstery covered everything in Bedford cord ribbed fabric that stays comfortable whether the air temperature is hot or cold. Vintage Air A/C adds to the comfort.

The Walshes told us that their favorite view of the '40 is looking out past the hood with the highway ahead of them. The coupe wasn't finished long before Diane and Tom got to enjoy that view. It had 220 miles on the clock when they loaded the travel-friendly trunk and started their first road trip, covering approximately 3,000 miles before returning home to Danville, California. What else would you expect from a couple who loves hot rods and a hot rod built for fun?