The Forty

The Forty

During the summer of 2013 I found a 40 tudor on eBay that looked promising. I bought it and had it shipped west. When I saw it in person I was sick.  Far from being as described it was full of rust and way more project that I wanted to tackle.  Back on eBay it went and the search resumed.  I found the perfect car, but being too cheap to pay the price I let it slip through my fingers and continued to look.  I finally found a decent project in St Louis and headed east to take a look plus check out a half dozen other cars along the way.  What I settled on was a  40 Tudor running a 302 SBF, AOD, 8″Ford, disc brakes.  Underneath was pretty well done but needed paint and upholstery plus I wanted to get some things back to a more traditional/original look. Basically just a couple of things, paint job and some TJ upholstery and I would be ready to go. All that ended being a 5 year project that still has a few odds and ends to make it the way I want.

Two things bothered me about the car. I have a love hate relationship with late model mods like IFS and overhead motors.  I probably should have continued my search for a 40 with a flathead but that’s history and life goes on.  What I really miss is the look and feel of the old Fords with their flathead motors and three on the tree transmissions.  I guess it’s a disease of sorts.  I recall the old days with the toggle ignitions switches, the starter buttons and the best column shifts ever invented.

So after driving the car a few short months I drove it into the body shop and started tearing it down.  That was the late fall of 2013.  I really did think the project would be done by spring.  However, we got sidetracked with the Inyokern shop project and once again I had a car project on hold.  Its funny how you just keep adding to the projects.  I really wanted a column shift on the tree but I couldn’t find a transmission that would work as well as a T5, so that was the direction I took. First on the list was replacing the AOD with a T5 manual and getting rid of the GM column and bucket seats.  As long as I had the engine out to paint and clean up I decided to pull the pan to check it out.  Once again I wasn’t happy.  A mismatched bunch of rods along with oil leaks and bits of debris in the pan forced me to think about rebuilding.  Theres a disease amongst boat owners called “two footitis” where a boat owner just keeps yearning for two more feet of length.  I have a similar affliction with horsepower.

Things were going pretty slow through 2014 and 2015 till I got back to Inyokern in the fall of 15 and moved the 40 from the body shop to the new shop.  I finally decided to move up to a 460 HP/427 crate motor.  Smedding Performance had good reviews around the internet and their prices weren’t that much more than buying the pieces, having it machined and assembling it myself so it seemed like a no brainer especially with a 3 year warranty.  Problem was the engine was supposed to arrive by mid December and it never made it till February when I ran out of spare time for car projects.  Fortunately Joseph came up and we managed to get the motor installed but not hooked up.  There were a number of problems with the bigger engine, several of which were magnified by a poor choice of parts on the part of Smedding.  Biggest problem has turned out to be the headers.  After weeks of trial fits of various manufacturers products I had to give up and have a set made.  Pricey to say the least. I was hopeful the fall of 2016 would see the car finally back on the road. Fall rolled around I wasn’t even close.  

Got some time in October and early November 2017.  Put the car on the hoist and started finishing the strengthening of the frame and cross member weakened by the T5 installation. Also put the driveshaft loops in and built a new floor board over the transmission. I can’t believe I spent the better part of two weeks on what I should have been able to do in a few days.  Old age is hell and its getting worse.  I worked off and on during the winter and spring with a “drop dead date” of mid April 2018.  By February I had the fenders and running boards on and had the car running and driving, although the jetting was so far off it was un-drivable at low speed.   My assessment as of mid November 2017 was that I had 78.5 man hours left to finish the project.  I guess that was a joke.  My wife says better multiply any of my projected time schedules by a factor of 3. I hoped to prove her wrong but once again she was right. I think the most disappointing thing as of late May 2018 is that the hood was finally painted and installed but I have now had to undo all the front clip wiring, remove the fenders and running boards to be able to correctly fit the hood.  What angers me the most is that I knew this from the excellent advice on the Ford Barn, but because the hood wasn’t worked till last I put the fenders on first so I could drive the car. What a horrible horrible mistake that was.  Summer came along and I was finally able to drive it. Still have problems with fine tuning but it looks good and is drivable. All that remains is to install the new rear end and get the jetting worked out. Hopefully that will be done by New Years.  Its been a long haul. 



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The above three pictures are of the car as I bought it in St Louis.


Firewall done and ready for engine installation


SBF Dart block 427 going in.


40 Ford Restoration

Annie wiring the dash


Transmission bolted in


Radiator hooked up, new glass installed and ready for first test drive


Just back from upholstery shop with beautiful new original style headliner


Back from the muffler shop. Anxious for fenders and running boards

Fenders and running boards on so its now street legal but still no hood.
Light hooked up.  Just lacking a hood.
Interior done. Tried using an original rubber floor mat but it doesn’t fit right around the modified transmission cover.  Carpet will be in the future.
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Dash with air conditioner/ash trays/radio filled. Autometer gauges installed in custom 40 standard instrument panel. Original 40 wheel with working horn and column shift converted to left side and now operates turn indicators.
Trunk restored to original with LB panels and stock floor mat.
16″ original looking wheels with beauty rings and 42 hubcaps.

Pictures in the fall of 2018. It was finally ready for a 100 mile drive to a Fathers Day show and shine in Duck Creek, Ut then put away for the summer.  Now ready for a few tuning tricks, lower rear end ration and hopefully lots of touring. 

Recap of work along the way:

Replace worn 302 with a 460 HP/ 427 SBF
Replace AOD with T5 manual
Replace rear differential with beefed up 8″ guaranteed for 600 HP. We’ll see if that works as promised)
Replace wheels with original looking 16′ wheels, beauty rims.
Mounted V rated Pirelli Cinturatos
Replaced solid front windshield with original split windshield
Replaced Vintage air with an original 40 heater modified to remain in center with hose fittings to the side. 
Remodeled dash to cover extra holes and AC vents
Replaced tilt GM column with 40 column, column drop, key and switch
Replaced steering wheel with original 40 Deluxe wheel
Converted original column shift lever to work the turn indicators
Replaced bucket seats with an original
Removed old paint and primer and painted a custom black cherry
Replaced grille and running boards with Drake reproduction items
Covered all of roof, firewall, quarter panels, doors and floor with Dynamat
Original headliner and trunk panels from LeBarron Bonney
Replaced wiring, running through original type looms.
Added driveshaft safety loops
Strengthened and braced original frame.
Custom made 1.75 headers into 2.5 mandrill bent exhausts
Traction masters on parallel springs
Replaced all rubber and weatherstripping
Modified the replacement firewall to accommodate the wider 351 block and heads
Custom dash insert
Replaced fender aprons 
Installed original handbrake

Early 2019 update

I was driving the car all last summer and fall but I could never get it really right.  There were several problems. The rear end was geared waaaay too high so I needed to get that fixed. The engine was strong above 2500 RPM but it was a bear to drive with the high gears.  I was still having a bad vibration in the front end between 50 and 100.  I talked to a nice old guy in Upland who tunes carbs and sets up distributers for the NASCAR guys.  I sent him the carb and distributor that Smeding claimed was set perfectly on their dyno.  When I got them back the problems were gone. The distributor was way off as was the carb.  I got a 3.88 Equilock rear end installed and life was getting better but not perfect as the vibration was still in the front end. I took it to Motion Tire in Ridgecrest where they pulled the front tires, which I was sure was the problem.  The found the balance to be perfect. Then this kid said “maybe its the air pressure, I’ll check em for you”  So he found they were at 50 pounds which is what it recommended on the sidewall. He dropped the pressure to 35 and I thought it was a complete waste of time.  Low and behold, this was all it took to make it perfect. Not even a hint of vibration at any speed.  Its been a long time coming but I’ve finally got the finished driver that I started work on over 5 years ago.