Every hot rodder probably knew somebody like Ray when they were young--some older guy in the neighborhood who built cars and didn't mind letting a kid hang out in his garage watching him work.
Charley Herd was a teenager in the '70s when he met Ray McMoran, who ran a body shop in Comanche County, Kansas. He took his '60 El Camino to Ray for a pearl white paint job with red panels and scallops, and became a regular at the shop. "Ray was in his early 30s, with his hair combed in a ducktail style," Charley recalls. "He would regale us with car stories, race stories, custom paint tricks, and lore about local iron. I was in teenage heaven."
Ray owned a bunch of rods and customs, including '40 coupe, which had been hot rodded in the '50s with a later-model flathead, a floor-shifted three-speed and white tuck 'n' roll upholstery. Charley remembers Ray describing his plans for the car--while laughing at what the purists would do if they knew about his plans.
After Charley sold the El Camino, graduated from high school and went on to college, he still maintained occasional contact with Ray. After he got married, he took his wife to Ray's ranch, so she could meet the man who had influenced him so much as a teenager.
In 1992, Charley got word that Ray had died unexpectedly. The following year, Charley was able to buy the '40 from Ray's family. At first, he planned to retain the engine and transmission and build a nostalgia rod, but mechanical problems with the flathead changed his mind.
Waco Davis lives in the same town as Charley, and has been working on cars since he was 7 years old. He opened his own shop, Waco's Rods & Restorations, while still taking classes at McPherson College of Restoration. He'd only been in business for a year when Charley called to talk about building the '40. Waco was eager to get busy on the project and in 2001, after a lot of back-and-forth phone calls, showed up at Charley's to pick up the coupe.
At Waco's, the car was completely disassembled and stripped to bare metal. Having been in storage for a long time, the old coupe was in pretty good shape, but the sheetmetal still needed some attention. While Waco reworked the body, Heinzman Street Rods modified the '40 chassis with independent front suspension. The flathead was replaced with an injected crate small-block, and the interior was completely revived, highlighted by white tuck 'n' roll upholstery. The blue metallic paint, shot by Waco, was a personal choice by Charley, who chose it to match a similar blue metalflake paint that Ray had used on his '55 Crown Victoria.
After 2 years, the completely reworked coupe was finished as a traditionally-designed rod with a few hidden hints of high-tech. Charley lets Waco take the coupe to national events to show off the first frame-off build-up to come out of his small-town shop. Ultimately, though, Charley's '40 is a tribute to Ray and the to encouragement his old friend gave to a young kid just getting started in hot rodding.
'40 Ford Coupe
Drivetrain: Rather than deal with rebuilding the old flathead engine, Charley went in the opposite direction by ordering up a trouble-free 2002 GM 350ci fuel-injected crate engine, equipped with a K&N air cleaner, and a pair of 2-inch-diameter S&S headers with 18-inch glass pack mufflers. The original frame was modified to accommodate the column-shifted 700-R4 transmission, and a new oil pan was built to fit around the rails
Chassis: While Waco Davis worked on the rest of the coupe, the chassis was sent to Phillips, Nebraska, where Heinzman Street Rods muscled up the stock frame with an independent front-end system from Heidt's Hot Rod Shop. Coilover shocks and Wilwood disc brakes were also installed in the front. In the rear, a light-duty Ford 9-inch with 3.55:1 gears is suspended by parallel leaf spings and standard shocks.
Wheels & Tires: Since the overall outward theme of the car is clean, simple, and bright Charley chose rolling stock to complement the look, filling the fenders with Coker wide whitewall tires mounted on chrome 15x6 and 15x7 Gennie rims from Wheel Vintiques. The tires are P165/75R15s in the front with P215/75R15s in back.
Body & Paint: All bodywork was done on bare sheetmetal at Waco's Rods & Restorations in Greensburg, KS. Waco added more than a quarter-inch of steel to align the hood and cowl, and built a new firewall around the small-block. In keeping with Charley's original decision to build a nostalgia rod, hinges, handles, and chrome trim pieces retained. Replacement bumpers and headlights are from Vintique. The paint is PPG Medium Maui Blue poly metallic, sprayed by Waco Davis.
Interior: The interior was created by Waco and his wife Brook. The stock dash was painted in blue and white and packed with a cluster of VDO gauges, in addition to vents for the Vintage Air A/C system. The LeCarra wheel completes the look. Gary Martin at Goldfield Trim & Upholstery in Lindsburg, KS, covered the split bench seat and panels in white vinyl with pleated sections and blue piping. At a show last summer, Waco noticed a little boy hopping up and down to see inside. He opened the door to give the kid a better look. After getting an eyeful, the kid was all grins. "It looks like heaven in there," he said.