The raw materials for a project can come from many sources, especially when dealing with original tin. Sure, we all dream of that perfect barn find, but truth be told, many of us start with something with way less salubrious origins.
One of Terry Wallaces work colleagues knew hed owned a 40 Ford back in the mid-60s, so he told him about a 39 that had been sitting out in the high desert east of San Diego for several years. Of course, to any hot rodder worth his salt, such information is always impossible to ignore, and Terry and his son had to check it out.
According to Terry, The body was rust free and fairly straight, with the exception of a dent in the roof. It had been a Gasser at some point in its life, with radiused rear fenders and a homemade tube front axle with questionable welding. The X-member had been cut out and the firewall set back for some long-removed engine. The hood was cut and a homemade scoop attached. To say it was rough would be an understatement, but we thought it looked great, and when the owner threw a Ford 351 Cleveland in with the deal, we bought it. When I got it home, my wife just about freaked out and told me to keep it covered so the neighbors wouldnt scream about it!
I wanted to build a mild custom but still be able to race it at the antique drags. Dave Chappelle, a friend who builds suspensions, came over to look at the frame and told me it was not salvageable, so I called John Heinzman to order one of his reworked original frames. I ended up buying a newly built chassis with a Heidts IFS and a Ford 9-inch rearend with Traction-Loc and Moser axles. Chappelle air-bagged the car and built a killer four-link that he dared me to break.
With a solid chassis for the coupe, the body was pulled from the original frame at Dallas Pattersons shop to be sent out for media blasting. When we lifted the body off with his forklift, the dent in the roof popped out to leave very little bodywork, Terry says. Dallas fabricated a complete new floor and firewall. The new version was brought back out closer to the original location to allow room for the Vintage Air A/C unit, and the Ford engine didnt require distributor clearance at the rear!
After the new frame and body were united, Terry decided itd look neater with fender skirts covering the radiused rear fenderwells. As the build continued, he located a pair of 40 Ford rear fenders, though still kept the skirts. The door and trunk handles were deep-sixed and the hood was peaked, continuing the mild custom theme, and a Roger Starkeyupholstered Glide seat went in.
Terrys good friend Clark Williams owned a machine shop at the time, and therefore got the nod to build the 351 engine, before partnering it with an AOD trans and bolting it in the coupe, just in time to drive it to the last West Coast Kustoms show in Paso in gray primer. The coupe made the 800-mile round-trip, despite having just 10 miles on the odometer at the start. Terry then drove the car around for almost a year, after a four-year build so far.
Once the coupe was thoroughly shaken down, Terry took it to another friend, Abe Mena, at San Diego Rod & Custom, for it to be finished. He wasnt keen on the aftermarket grilles available, so Mena fabricated a new one from parts of the messed up original, succeeding in making it look almost stock. Benji Tapiz finished the bodywork and painted it black cherry (a color Terrys wife liked), while Starkey redid the seat because he didnt like the way hed done the original three years previously, then upholstered the remainder of the interior, and the running boards, to match.
Well let Terry have the final words: In seven years I went from a car I paid $700 for, to what you see here. As I used friends for most of the build, the cost was much lower than it could have been. So you went slightly over budget then Terry? Hey, who doesnt?
San Diego, California
1939 Ford coupe
A Heinzman Street Rods chassis with Heidts IFS supports the coupe, with a four-link rear suspension and airbags all round by Dave Chappelle. A 15-gallon stainless steel gas tank is mounted in the rear. Up front a Flaming River rack-and-pinion ensures everything goes where Terry points it.
Machined and assembled by Clark Williams, a 351 Cleveland lives under the hood, now with a Crane cam, a 750-cfm Holley on an Edelbrock intake, Mallory ignition, and March Performance accessory bracketry. A TPI-assembled AOD trans puts power through a San Diego Drivelinebuilt driveshaft, to the Moser-equipped 9-inch rearend.
Coker 6.70-15 wide whitewalls are used at each corner, with 15x7 Ford steels at the rear, and similar-diameter steelies from a late-model front-wheel-drive Ford are up front. All are disguised with Starburst Moon discs.
Terry readily admits now that if he were to do it again, hed start with an older restoration with all the original parts. However, if that were the case, the grille and bumpers would likely be stock, so were pleased he took the route he did! The doors and trunk have been shaved of their handles, the hood peaked, and custom fender skirts and grille installed. It has 59 Cadillac taillights sitting in custom surrounds. Benji Tapiz laid on the PPG Black Cherry with blue flake.
Thats a stock steering wheel atop a LimeWorks column, with Haneline gauges in the dash. Roger Starkey tackled the pearl white vinyl upholstery and black carpet, incorporating silver thread. San Diego Rod & Custom used a Painless harness to hook everything up, while a Vintage Air A/C system keeps the occupants cool.