1934 Ford Model 40 Special Speedster at NAIAS 2012

1934 Edsel Ford Model 40 Special Speedster at NAIAS

Legend has it that in the early 1930s, Edsel Ford was in Europe and saw some of the roadster designs being built by auto designers there and wanted one for himself. Being a Ford, of course, he couldn't just buy one. He had to have it made. So he returned home and commissioned Ford's chief designer at the time, E.T. Gregorie, to make him a speedster. In 1934, the one-off Model 40 Special Speedster was born.

After Edsel's death in 1943, the Model 40 changed hands several times and sold to its last owner in 1953 for only $603. It was reported to be in a state of disrepair. In 2008, it fared better, though it was still not restored to original (it had seen an unoriginal restoration), and sold to a Texas buyer for $1.76 million. In 2010, the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Gross Pointe Shores, Michigan received the Speedster for restoration and sent it to RM Auto Restoration in Ontario, Canada. There it received the as-close-to-original restorative treatment it deserved.

The car debuted, fully restored, in August 2011 at The Pebble Beach Councours d'Elegance in Monterey County, California where celebrity car enthusiasts like Jay Leno viewed it with awe. More recently, it was showcased in the Lincoln booth at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit.

The Speedster has fenders rumored to be taken from aircraft wheel pants, is one of the few cars of the era to use all-aluminum body work, has a hand-crafted, machine-turned dashboard, and gray leather interior.

Under the long, sloop hood is a 239 cubic inch flathead V-8 producing 100 horsepower, which propels the lightweight (2,100 pound) car in a sprightly fashion. The very classic, stylish Ford Model 40 Special Speedster has a permanent home at the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House.

The Ford House documented the entire restoration process and showed how many questions about its journeys over the past 78 years could be answered.

Ford Model 40 in its name comes from the basic framework of the Speedster, which is based on a 1934 Ford Roadster (aka Model 40) frame with a 112-inch wheelbase. This was extended to 113 inches and then the chassis was lowered and the cockpit moved rearward. The extra inch of frame was used to extend the tail, giving it a more streamlined look.

The door openings were cut lower, the wheel covers (custom made based on Trimotor Aircraft designs from Ford's aircraft division). The entire body was built from aluminum - unusual for the time - and the interior was fashioned from the best leathers and engine-tuned instruments for the panel that Ford's luxury Lincoln shop of the time could muster.

It's likely that many of Gregorie's design elements influenced late Ford designs, including the shaped hood, hidden radiator cap, lack of running boards, and a starter button on the instrument panel (rather than the floor) were new to Ford at the time.

Originally, the Edsel Speedster had only one set of louvers (vents) along each side of the hood. The Speedster had a tendency to overheat when driven longer distances, however, so a second row of louvers was added, giving the Ford more cooling air and better performance. A couple of years before Edsel died, the original engine block cracked in a winter freeze and was replaced with a 1939 239-cid 100bhp 09A Mercury V-8 - the engine appearing in it today. With the installation of the new engine came a few front-end enhancements by Gregorie, giving it a wider grille for better cooling.

The fully restored 1934 Edsel Ford Model 40 Special Speedster is a sight to behold will be touring the country this year, visiting select auto shows and events before returning to the Ford House for permanent display.

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