Bob Kelly is a self-confessed hot rodder, admiring early Fords for most of his life. Bob’s first rod on the road was a 1938 Ford coupe, but he admits that back then, you never really had to do too much to gain hot rod status. Now at age 70, this sweet 1940 Ford has been on his wish list for some time.
“When I was a teenager, Dad looked after a saw mill near Daylesford in Victoria. At the time he had a 1938 Dodge coupe and just about every morning about 11 o’clock, I’d jump in the Dodge and fly down to the local railway station and check out the shelias,” he says with a rye grin. “Dad never knew.”
“I was pulling gearboxes out and working on motors since I was 15 and by the time I got my arse into bulldozers, I realised that the bush was not for me and I left that life for the city. When I started going over to Western Australia for work, I had a collection of cars; a ‘40 Ford convertible, ’39 Mercury and ’37 Ford sedan with about 10,000 miles on the clock. They were stored at my Nana’s house and one day when I came home, they we gone, I’ve never found them. I’ve checked every ’40 convertible I ever came across.”
His ‘40 coupe may have taken a long time to acquire and never really replaced that rare topless version, but it does fill the void for now. He’d been on the hunt for a ‘porky forty’ for about 10 years and located this coupe in Anaheim in 2010. His preference was for a mild hot rod rather than a stocker and this example ticked all the boxes. Bob explains that it only ever had two owners and it never left Anaheim.
“After a tip off, we checked out this garage and as soon as I saw it I said to the guy, I’ll buy that off you!
“Just like that?” he said. “Well, there is a guy sitting in it right now who wants to show his mate, are you fairdinkum as you don’t even know the price.”
“I told him that I had a fair idea how much I’d give him. We did the deal when the first guy was about 20 metres from the shed and he yelled out to him, don’t bother coming back!”
“I was lucky,” Bob laughs!
“The price was fair but the seller said the only problem that I would encounter was Barney! I asked what’s a Barney? The owner, he replied.”
“He called up the owner and negotiated the deal and we worked it all out over the phone. He was happy that I was an older guy that wanted to keep it as it is. The original visor was off at the time and at the owner’s house. He was kind enough to box it up and send it to me at his own expense and wouldn’t take anything for it. I send him a picture every now and then and he likes that.”
At the time of purchase the coupe was sporting a dropped axle but it was removed to avoid any Australian import issues. Once home, Bob also purchased a 1940 sedan donor car from Adelaide to help with the conversion to right hand drive.
“The only thing that’s not Henry Ford original is the indicator stalk,” he says proudly.
The original motor was hopped up with early Sharp finned heads and a twin carb Tattersfield intake with 97 Strombergs. Bob had the motor torn down and rebuilt along with the stock diff for reliability. Further improvements for the old flatty are hydraulic lifters and a Powergen alternator producing 14 amps, hooked to the 12-volt system.
The experienced boys at Rotunda Revival repainted the Aussie dash and column to match the existing trim. They also spent considerable time breathing new life into the ageing exterior paintwork that’s enhanced with a full set of new wheels and tyres dressed with ‘40 caps. Bob stresses that all mechanical components were either replaced or rebuilt for trouble free cruising. The extensive amount of accessory components were added when the car was hot rodded in the USA.
“I have thought about re-installing the dropped axle but I think it would kill it (the look),” he says. “This way I can take it anywhere I want without worry.”
Bob is extremely happy with his new old Ford and now has the best of both worlds as the coupe shares quarters with not one, but two ’32 Ford roadsters that were built to boogie.
Bob would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank Darren Milburn and Lionel West for their invaluable assistance throughout the years.