Some folks will confuse a ’39 DeLuxe Ford with a ’40 Standard Ford because the factory basically made the ’39 DeLuxe its base trim package for the ’40 model year, but there are a handful of other telltale design changes that you can spot to separate the two years. The ’39 versions don’t have windwings in the doors and the ’40 does, and the windshield wipers on a ’39 mount above the windshield while a ’40 has them mounted in the cowl. Both years have the same iconic grille (though it’s usually referred to as a “’40 grille”), but the ’39s have the classic teardrop-shaped taillights while the ’40 uses the one-year-only Chevron-shaped ’lights. Of course the headlights are different, too, with the laid-back teardrop design being used in the ’39 and the vertical design used in the ’40, but that doesn’t mean you can’t mix and match any of these design elements with either year, which is how you get a car like the one owned by Dan Garcia.

Dan, who lives in Anaheim, California, got involved with hot rods and Harleys through his friends and family, and it was his brother-in-law, Jim Johnson, who sold him this car nearly 30 years ago. It was pretty well beaten up back then (Dan believes it was used for some racing) and it sat for many years in his garage waiting to be fixed up. When Jim owned it, his 10-year-old son, Jamie, used to play in it, as it was one of the cars that filled the backyard at Jim’s house. From a very early age, Jim taught his son what he knew about hot rodding, and Jamie absorbed everything.

Almost three decades later, Jamie owns and operates Hot Rod Haven in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and cars he’s built have won numerous awards and been featured on the cover of STREET RODDER on more than one occasion. So it was only fitting that when Dan decided a couple of years ago to have his coupe gone through, that he’d choose Jamie and his dad to do the work. But this wasn’t just a simple build—Dan wanted the ’39 turned into a full-fledged ’40.

At least one aspect of the build would be easy: since the car, being a ’39, already had one-piece door glass, the decision was made to leave that characteristic alone, but cutting out the windshield surround (with the wiper mounts above) and replacing it with one from a ’40 (with the wipers on the cowl) was a chore. The dash was changed out for a ’40 version, too, and the car also received some custom tricks, such as the taillight buckets being welded into the fenders and their bezels trimmed to half their normal size for a cleaner look (you get to the bulbs from under the fender).

The hood and front fenders were changed to ’40 Ford, too, and the headlight rings now fit flush. All of the car’s gaps were addressed, and the lip around the edge of the rear fenders was re-rolled to accommodate the larger rear wheels. Jamie also re-arched a ’32 trunk handle (from LimeWorks) so it would follow the shape of the ’40 trunklid and also fabbed a stainless steel nerf bar for the rear to hold the license plate. Another trick item are the outside mirrors, which Jamie made using ’32 roadster posts that screw right into the corner edge of the door for a clean look.

The original chassis was beefed up with a custom X-member, and Jamie installed an independent front suspension with dropped spindles and disc brakes from TCI Engineering while a ’57 Ford 9-inch was located out back with a pair of TCI Engineering leaf springs. Jamie also made new engine and trans mounts for the car so he could install a DOHC 4.6L (281-inch) Ford modular motor out of an ’03 Ford Mustang, and backed it to an AOD transmission. The car’s stance is improved with a set of Real Rodders Wheels 15x6 spindle mount style and 16x8 wheels, which are wrapped in Signet 165/60-15 and Cooper 265/70-16 rubber.

Once Jamie and his dad finished up the metal and bodywork, the car was shipped to Sean Sena at SEA-NIC Restorations in Albuquerque where it was painted Garcia Red, a custom mix made with BASF Diamont paints. Once covered in its perfect red hue, the car was taken to Ron Mangus Hot Rod Interiors in Rialto, California, for its threads.

Mangus used looped tan wool carpet, binding the edges with the same coffee-colored leather he used to make the headliner and pleated door panels. He also used the leather on the Glide Engineering split bench seat and in the trunk area, too. Jamie finished off the dash with an aluminum gauge panel for the white face VDO gauges and a LimeWorks three-spoke steering wheel for the chromed tilt column. Hidden from view is the Secret Audio stereo system and the air conditioning system from Hot Rod Air, all wired up using a kit from Haywire Inc.

The ’40 Ford coupe has long been a go-to car for hot rodders and, for many years, a base from which many a race car and custom vehicle have been built. Though you usually don’t find too many folks waiting 30 years to build the car of their dreams, at least Dan Garcia was able to resurrect one more hot rod from the edge of oblivion, getting one really classy ride in the process.