Between the time we shot these photos and right now, Damon Estes' fat black '46 has changed hands, not once but a couple of times, which surprised us until we learned a little more about Damon and a little more about the cool convertible that was his for a short period of time.
First, about Damon. This is a guy who goes through cars quicker than he goes through toothbrushes. "I'm a trader," he says. "I build the car the way I want, I drive it for a year or so, and then I'm ready to move on to something else." His list of rides prior to owning the '46 goes on and on, including Fords and Chevys from all over the '30s, a few early-'60s Chevys, and a '61 Cadillac. As for the fat-fendered '46, it's had more owners than a swap meet carburetor. Damon figures it had been built for 10 year or so when he traded a '36 Ford cabriolet for it at the Street Rod Nationals in Louisville. There wasn't much Damon wanted to change on his latest ride, with the exception of replacing the steelies with a set of five-spoke Americans, changing the steering wheel, upgrading the stereo, and improving the airbag suspension system to give the car a more assertive stance.
The powertrain was in place, the body modifications had been made, and the lipstick-red tuck 'n' roll upholstery and '60 Chevy dash (the signature element on this mild custom) were already setting off the interior. Translation: Damon was able to put the car on the road almost immediately. In the two years he owned it, he clocked more than 10,000 miles, accumulated mostly through trips of 500 miles or less. "It was the type of car where I could leave home at 6 o'clock in the evening after I got off work, just get in it and go, and drive half the night and be comfortable in it."
Of course, the '46 got a lot of attention wherever it went, and has taken its share of awards, but Damon has never been into the trophy scene, so he doesn't really remember exactly which ones he's won. "All of my cars have been great drivers, but no Boyd's Picks. The best awards I've ever had are some pictures in a few magazines."
Two years after trading for the '46 at the Nats, Damon took it back to Louisville and sold it. It's been sold again since then-and redone a bit. In the meantime, Damon's already been through a few other cars, including a '32 three-window, a '37 flatback, and the '53 Chevy convertible he's working on right now. So, there are obviously no regrets for a compulsive rod and custom trader regarding the one-of-a-kind convertible he once owned ... are there? "Yes and no," he admits. "Sometimes I wish I hadn't sold it, but I know that if I had it back, it'd be for sale again."
'46 Ford Convertible
The 454 is a low-horsepower version out of a mid-'80s Chevy pickup, rebuilt to stock specifications and fed with an Edelbrock four-barrel and factory manifold. It has been dressed up with a chrome air cleaner and chrome ball-milled valve covers. Stock exhaust manifolds were capped with Flowmaster mufflers. An '86 Turbo 400 automatic spun the 2.73:1 gears in the '82 Chevy rearend. Damon said he could go all day long with the air on and not run past 180 degrees.
The previous owner made most of the modifications to the original '46 frame, scavenging a '72 Nova for the front clip, which was narrowed 2 inches, and retains the power steering and sway bars, as well as spindles and front discs. Rear disc brakes are from a Cadillac. An Air Ride suspension system was one of the first modifications made when Damon got the car.
Wheels & Tires
Those big black fenders needed something bright inside them-a job accomplished with 17-inch Torq-Thrusts, set off with three-spoke spinners. Goodyear Eagle radials measure 255/60R17 and 215/5R17.
Body & Paint
Credit the original builder for some beautiful bodywork, including the running boards pulled into the body and doors extended out. The original front and rear bumpers were narrowed and pulled inward. Door handles were shaved and the hood and trunk lid smoothed, but chrome beltline trim, headlight bezels, parking lights, and grille were kept to break up large expanses of jet black sheetmetal.
It gets really red on the inside-a bold-looking contrast to all that black and chrome on the outside. The stock front and rear benches were wrapped in red Naugahyde, with black piping, but the real attention-getter is the '60 Chevy dash. Damon estimates that 3 inches were sliced out of the center to make it work. VDO instruments fit right into the gauge pods. Damon added the Colorado Custom.