Bill Baldwin's '40 Ford Deluxe coupe was freshly finished in July when it showed up in Columbus, Ohio, at the Goodguys Nationals. That's where the hot-rod red paint, starting-line stance, and overall emphasis on getting everything just right made us take notice.

Bill has owned a bunch of '40 Fords-"Henry's finest," as he calls them-and was looking for a coupe to go along with his current collection. That collection includes a high-mileage convertible built in 1978, a phantom pickup from about five years ago, and now this recently completed Deluxe coupe.

Let's back things up about 52 years to when this story really began. It was 1955, and Bill was just a youngster, looking for a car to build into a dirt-track stocker. One of his friends was putting together a '40 Deluxe, until Bill bought it from him. In 1957, Bill swapped the built-up Flathead for an OHV V-8 with three carbs. He dressed it up with a fresh red-and-white pleated interior, whitewall tires, and Moon discs, and painted it bright red. After a few more years, Bill needed money for a dragster project and sold the '40. Starting to see where this is going?

The world changed a lot in the half-century that came and went between Bill's first '40 and his latest, but a couple things that didn't change were Bill's taste in cars and the appeal of late-'50s hot rods. So when Bill started thinking about how to build this car, his first decision was to do it in the timeless style he remembered and loved.

His second decision was to turn over the project to Ray Bartlett and his team at the Hot Rod Garage in Denton, Maryland. Bill showed up at the Hot Rod Garage with a head full of ideas as to how the coupe should look and perform. He wanted it to bear a resemblance to the coupe he owned in 1957, but just as importantly, it had to be a reliable driver. The crew at the Hot Rod Garage built Bill's phantom pickup and rebuilt his convertible, so he was confident that they understood exactly what he wanted with the coupe, and could build an excellent car. He was right on both counts.

The body was located in Delaware, fairly complete and acceptably straight. The '57 312 Y-block was contributed by his nephew, Meade Jr. A barn full of parts-souvenirs of cars owned and swap meets attended over the years-got the project underway. In a year's time, the Hot Rod Garage crew had the car done just the way Bill wanted it, and just in time for the trip to the Goodguys Nats in Columbus.

Now all that's left to do with the car is drive it. And when he does, 2007 becomes 1957 and he has a half-century's worth of miles to make up.

Rod & Custom Feature Car
Bill Baldwin
Millersville, Maryland
'40 Ford Deluxe coupe

Chassis
When the '40 was found in Delaware, it was sitting on its original frame, which was maintained during the buildup. Jason Gallo at Hot Rod Garage cut some notches in the 'rails in order to make room for the exhaust pipes. The Super Bell I-beam axle drops 4 inches to give the car its aggressive crouch. That look is enhanced by Pete & Jake's spindles and multileaf springs. In the rear, parallel leaf springs and P&J's shocks suspend the Ford 8-inch rear, running 3.00:1 gears. The stock steering was replaced by a Chassis Engineering box. The front GM disc brakes and rear 10-inch Ford drums are fed by a Mustang dual master cylinder, with a power booster.

Drivetrain
Bill ran a Flathead in his first '40, then a 283 small-block ("It was time to build a real hot rod out of it"). Now he has returned to Ford power, but taken it a step further with a 312ci Thunderbird motor. The '57 Y-block was purchased at the Hershey, Pennsylvania, swap meet, and had been previously rebuilt. "So we took a chance and dropped it right in," Bill told us. The triple Holley 94s are reminiscent of the 3x2 induction he ran 50 years ago, this time on an Edelbrock #553 manifold. Henry Stewart at the Hot Rod Garage made the brackets and mounts to make the Y-block work in the '40 engine compartment, and Jason Gallo built custom headers, running into Smithy's glasspack mufflers. A Walker radiator keeps things cool on the street (it's a driver, remember?). Pro Trans in Wilmington put together a C4 transmission to back up the Thunderbird, adding a shift kit, and running a stock converter.

Wheels & Tires
Radials would've been inconspicuous inside those fat fenders, but Bill owed it to nostalgia to make 'em bias-plies. Firestone wide whites, 5.00-16s and 6.50-16s, do the trick. The 16-inch reverse steelies are 14-series Gennies from Wheel Vintiques, painted body color and dressed up with Ford Deluxe caps. The front rims are 16x6 with 4 inches of backspacing; the rear 16x7s have 3 inches of backspacing.

Body & Paint
It's the original steel, uncut the way Henry intended. The mirrors came from SO-CAL Speed Shop, but pretty much everything else-the hood, headlights and taillights, bumpers, handles, you name it-are stock pieces. The grille is a repop part from Bob Drake Reproductions. Jason Lester at the Hot Rod Garage made sure the sheetmetal was straight before shooting the DuPont red, and Jim Wright's Custom Chrome brought the brightwork back to like-new condition. Under the hood, the firewall was customized to accommodate the Y-block and painted with the same white used in the interior.

Interior
All that red is mixed with white in the interior, where the factory appearance is modified just enough to tell you this is a hot rod. Dean Alexander at the HRG used two-tone vinyl to cover the '40 two-door sedan seats in a traditional rolls 'n' pleats pattern. It continues to the door panels, which are broken up with custom stainless trim. Bill kept the stock gauges and dash-wisely, we'd say-with a little bit of 'striping along the top. He can flip up the stock speaker grille to access the Sony AM/FM stereo, installed by Henry Stewart at the HRG. A Vintage Air heater blows through vents in a hidden custom panel. Juliano's seatbelts were installed, and LimeWorks provided the 16-inch '40 steering wheel. The Lokar 23-inch swan-neck shifter completes the picture.