Image credits: © Ford.
1934 Ford Model 40 Special Speedster news, pictures, specifications, and information
Sold for $1,760,000 at 2008 RM Auctions
Edsel Bryant Ford was born on November 6th of 1893 and passed away a short 49 years later due to cancer. He was the son of the legendary Henry Ford who had formed the Ford Motor Company Empire. Edsel was groomed to follow in the family business. In 1915 he became secretary of Ford and later became president of the company.
Henry and Edsel differed in many ways. Edsel was an artist and connoisseur. Henry did not favor a Ford with custom coachwork, but Edsel would. Edsel showed a strong interest in automotive styling and even took art lessons for most of his life.
In 1922 he purchased the Lincoln Motor Company and was named president. In 1931 he formed Ford's fist design department and worked closely with many coachbuilders, Brewster in particular, to provide custom bodies for Lincoln and Ford chassis.
Prior to Edsel's involvement in the Ford Motor Company, the designs were plain, efficient, and lacked any major frills. They were functional and conservative but lacked the allure of many other cars on the roadway.
Edsel appointed 24-year old Eugene T. 'Bob' Gregorie to head the small styling group. His resume was not that extensive at this point in history; he had worked with Harley Earl at General Motors in the Art and Colour studio and was an accomplished sketch artist who could transform an idea into reality. In 1931 Gregorie had worked as a draftsman at Lincoln.
One of the earliest Gregorie designs to be fitted on a Ford chassis was a European inspired custom boat tail speedster that was built atop a 1932 Ford chassis. A few years later, a second, more dynamic design was created. Several sketches were created and eventually a 1/25th scale model was created. The design was tested in a wind tunnel in Ford Aviation's Air Frame Building.
The chassis for the car was a stock 1934 frame that was lowered six inches in the rear by having the frame rails pass under the rear axle. the front was lowered by using new fabricated suspension parts. Additional modifications to the frame including moving the front axle forward ten inches.
The body was constructed from aluminum, given a tapered-tail, had seating for two, and was doorless (cut-down) and topless. The front had a vee-shaped grille that was as bold as it was dynamic. There were modified Ford Tri-motor aircraft 'wheel pants' that served as cycle fenders with the front that turned with the wheels. Stock Ford wire wheels were used but converted to custom wheel discs. The entire package was covered in a Pearl Essence Gunmetal Dark shade with a gray leather interior. Mounted in the long engine bay was a Ford Model 40 V8 engine with straight exhausts that ran through a section of the tubular frame and exited at the rear. The entire package weighed 2400 pounds.
It was a very aerodynamic, clean, stylish, and smooth design. It had lots of detail that could be noticed upon further inspection. The canted louvers were in the precise angle of the grille and the rakish windscreens. The faired-in headlights, lack of hood ornamentation, a fully enclosed radiator without a cap, no running boards, and lack of brightwork most certainly added to its seductive appeal.
When Edsel was not using the car, he stored it in an unheated shed on his Fair Lane estate. During the winter of 1939-1940, the engine block cracked due to the extreme temperatures. A new 1940 Mercury V8 engine was installed. In modern times, the Mercury engine was replaced with a stock 1940 Ford flathead engine with dual carburetors and dual exhausts.
One of the flaws of this cars original design was that the sheet metal partially blocks the flow of air to the radiator, resulting in overheating. Gregorie created a 1/10th scale model of a design he felt would solve the problem. The changes were approved and the upper grille on the car was shortened. A new horizontal lower grille with matching bars was fabricated. On either side was flanked by large headlights.
After Edsel's untimely death, this car along with five others were sold. The new owner had the Speedster shipped to Los Angeles and put into storage. A short time later, an ad in Road & Track advertised the sale of this custom Ford. The car did not sell. Another ad appeared in an issue of Auto Sport Review but again failed to sell. The $2500 price tag was rather steep for the time.
The car went back into storage where it would remain until 1957. It was brought back to Georgia and offered for sale on the Garrard Import used car lot in Pensacola, Florida. Early in 1958 the car was sold to John Pallasch for $603. At this point in history, the car was painted red to match its red leather. Pallasch was later shipped out for Vietnam on an extended tour and did not return until the late 1960s. The car was put into storage where it remained for nearly four decades.
Bill Warner is the founder of the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance. In 1999 he was searching for the Edsel Speedster for a special display at the concours. After some searching, Warner found the owner of the car. Upon contacting the owner, he found the owner willing to sell. So Bill immediately drove to Deland, Florida to inspect the car. It was in a garage and was showing many signs of a long life. It was mostly complete except for its custom wheel discs. Its odometer read a mere 19,000 miles.
Warner and his team rebuilt the Mercury V8 engine, touched up the body paint, repainted the fenders, and had aluminum wheel discs replicated.
In 2008 this very rare automobile was brought to the Automobiles of Amelia presented by RM Auctions. It has had only a few owners during its lifetime, with the last time it was offered for sale being over 40 years ago. The Mercury flathead V8 engine displaces 239 cubic-inches and produces around 120 horsepower. There is a three-speed manual gearbox and four-wheel mechanical brakes. The wheel base measures 122-inches. This car was one of the highlights of the auction. As the gavel fell for the third and final time, the car had found a new owner, and one that was willing to part with $1.76 million to own this marvelous legendary automobile.By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2008
Edsel Bryant Ford's 1934 Model 40 Special Speedster Debuts at Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance
It has grace, style and a 77-year history shrouded in mystery that has intrigued automotive collectors, enthusiasts and writers worldwide. Edsel Ford's restored 1934 Model 40 Special Speedster was unveiled today by Lincoln and the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House at The Lodge, Pebble Beach in Monterey County, Calif. It will appear again on Sunday August 21, at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. Restored to its timeless elegance, Edsel's personal roadster shared its story of a decades-long journey.
The Speedster's extensive restoration by award-winning RM Auto Restoration in Ontario, Canada, revealed the stunning, custom made 'one off' as it originally looked in 1940 after its final redesign by Edsel and designer E. T. Gregorie. The revelations uncovered during a year-long restoration have resolved many long-held assumptions about the illustrious vehicle's journey over time. But more than a story of restoration, the vehicle provides a glimpse into the early years of Edsel Ford's design and automotive styling as President of Ford Motor Company and its luxury Lincoln line.
The Speedster celebrates Edsel's eye for design that began when as a small boy he would take pen to paper to sketch cars as well as everyday objects. 'My grandfather was an early believer that everyday objects - including automobiles - could be seen as works of art,' said Edsel Ford II, who unveiled the Speedster. 'While he wasn't a designer in the traditional sense, his eye for styling and influence was apparent as he initiated and built the design department at Ford Motor Company.'
After Edsel's death in 1943, the Speedster crisscrossed the Ú.S. making limited appearances, then it disappeared – some feared it had been destroyed. It was last seen when it was photographed in Hollywood in the 1950s after which it was purchased by a Ú.S. Navy sailor in Florida for $603 in 1958. It didn't appear again until Bill Warner displayed it at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance in 1999.
In 2008 it was sold to a Texas car collector for $1.76 million, then, following the collector's untimely death in 2010, the Speedster returned to Edsel's home, now operated as an historic site called the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House. Over the years, alterations were made to its grille, engine, paint and interior - it is these alterations that have been reversed by RM Auto Restoration to take the famous car back to the 1940 design and engine.The Model 40 Special Speedster
Source - Ford
Its rich history began in 1932 after Edsel returned from a trip to Europe. He asked Ford's chief designer, E.T. 'Bob' Gregorie to design and supervise the construction of a personal sports car similar to those he'd see 'on the continent.'
The first design reportedly disappointed Edsel because it wasn't lower and racier. But Gregorie, who was adept at turning Edsel's visions into tangible designs, went to work on a more dramatic, streamlined design. This 'continental' roadster may have started wîth a stock 1934 Ford (aka Model 40) frame, but its subsequent chassis was radically altered. The Model 40 Special Speedster was unlike anything Ford Motor Company had built up to that time.
At 113 inches, the Speedster's wheelbase is approximately the same as the standard 112-inch wheelbase of a 1934 Ford roadster. Yet, it appears longer and lower. This illusion was achieved by modifying and lowering the car's chassis, positioning the cockpit toward the rear of the car and extending the tail section.
Gregorie, Robbie Robinson, supervisor of the Lincoln plant, and Ford Aircraft Division personnel, fabricated a topless, taper-tailed aluminum body wîth cut-down door openings and mounted it over a custom welded tubular aluminum structural framework.
It was believed that the Speedster's fenders were modified Trimotor Aircraft 'wheel pants,' but Ford's aircraft fabricators undoubtedly fashioned them from scratch. The custom-designed front cycle wings were mounted so they turned wîth the car's Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels. The all-aluminum bodywork followed the best aircraft practice – light and very strong.
The Speedster was painted Pearl Essence Gunmetal Dark; the interior upholstered in complementary gray leather. The flat, engine-tuned instrument panel incorporated period Lincoln instruments. The 2,100-pound Speedster was powered by a stock 75-bhp, Ford Model 40 flathead, wîth straight exhausts that were enclosed by the bodywork wîth only the tips protruding.
The Speedster had low-mounted faired-in headlights, an enclosed radiator wîth a concealed cap, a starter button on the instrument panel, minimal chrome trim and no running boards – features that didn't appear on production Fords for years.
The Speedster's shapely hood had louvered side panels that subtly matched the angle of the radiator grille and the windscreen. A pair of narrow vee-ed grilles wîth a single row of louvers (vents) running the length of each side of the hood limited the flow of cooling air. The Speedster had a tendency to overheat.
Two period photographs of the car show two different louver treatments. One shows a single row of side louvers; the other features two rows of louvers, one atop the other. It's reasonable to suspect that because of overheating issues, the hood was modified between the times these photos were taken.
Reportedly, a winter freeze in 1939-40 cracked the engine block; a new 239-cid, 100-bhp 09A Mercury V-8 was installed. This would have been the most powerful version of the Ford flathead V-8 available at the time.
By 1939, Gregorie had designed wider twin grilles for the Lincoln-Zephyr, so it followed that he would take the same approach for the Speedster. He redesigned the Speedster's front end by shortening the upper grilles and fabricating a wide, horizontal grille for improved cooling. The new design, which required extensive modifications to the hood, was likely completed in 1940. The instrument panel may have been updated at the same time wîth a 160-mph racing type speedometer and matching Stewart-Warner accessory instruments.
'The Model 40 Special Speedster was only enjoyed by Edsel for a few short years before his death in 1943, but its journey was just beginning,' said Ford House President Kathleen Mullins. 'Ford House is proud to give life to Edsel's original vision for a unique, continental roadster.'
The Model 40 Special Speedster has moved through almost eight decades of owners and modifications and has returned to its early design elegance. After Pebble Beach, its journey will continue, ultimately returning home . . . to Ford House.
To follow the Speedster's travels, and view the restoration process, visit www.fordhouse.org. For video footage of the Speedster, go to media.lincoln.com.
The Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich., is a place of inspiration and discovery where visitors explore connections to art, design, history and the environment while celebrating Ford Family traditions. The 1934 Model 40 Special Speedster is part of its permanent collection. For more information, visit www.fordhouse.org.
Lincoln is the luxury automotive brand for Ford Motor Company, committed to becoming a world-class luxury brand wîth compelling vehicles and an exceptional ownership experience to match. Lincoln will launch seven new or significantly refreshed models in the next three years.
The Ford Model 40 V8 rode on a 112-inch wheelbase and rode on 17-inch wire spoke wheels. Power was from a 90-degree L-head V-8 engine that displaced 221 cubic-inches and produced 75 horsepower. The engine was mated to a three-speed sliding gear transmission with floor shift controls. They had an X-member double-drop frame and mechanical internal expanding brakes at all four corners.
The design was curveacous with a one-piece bumper and streamlined appearance. All bodies, regardless of the bodystyle or the color, were delivered with black fenders.
The V-8 engine was well received. When first introduced in 1932, there were over 200,000 examples sold during that year. It outsold the four-cylinder Model B cars, which reached 185,000 units. Evolutionary upgrades were made to the engine throughout its production run. Earlier improvements included an improved ignition and cooling system, with a new aluminum head that had a compression ratio of 6.3:1, giving horsepower a boost to 75.
The new design was influenced by British styles. The Ford Motor Company, Ltd, had been operating in Britain since 1911 and the Model T proved popular there.
Ford enlisted the help of Eugene Turenne Gregorie , called 'Bob' by his friends, to help in the design. 'Bob' had designed yachts for the Elco Corporation and at Cox and Stevens, a New York naval architecture firm. He had also worked at coachbuilders Brewster & Company. His work at Brewster brought him to the automobile industry and soon became well-regarded for his talents.
Gregorie used his nautical background to create a slanted flat windshield back, and employed a similarly sloped grille whose silhouette suggested a heart shape. The doors were hinged at the rear and opened in 'suicide fashion. The headlamps were mounted directly to the fenders.
This new design was introduced as the Model Y in February 1932. The Model Y was well received and quickly put into production. For the 1933 American Ford, Edsel wanted a more graceful design than the 1932 style.
For the 1933 model year, and with the longer wheelbase, the design of the Model Y was simply scaled up. The Model Y's proportions were mechanically scaled.
The public responded, with sales for 1933 models increasing some 40 percent over dismal 1932 sales.
By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2009
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