Rick's brother, Randy, found the ad for the '49, and called the owner, Ken Gepford, for photos. As soon as Rick saw the pictures he was on the phone to Ken, arranging a visit. "The moment I saw the car, I had to have it," he says. "I tried to be cool, but Gepford saw right through me. He gave us a four-hour tour of his shop and the half dozen projects he had going on."
Ken built the '49 in the mid-'70s in what Rick calls an East Coast leadsled style, including a flat-on-the-pavement posture accomplished by four-corner hydraulics. According to Rick, Ken was one of the first guys to put hydraulics on a custom, using a modified power steering pump system--which still works 30 years later. Getting the coupe to drop so low required cutting and reforming the trunk to keep the driveshaft from smacking the rearend.
Ken tore apart a '59 El Camino for the front clip, engine, and transmission. He told Rick, that with a 348, either you've got a good one or you don't. This, evidently, is a good one. New bearings and a timing chain were added at about 120,000 miles. It's now getting close to 200,000 miles and the heads have still never been off the engine.
In the years since he has owned the car, Rick has redone the wiring and hydraulic lines, replaced most of the glass and rubber, finished work in the engine compartment, and sprayed some fresh paint. Ken had not seen the car for five years when Rick returned to Spokane for a Goodguys show, but was happy with the things Rick had changed and the things he'd kept the same. Although Ken has passed away since then, people still compliment Rick on "Ken's car." Rick doesn't mind much, since the award-winning coupe reflects so much of Ken's handiwork and since he's driving the shoebox Ford he's been thinking about for 50 years.
'49 Ford Coupe
The stock '59 Chevy 348 is topped by the stock four-barrel and still backed by the cast-iron '59 Powerglide. The valve covers are original Offenhausers. Smithy mufflers soften the sound from the stock manifolds.
It's Chevy meets Ford underneath the '49. The whole '59 El Camino clip--including the steering, spindles, and drums--was added to the stock frame. The custom front coils were cut to make room for the hydraulic cylinders. In the rear, the 8-inch rearend with 3.50:1 gears, and brakes came out of a '66 Ford, suspended by Rancho shocks and leaf springs. The car is dropped by an old-time hydraulic system controlled by a modified power steering pump running off the engine.
Wheels & Tires
Five-spoke Cragars (14x6s and 15x7s) and narrow Goodyear whites (P195/75R14 and P215/65R15) are a surprise on a sled, but the combination looks all right.
Body & Paint
Only some panel smoothing was needed when Rick purchased the car. Ken Gepford had done all of the major custom mods in the mid-'70s. The top, borrowed from a four-door sedan, was chopped 4 1/2 inches. Drip moldings were shaved, along with body hardware and trim. The clean lines are continued with frenched headlights and a filled hood. The Cal Custom grille was modified to fit the opening, above a '49 Plymouth bumper. The rear is modified with '49 Ford taillights, and the rear Plymouth bumper was sectioned to fit. The DuPont maroon acrylic enamel was sprayed by Rick, and has been embellished by rock chips, wind, and sun after many miles on the road.
Ken was an upholstery guy, so the stitching is first class. The power front seats (which Rick thinks came from a mid-'70s GM car), custom rear bench, and door panels were wrapped in white vinyl at Kenny's Auto Upholstery (Renton, Washington), with a Billet Specialties wheel to match. Rick built the aluminum panel below the dash, which houses a Sun tach and Stewart Warner gauges. The Sears Allstate auto record player was accessorized with cup holders. The stainless pullout food tray is a genuine old aftermarket item. The Hurst floor shifters control the hydraulics.