Given the popularity of the Deuce today, it's ironic analysts were saying the Ford Motor Company's glory days were over at the end of the short '32 model year. The FoMoCo had gone from being one of the greatest revenue-producing businesses in the country to one of the biggest losers. Chevrolet was outselling Ford by a huge margin, Plymouth was closing in, and, worst of all, 70-year-old Henry Ford was viewed by many insiders and consumers as being out of touch with the car-buying public.

But, Henry was not the kind of guy to give up, and while his vast personal wealth certainly made it easier for the company to hang on when times were tough, it was his tenacity and mechanical savvy that led him to make his cars more desirable by improving the V-8 engine. He also realized a big investment would be required to produce a new, more stylish and comfortable car to regain his sales lead. Henry was wise enough to assign that responsibility to an extremely talented, and arguably one of the best, designers of the era-his son, Edsel.

Much like the preceding year, the Fords for 1933 got off to a rough start. Thanks to a strike at the Briggs body plant, and the problems inherent in designing and producing what were for all practical purposes completely new cars, the new Model 40s weren't introduced until February 9, 1933.The handsome new body styles were well received, but their late introduction again gave Chevrolet and Plymouth a head start in sales. However, the public's confidence in the Flathead V-8 was growing, and Ford was ready to pounce on the competition when 1934 rolled around.

Starting in October 1933, Ford began an advertising campaign touting the virtues of the Model 40, which was beginning its second year of production ('33s and '34s were both designated as Model 40s). The pinnacle of this public relations blitz was the company's display at the '34 Chicago World's Fair.

Mechanically, there were some minor changes for 1934; the most notable was the introduction of the Stromberg two-barrel carburetor as a replacement for the single-barrel Detroit Lubricator.

Visually, there were a number of differences between '33s and '34s. All '33s had black fenders, regardless of the body color, while '34 fenders were body color and black fenders were an option. Other changes for the '34 included a new, straight grille with fewer bars and a wider surround, hood louvers were straight instead of curved, and there were two hood latches rather than one. Headlamps and cowl-light buckets came to more of a point on '33s, hubcaps were changed, and '34s wore three pinstripes on the body, while the '33s had two. Inside, the '33's engine-turned dash insert was replaced with woodgrain, door pulls were changed (those small items had a number of variants) and eventually eliminated, and the windows in closed cars moved back, as well as down, for enhanced ventilation.

In terms of design, Model 40s are considered by many to be the most sophisticated of the Fords produced in the 1930s, which has always presented hot rodders with a dilemma. The fact is there isn't much you can do to improve upon Edsel's design. It can be a little like putting Mona Lisa in a tank top; go overboard with modifications and you end up with less than you had. It takes a good eye and a deft hand to make changes in classic automotive architecture, and one group that has demonstrated that ability is American Speed Company, creators of the Speed33-the basis of our '08 PPG / Street Rodder Road Tour car. Having designed the Dearborn Deuce, and with 30-plus years of experience with Detroit's OEMs, ASC not only knows what to do but how to do it.

To build its bodies, ASC started with surface scan data from a pristine original '33 roadster, then the company incorporated a variety of refinements using the latest CAD software and hardware, just as the major manufacturers do it. Among the numerous subtle changes, the firewall has been modified to accept contemporary engines, and the cowl has been reworked to mount a unique curved windshield. Solid stainless steel windshield posts have been included, and access to the roomy passenger compartment (4 inches wider and 5 inches longer than a '32) is now through doors that are stretched 4 1/2 inches over stock. But, what makes the Speed33 so unique is the fully integrated convertible top and roll-up windows. So cleverly done, these additions take nothing away from the classic roadster styling with the top up or down, yet it offers the best of the open- and closed-car worlds.

By combining the latest automotive technology with the vision of an experienced street rodder like Mark Trostle, ASC has done a remarkable job of updating a classic design while keeping its character intact. It truly is the best of both worlds, and we're sure even Henry and Edsel would approve.