• Period style chopped ’33 Ford highboy

• SCoT-supercharged Ford flathead

• Vintage speed equipment and instruments

• Dash panel signed by Billy F. Gibbons

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1933 Ford Model 40 Highboy Roadster “The Mexican Blackbird”
Years Produced:1933
Number Produced:4,349 (All 1933 roadsters)
Original List Price:$490
SCM Valuation:$55k–$100k, depending on build quality, history and condition
Tune Up Cost:$300
Chassis Number Location:Stamped in left frame rail just before cowl
Engine Number Location:On bellhousing
Club Info:Goodguys, National Street Rod Association (NSRA), Early Ford V-8 Club of America
Alternatives:1934 Ford roadster, 1932 Ford roadster, 1936 Ford roadster
Investment Grade:C

This car, Lot 3156, sold for $70,400, including buyer’s premium, at Auctions America’s Auburn, IN, sale on August 30, 2013.

Thirty-three’s a charmer

Ford Motor Company broke the Model A mold with the stylish 1932 model, equipped with a then-remarkable 221-ci V8 engine. But the 1932 Model 18, which hot-rodders called the “Deuce,” proved to be a one-year wonder. Starting in 1933, more substantial restyling became a way of life at Ford.

E.T. “Bob” Gregorie adapted the ’33 styling from a design he’d penned for the English Ford Model Y. The look was more contemporary, thanks to a vee’d grille, a tapered body, a double-drop frame and a full X-member chassis. The new Model 40 moved the flathead engine forward, and a 200-ci 4-banger was still available. The ’33 chassis, stretched six inches for a 112-in wheelbase, improved the proportions. Sweeping fenders and a slanted windscreen added to the illusion of speed and modernity.

Hold that thought for a moment…

Kirk F. White, a Philadelphia Main Line scion with a taste for fast cars, raced a blown T-bird at the Kansas City NHRA “Nats” in the 1960s, campaigned a Ferrari 512 at Sebring with Roger Penske and Mark Donohue, and provided the Sunoco Blue Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona that Dan Gurney and Brock Yates drove cross-country in the first “Cannonball Run.”

Kirk’s pioneering car auctions in Bryn Mawr, PA, in the early ’70s, with a colorful horse auctioneer named Omar Landis, offered everything from Ferrari GTOs to Vincent Black Shadows at what now look like giveaway prices.

The consummate collector, Kirk was shilling Spindizzies (motorized 1940s-era model tethercar racers), historic motorcycles, toy trucks, tin and cast-iron toys and historic hot rods at Hershey before anyone else realized their value. White’s evocatively penned, long copy ads in Hemmings intrigued all who read them, and some of the cars he sold over the years included the ex-Tommy Foster ’32, the Ray Brown roadster, and the Doane Spencer T-bird.

His website (www.kirkfwhite.com) is always filled with interesting buys, and Auctions America featured a large collection of his memorabilia, posters, models and cars at their Labor Day Weekend Sale in 2013.

One of Kirk’s cars offered was our subject car. This aggressive-looking ’33 Ford highboy roadster was originally built by John Marchman of Houston, TX.

Cars with authentic vintage histories are increasingly rare, so another path to getting one involves gathering up the right old parts and assembling a steel car, the way it might have been built back in the day. So what if there’s no history? That begins the minute you finish it and fire it up.

Starting with a ’33 Ford steel roadster body and frame, Marchman loaded a 276-ci bored and stroked flathead with authentic period speed parts — a SCoT blower topped with twin Stromberg 97s, a set of finned high-compression heads (curiously, with the maker’s name removed), a Winfield cam, and Johnson adjustable tappets, as well as a set of headers and loud mufflers.

The devil’s in the details

Other mods included tapered Guide headlamps, Dodge tail lamps, a chopped windshield and a neat canvas top with a mail slot rear window, a chromed Mor-Drop front axle, steel artillery wheels with big-and-little blackwalls, and ’33 Ford caps. Inside the dash was chock full of desirable Stewart-Warner gauges, including a gennie police speedometer, and was signed by Houston’s own musical genius, Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top.

A 3-speed, ’40 Ford column shift transmission with a Lincoln-Zephyr close-ratio first and second-gear cluster, a Columbia two-speed rear, and finned ’40 Lincoln hydraulics ensure this baby can accelerate hard and cruise nicely, with its occupants coddled on a handsome leather bench. The early Ford banjo steering wheel, finished in white, is a nice touch. As my pal Joe Caputo likes to say, this car has “The Look.”

“Mexican Blackbird” is the name of a rockin’ ZZ Top tune about a “hot as a pepper” prostitute from south of the border. It was the perfect name for a spicy car. Marchman kept the “Blackbird” for a few years, and enjoyed driving it before White acquired it. Looking as though it was ready for plenty of show-and-go thrills, it sold for considerably less at the auction than it would cost to build.

The right stuff

It’s hard to find fault with any aspect of this old-style roadster. The Mobil Oil Pegasus decals on the cowl sides hint at unbridled speed and power. The ’33’s stock louvered hood sides were left off so you couldn’t miss the polished blower and heads.

A turn-key hot rod, with everything done, including a way-cool name, it was purchased by Richard Munz of Madison, WI, whose hot-rod hoard includes the famous Tommy Foster ’32, the Woodward-Moeller-East ’32 roadster and two more 75th Anniversary “Most Significant” award-winning Deuces. Richard didn’t have a ’33, and he said he’d always liked the ’33–’34 model’s rakish lines. “I thought it was selling very reasonably,” he said.

I’d have to agree with him, too. You can’t assemble these rare parts and have a car built as nicely for $70k. If you want to make it your own, for a nominal sum, you could buy a set of new steel fenders from Steve’s Auto Restorations and have a perfect year-round rod, or just drive it like it is, which is what Munz plans to do.

For his $70,400, Munz got a finished car that’ll turn heads, and the blown flatty puts out enough punch to make things entertaining. There’s nothing the matter with a Ford “underhead valve” V8 that can’t be cured with forced induction — SCoT blowers are reliable (if you remember to grease the end bearings), and they can really wake up a flathead.

Kirk White added, “That car is a great driver. It was a fair sale all around.” I’d call it well sold, and very well bought. Bye-bye, Blackbird!

(Introductory description courtesy of Auctions America.

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