By the end of the '60s, rodding was moving in a couple of different directions. The hot rodders were building cars with an emphasis on neck-snapping quarter-mile performance. The street rodders were starting to pay more attention to head-turning traditional styles. Somewhere between then and now, paths overlapped. Racers started picking up styling cues from the street cars, and street rods began incorporating the look of drag cars.
When James Piper and his 17-year-old son Jordan decided to build a '40 Ford cabriolet, the goal was to maintain the overall look and feel of an original '40 but to drop a few Pro Street hints here and there to make things interesting. The motivation came from the '40 coupe James had owned as a young man back in the mid-'60s. The raw material came from a guy in central California, who had collected a bunch of parts for the car but was unable to continuing working on it due to poor health.
thinks his cabriolet was probably first hot rodded as far back as the early '50s. One clue--and one of the first surprises they found when they started building the '40--was that the lower trunk section had been filled with cement to lower the car (or possibly to add weight to a drag car). As they pounded out the cement, they found a newspaper dating 1954.
Work continued at Europacific Parts International and eventually the car was completed at Nicks Old Car Specialty in Redlands, California. The original steel body was dropped on a TCI Pro Street IFS chassis with a 490hp, injected GM 502ci Rat motor packed under the hood. Besides the high- performance drivetrain, the only conspicuous Pro Street feature is the pair of Mickey Thompson steamroller meats filling the rear fenders.
We spotted the ragtop over at Nicks a few months ago--seven years after the Pipers started in on the car--and talked the guys into driving it out to this local orange grove for some photos. If you read our 100 Best February issue, then you've already seen the Pipers' '40. The next time you see it will be at a show or on the street. Grab a look.