Stopping power for a hot rod doesn’t always refer to the brakes; in this case it refers to the intangible ability to impede one’s progress while walking among thousands of other like-modified cars. Derrell Dudley’s 1940 Ford DeLuxe coupe has stopping power. Was it the half-dozen Holley 94 carbs and polished stacks or was it the Pagan Gold firewall? Maybe it was the hot rod rake and the chrome rims. It really was no single item, but rather all of these things in concert with each other that captures that real hot rod spirit.

Of course it wasn’t always this way. As a matter of fact after lusting for a ’40 coupe for more than 25 years, Derrell purchased this car as a “finished” street rod in 1996. In his own words Derrell describes the purchase, “My first mistake was I wanted a ’40 coupe all my life and I just had to have this one. I made the deal when it was raining, in the early evening and then drove it home in the dark. Wow, was I surprised to find what was under that pretty exterior when the lights came on.” But, after installing a new motor and transmission along with sorting out the suspension Derrell describes his ’40 this way, “I drove the car a lot, and drove it hard over the next 10 years and enjoyed every minute of it. Well, OK there was the time it caught on fire, but that’s another story.”

Now remember Darrell bought this coupe in the mid-’90s, an era often referred to as 1990-tweed. Yes, exterior graphics and tweed were two of the most conspicuous ways to date a car and this ’40 was wearing both of them. It was time for a change and since Derrell’s son, Jay, had just moved back to the area they decided to give the coupe a more traditional look and feel. Of course the more they dismantled the car the more it became apparent the ’40 was ready for a complete rebuild.

Unfortunately, about this time Derrell suffered a pair of heart attacks so his recovery took priority over the coupe’s rebuild. However, while the car was relegated to resting in the garage, Derrell spent the time to fine-tune the concept in his mind. It was decided the car should appear to be a mid-’60s hot rod; no parts past 1968 would be used on the car, save the Mustang II suspension and brakes.

The chassis would be refreshed but unchanged with the Mustang II–style front suspension with dropped spindles and cut coils, providing a definitive forward rake. Out back the stock frame is C’d to clear the 9-inch Ford rear. A Mustang dual master cylinder is located under the floor to keep the firewall clean. After 10 years of hard running it was decided that a new 350-cube 290hp crate motor would be the basis of power, but in keeping with the early theme, Derrell wanted multiple carbs. A call to Charlie Price at Vintage Speed in Vero Beach, Florida, netted just what the coupe needed; six Holley 94s resting atop an Offenhauser intake. The finned Edelbrock valve covers now have a flat machined surface in the middle where longtime artist Bob Dale painted two ’50s-style pin-up girls. Since block hugger headers would violate the ’68 cutoff date, a set of Corvette exhaust manifolds were used along with a mechanical seven-blade fan that spins inside a Vintage Air shroud.

Speaking of Vintage Air, remember the idea was for this car to “look like a mid-’60s hot rod,” not necessarily act like one. After all this is Texas, a state where A/C is not considered an option. With the help of Jack Chisenhall, Rick Love, George Packard, Brandon Ott, John Moreno, and Mark Hungerford at Vintage Air, Derrell managed to mount a compressor down low and out of sight on the engine and have the cold air exit through the stock radio speaker grille and from hidden outlets under the dash. As Derrell tells the A/C story, “The guys at Vintage Air were great. Each one of them contributed something to solving my A/C problems, and since I live in San Antonio I could drive down there and try different things.” After the A/C problem was solved, custom brackets were built to mount a Denso alternator down low and out of sight too. Chris Brummer designed the brackets and converted the alternator to a one-wire system. Behind the engine a TH350 tranny holds a shift kit inside with a Lokar shifter selecting the gears.

Externally the coupe remains nearly stock with a shaved decklid and the addition of a ’41 Ford front bumper being the only deviations from the original. Stock lighting front and rear works well and the final finish on the car is Hot Rod Black from the Hot Hues palette. Derrell tried several different finishes before discovering the Hot Hues finish. Randy Racer handled both the low-luster black and the shiny Pagan Gold firewall and dashboard. The paint scheme is a salute to the days when many hot rodders would paint the firewall and interior pieces the color that they one day dreamed the entire car would be. The engine was painted Pagan Gold too.

On the inside the decision between bench or buckets was resolved with a traditional bench seat of unknown origin. After meeting Abel Rodriquez of Seguin, Texas, the job of choosing color and materials became easier. After several samples were sewn they decided on gold and pearl white vinyl stitched in a traditional rolled and pleated design. The effects are stunning, but don’t overlook appropriate details like chrome garnish moldings, the LimeWorks steering column and the NOS Grant wood steering wheel. The Painless Wiring system was installed by the owner along with plenty of Koolmat prior to upholstery.

With the coupe nearing completion it was time for the all-important final details. Period-correct chrome reverse rims were ordered from Wheel Vintiques with cone lug nuts and center caps. The BFGoodrich Silvertown whitewalls are from Coker Tire, where Darrin Evans spent time providing measurements and sizes to achieve that perfect fit. And so after a couple of years Derrell Dudley finally had the ’40 of his dreams.

Of course great hot rods seldom come from one person and this fine ’40 is no exception. We’ll let Derrell close this story in his own words, “The majority of this car, with the exception of paint, body, and upholstery, was built in my home shop. I cannot stress enough that the car would never have been built were it not for the help of my friends and family support. Two people who were instrumental were Chris Brummer, who did much of the assembly, including some pretty trick brackets, and Boo Dale, my main support for everything getting done. Both of them were tireless and instrumental in completing the car. I would especially like to thank my son, Jay, for his help, and “The Blonde” (my beautiful wife Susan) for her support and understanding.”

Hot rod ’40s were meant to have a mean rake. The color is Hot Rod Black by DuPont Hot Hues. A shaved decklid was the only modification deemed necessary to the rear of the body.

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