This nicely restored and very mildly uprated DeLuxe coupe is a perfect example of how it was done back in the period. The subject of a complete, frame-off restoration, the original steel body was refurbished, while the original flathead V8 was rebuilt to have a bit more juice. The engine was bored 0.125 over, fitted with Egge custom four-ring pistons, and a four-inch Mercury crank. Offenhauser finned 9:1 high compression cylinder heads, an Edelbrock dual manifold, a Mallory electronic distributor and an Iskenderian three-quarter-race cam round out the engine modifications. The 3-speed manual transmission was retained, but with a 12-pound aluminum flywheel and a 10-inch pressure plate. The rear end was rebuilt with a Getz 3.54:1 ring and pinion. The original electrical system was updated to 12 volts and an alternator replaced the Ford generator. Finished in six coats of True Black high-gloss paint and skinned inside with bright red vinyl, this classic Ford took five years to complete.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1939 Ford Model 91A DeLuxe Coupe
Years Produced:1939
Number Produced:33,326 DeLuxe V8 coupes (38,197 Standards)
SCM Valuation:$40,000–$60,000, depending on condition and equipment
Tune Up Cost:200
Distributor Caps:$20
Chassis Number Location:Stamped on the left front frame rail
Engine Number Location:Top of transmission bellhousing
Club Info:Goodguys, National Street Rod Association (NSRA)
Alternatives:Any vintage Ford custom or hot rod, 1932–41
Investment Grade:C

This car, Lot 212, sold for $77,000, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ auction on May 31, 2015, in Greenwich, CT. Bonhams’ pre-sale estimate on this car was $52,500 to $57,500.

Ford Motor Company’s handsome ’39 models were designed by E.T. “Bob” Gregorie, whose nautical design training was evident in the car’s long hood that resembled an inverted dory, a sharply vee-ed grille, prominent catwalks over bulbous fenders with oval Art Deco lenses and, for the first time, sealed beam headlamps. The roofline was a compound curve that began at the top of the fold-out windshield, arched skyward just a tad, and then flowed gracefully to the rear in a lovely S-shaped arc.

Henry Ford eschewed hydraulic brakes for years, touting “the safety of steel from pedal to wheel,” and clinging to push-and-pray cable-operated drums that worked decently but were inferior to most of the competition. 1939 was Ford’s first year for Lockheed hydraulics.

Aping the Gregorie-designed Lincoln-Zephyrs, the ’39’s handsome low grille allowed Ford’s engineers to mount the cooling fan on the crankshaft pulley. 1939 was the last year for a languid, goose-necked floor shift for the 3-speed manual gearbox. And the convertible coupe offered a rumble seat for the final time. The ’39’s widely admired stock teardrop taillights (a carryover from 1938) found their way onto countless early coupes and roadsters.

The hot ticket

In the late 1950s, hot-rod-minded kids from Maine to California were very attracted to Ford’s pre-war coupes. Relatively lightweight, possessing handsome lines, available for under $200, these cars were the perfect platform for a potent street machine. Equipped with a modified flathead, or an Olds or Cad pushrod V8 with substantially more displacement, these were the cars to have regardless of whether they were mildly customized or just left stock in appearance.

Before Chevrolet’s small block ran the flatheads out of business, a plethora of speed equipment was available to boost a stock flatty’s 85 to 100 horses up to 150 hp or more. Hot cams, finned aluminum high-compression heads, multi-carburetor manifolds, modified ignitions and headers were available at local speed shops or by mail order from merchants like “Honest Charley” Card in Chattanooga, JC Whitney in Chicago, Lewie Shell in L.A., or directly from the speed equipment manufacturers themselves. Primered or painted, flamed and pinstriped, these likeable coupes were highly desired. If you sold one, you always wanted it back.

Moonshiners loved Ford’s ’39 and ’40 Ford coupes because the trunks were enormous and suitable for hauling whiskey crates packed with amber jars of ’shine. Stock-car racers liked them too, and many coupe bodies were smashed beyond rebuilding after competing on bullrings across the USA.

Many ’39s were run hard and put away wet. Rusted quarter panels, butchered chassis and aromatic old mohair await the restorer or hot-rodder who finds an old coupe and wants to bring it back.

In this case, a claimed frame-off restoration, new black paint and a crimson interior — along with a hopped-up flathead — make this car a get-in-and-drive-it proposition.

Black and white and red all over

Some mild customizing was done here, and not for the better. The lower hood-side trim spears were removed, the trunk lid was dechromed and the “Ford DeLuxe” trim lettering was moved from the front of the hood to the hood sides. Blue-dot taillight lenses were illegal in mid-century because they resembled police lights. And liberal lashings of red paint aren’t to everyone’s taste.

The restorers trimmed the engine compartment, painted the block red — and even the aluminum heads got a few red accents. A red interior, red steel wheels and wide whitewalls were not unknown in the period, but they make this otherwise nice coupe a bit garish. It’s great to keep the flathead, but the modern Mallory ignitor and chromed alternator make it strictly 21st century.

Interestingly, this car doesn’t seem to be lowered. Back in the day, rodders installed dropped beam axles and reverse-eye springs in front and either Zee-ed the frames or reworked the rear crossmember to get their rides down in the weeds. These cars look a lot better that way, so I’m surprised the builder didn’t go that route.

Decent comparable ’39 coupes are often listed for sale at prices ranging from $38,500 to $45,000 today. Beyond that, a modified flathead like this one has, with proper go-fast goodies, can easily run $10k to $12k by itself. So at $77,000, unless this coupe was a stone rust bucket that needed a huge amount of metalwork, the seller probably got his money back. I’d call this ’39 quite well sold.

All in the details

But… if it were my car, I’d drop it substantially all around, paint nearly all the red parts black, swap a Powermaster PowerGEN (it works like an alternator but looks like an old generator), disguise the Mallory distributor, paint the wheels black and get rid of those whitewalls, hit up LeBaron Bonney for an original-style optional tan leather interior, replace the decklid handle and re-install the hood trim. Then you’d have a pretty nice period-style ’39 Ford coupe.

(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.

Comments are closed.