Coachcraft 1940 Ford

 

COACHCRAFT 1940 FORD

 

In 1940 Coachcraft LTD created what must be one of the first full custom 1940 Fords for Clarence Salomon. The beautiful Convertible would later be owned by well known cinematographer James Wong Howe.



In the spring of 1940 four partners, Rudy Stoessel, Paul Erdos, Charlie Ratzenberger and Burton K. Chalmers formed Coachcraft Ltd. Together with a number of Darrin skilled craftsmen they opened a shop on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood. One of their first cars they created was a 1940 Ford convertible “Coupe”. Clarence Salomon commissioned a custom convertible¬†based on a 39-40 FoMoCo product¬†from Coachcraft. Coachcraft designed a car based on a 1939 Mercury that would incorporate original fenders, and a newly shaped main body with, elegantly shaped V-windshield and a teardrop shaped padded top.

ccc-coachcraft-solomon-wong-ford-sketchThe original design sketch for the Solomon “Coupe” seamed to have been based on an 1939 Mercury judging the shape of the fenders. The inset photos show the Coachcraft promotional photo of the finished Coupe, and the team of craftsman at the Shop during the time the car was built.
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The actual car was built based on a 1940 Ford, it is not known why they choose a Ford over the Mercury from the original design sketch. But to be able to maintain some of the dimensions of the original sketch, it was needed to stretch the 1940 Ford front fenders. The rear fenders of the 1940 Ford were used as they were, an are shaped differently from the original design. The main body was hand shaped over a wooden buck, and placed lower than stock over the frame, the Ford running boards were eliminated. The hand shaped main body reassembles the original Ford body, only being much cleaner with no belt line, or belt line trim added.

The rear of the body was also changed from the original design, and now flows nicely with the more teardrop shaped Ford rear fenders. When the new main body was designed the cowl was extend over stock specs. This allowed the cockpit to be further to the rear, and the hood to look longer for a much more powerful appearance. The Ford side grilles (louvered panels) were removed and replaced with shaped sheet metal. A new hand made grille was created from round rod, with far less bars than the original Ford unit. The finished grille was smothed and send out for chrome plating.

ccc-21-coachcraft-solomon-wong-fordThe Solomon convertible during the final stages of the built at the Coachcraft shop in 1940.
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ccc-20-coachcraft-solomon-wong-fordAt this stage the car was painted (possibly silver?), had black wall tires with ripple disk hubcaps, the side grilles were filled in, but the center grille is still the stock 1940 Ford grille unit.
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The original hood from the Ford was used, but to be able to make it work with the new lower main body it needed to be sectioned, and the belt line needed to be removed from it. Ruddy Stoessel and crew designed a new V-shaped windshield, they created patterns from the design and had it cast in bronze. The bronze windshield frame was cleaned up and send out to be chrome plated. The crew next created a hand shaped metal top to flow nicely front the angled back V-windshield. The new top was designed to be shorter than a stock 1940 Ford coupe top, have a much larger than stock rear window (which helped improve the rear view while driving) and no rear side windows. The finished top was padded and covered in a off-white canvas.

ccc-22-coachcraft-solomon-wong-fordWe assume that these photos were taken during the final assembly of the car.
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ccc-23-coachcraft-solomon-wong-fordIt appears that the car is sitting on some large wooden blocks to be able to work on the suspension.
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The top of the new doors where made ready to house a roll down side window glass with surround. The surround was shaped from U-channel to fit the windshield and teardrop shape of the side window opening. The car was made to be functional so it was also made completely weather proof. Most photo do not show the beautifully shaped window frame, but fortunately the owner of the car from 1955 to 58 took some pictures with the frames up. (check them out in Part 2)

The stock Ford taillights were removed, the holes filled in and a set of 1939-40 Packard taillights adapted to fit the Ford fenders. At the front the stock headlights were used. A set of teardrop shape bubble fender skirts was installed and a set of stainless steel rock shields mounted on the extended down (where the running boards used to adapt to) front of the rear fenders. A set of 1940 Lincoln bumpers was installed. The center section of the front bumper fits the custom grille really beautiful. The stock 1940 Ford door handles were installed on the home made doors, and with all the body work done the body was painted. It is said the car was painted a silver gray when it was first finished.


ccc-18-coachcraft-solomon-wong-fordEven though the car was designed with the removable padded top, it also looked stunning with the top removed. The raised and stretched (14 inch) front fenders, sectioned hood and removal of the running boars made the car a lot sleeker.
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ccc-17-coachcraft-solomon-wong-fordThe first version for Clarence Salomon was finished in a light metallic color, most likely silver. The car had wide white wall tires, ripple disk single bar flipper hubcaps on dark colored wheels (no beauty rings) and tear drop skirts.
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ccc-19-coachcraft-solomon-wong-fordThis and the front shot below are¬†only known photos of the cars first version taking part of every day traffic. It must have been quite a sight to see such a well designed car on the streets of Los Angeles in the early 1940’s.
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A set of wide white wall tires was installed on dark colored wheel and a set of ripple disk single bar flipper hubcaps was used for dress up. The interior uses a stock 1940 Dash, column and steering wheel. There is an additional roll on top of the dash to optically extend the cowl inside the car. The car was upholstered in alligator and regular leather with tuck & roll panels on the doors.

The 1940 Coachcraft built Ford is an really interesting car in the history of the Custom Car. Coachcraft employees all had an history as coachbuilders, but especially the early creations from this shop, including this ’40 Ford had a more what we consider Custom feel to them. Especially the “lower end” based car and the general custom restyling elements make these early Coachcraft cars more Custom, than Coachbuilt.



Second version

We know that Clarence Salomon, who commissioned Coachcraft¬†to built the car, later sold it to James Wong Howe, a well known Hollywood cinematographer. But we do not know what year James bough the car. We do know that James really loved the car’s looks and how it handled, and he used it as his daily transportation for several years. We assume the car was bought by James Wong Howe in the mid 1940’s. James Wong Howe’s name has since then been conected to the car, and the Ford is best known as the Wong Howe Coachraft Ford. The first photos after the original light colored and fender skirted version of the car from the early 1950’s are from 1951. The Revs Institute recently added a series of very nice photos of this 1951 version of the car to their online-collection. And these photo really give us a good look how beautiful this car really was.

ccc-03-coachcraft-solomon-wong-fordThe car was now repainted in a darker color, possibly dark, or medium green and the fender skirts were removed. These changes gave the car a more sportive look.
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By now the car had changed a little. Not to much though, but the skirts are now gone, and the car has been painted a darker color. We also do not know for sure what the color was, but when the car was bought by J.W. Tidmore from Texas in 1955 the car was painted a dark green. So perhaps the car was this same dark green when the photos of it were taken in 1951 by Robert E. Canaan. These photos, or some of them were also used in the September 1951 issue of Hop Up Magazine. The magazine shows four photos of the car, plus one on the cover, but does not list the owner name, nor color of the car. It is reported that the car had 100.000 miles on it when James sold the car in 1952 to David Crane from Texas.

ccc-11-coachcraft-solomon-wong-fordThis rear quarter view shows the new smaller than stock trunk opening with no handle. The small slight teardrop shaped 39-40 Packard taillights are the perfect choice for the car. This view also gives us a good look at the large rear window opening on the removable top.
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ccc-15-coachcraft-solomon-wong-fordSide view shows the beautiful well balanced proportions of the car. Particularry nice is the the round shaped top and how the side window flow from the angled back windshield. The hight of the top is perhaps more Coachbuilt than Custom. The main body has some Cord design influences with its plain sides and large radius on the belt-line. Notice the gas door in the rear fender.
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ccc-01-coachcraft-solomon-wong-fordClose up of the beautiful designed and crafted grille and solid grille side panels. These side panels were hand made, but would later become available to the public from several aftermarket companies.
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ccc-02-coachcraft-solomon-wong-fordA closer look at the rear shows the elegant Packard taillights, the Lincoln bumper, the flowing lines of the trunk and the curb feeler for protection.
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ccc-12-coachcraft-solomon-wong-fordA lower angle look into the interior highlights the beauty of the windshield frame, the crocodile leather details and the roll above the dash that flows into the top portion of the doors, similar some roadster body styling. 
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ccc-09-coachcraft-solomon-wong-fordA view at the passenger side of the interior, notice the Coachcraft script on the rocker panel towards the cowl. 
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ccc-14-coachcraft-solomon-wong-fordThere was also a full seat in the rear that was upholstered similar to the front seat. Notice the weathering strip around the top window opening. The rolled down side window glass was fitting flush against it in the up position. 
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When J.W. Tidmore bought the car in 1955, it was equipped with a flat head Cadillac engine. Probably from a 1948 model with a Cadillac standard shift transmission.He was told that that engine was actually the third engine that was installed in the car since new. We have no idea if the engine in the car was original when it as first built, or what was in the car when the 1951 photos were taken.

Fortunately the Coachcraft 40 Ford is still around today, and even though it has been Hot Rodded to a certain extend, it is really great the car is still around, and in good shape. Read more about about what happened with the car after it was sold in 1955 in part TWO, or find out how the car looks after it was bought and redone by Tex Myers, to a version how it still looks in 2016 in part THREE



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Coachcraft Ford – Tex Myers Version

 

COACHCRAFT FORD – TEX MYERS VERSION

 

Originally built in 1940 by Coachcraft Ltd for Clarence Solomon, this 1940 Ford based Custom has been owned by Tex Myers since the early 1980’s.


[dropcap]In[/dropcap] an previous CCC article we told the story about¬†J.W. Tidmore who owned¬†this car in the mid to late 1950’s. In this article we will highlight the years this classic custom is owned by Kansan residence Tex Meyers. In un upcoming article we will highlight the early stages of this car. It is amazing that this car is still around, and still in very good shape, although styled a bit different from its original classic custom looks.


CCC-solomon-myers-40Ford-00-WThis is how the car was originally built by Coachcraft Ltd. for Clarence Solomon.
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Tex came across this car in 1981, it had been sitting in a field for many years rotting away. It was in bad shape, with all the original wood structure created by the Coachcraft shop all rotten away. Some of the metal work was rusted, but not bad enough for Tex¬†to let this really great looking sports convertible sit and rot further. He took it home not knowing what he had found. All he knew was that he really liked the shape of the body and the windshield. He dreamt of rebuilding the car to his ultimate sports car,¬†and drive it as much as he could. Some time after Tex had taken the car home he found out the history on the car. That it was originally built by Coachcraft Ltd. on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles in 1940 for Clarence Solomon, who later sold it to movie camera man James Wong Howe. In the early 1950’s the car was located in Texas and the drive train was rebuilt. Later it was owned by J.W. Tidmore who sold it in the late 1950’s to an unknown buyer. Who owned it after that is unknown at this moment. But¬†somehow the car was put in a field in Traskwood, Arkansas and left there for several years to rot.

CCC-solomon-myers-40Ford-03-WIf you compare this photo with the black and white one above you can see the whole style of the car was changed with the use of the smaller diameter black wall tires and lower profile removable top. Tex did bring back the solid grille sides which had been replaced with stock units in the mid 1950’s.
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CCC-solomon-myers-40Ford-02-WThe lower profile fiberglas top now sports an oval rear window while the original one had a squire, much larger opening. The rest of the Coachcraft details like the ’40 Packard taillights are still there.¬†
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CCC-solomon-myers-40Ford-06-WTex Myers posing with his first version of the Coachcraft Ford. 
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With the Coachcraft created wood frame now gone Tex recreated a new frame from metal, and did the necessary body repair work. When Text worked on the body he started to realize that this body was not based on a 1940 Ford as he thought in the beginning, but that it was a body handcrafted by the Coachcraft team. Only the rear fenders are unmodified stock 1940 Ford units. Even though Tex knew about the cars origins and how it originally looked he choose to add his own touches.¬†Fortunately he left most of the body as how it came from Coachcraft. The only obvious change he made was a new top, but only since the original top was long gone. Tex recreated a new one from fiberglass, and has a much lower profile than the original steel top had. Tex also added 1940 Ford bumpers, when he was unable to find 1941 Lincoln Zephyr units. (The car also had 1940 Ford bumpers in the mid 1950’s for the same reason).

The brass windshield was still in perfect shape only needing to be re chromed and new glass made for it. The car had been sitting without a top, so the original interior was all gone, or what was left could not be repaired. Tex used 1983 Lincoln power seats covered in red leather. He also modified the dash by adding an aluminum panel filled with Classic Intrument gauges, and a Grant wood rimmed steering wheel. In 1985 Tex finished the rebuilt and sprayed the car with white lacquer paint. He added 1940 Ford wheels pained dark maroon and added 1940 Ford hubcaps and beauty rings on black wall radial tires. The rebuilt car now looked quite different from its original version. Especially the much smaller black wall tired an the skirt-less rear fenders gave the car a more sports-car feel.

CCC-solomon-myers-40Ford-05-WThe interior was completely redone. ’83 Lincoln powerseats and matching rear bench were upholstered in dark red leather. The wood Grant steering wheel and aluminum dash insert are also new.¬†
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CCC-solomon-myers-40Ford-04-WThis photo taken at the Coachcraft shop in 1986 shows that the body was channeled over the frame.
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In 1986-87 Tex rebuild the car once more. He had located a 1941 Lincoln Zephyr bumper, as well as some flipper hubcaps and tear drop shaped fender skirts. The car was repainted in dark red, and the Lincoln bumper was added to the front and an 1940 Mercury units to the back. The fender skirts were mounted just like the original version had and the Flipper hubcaps added. The flipper hubcaps on the original version were created by George DuVall and where smaller in diameter, but the once Tex used now are already a huge improvement over the 1940 Ford units he used on the white version. But the much smaller black wall radial tires remain.


CCC-solomon-myers-40Ford-09-WThe new dark red paint changes the looks of the car once more. The addition of the Lincoln bumper and the fender skirts brings it closer to its original looks.
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CCC-solomon-myers-40Ford-10-WThis rear shot shows the more elegant 1940 Mercury bumper used on the rear for this version.
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CCC-solomon-myers-40Ford-07-WThis Street Rodder magazine scan shows how good the white top looks with the dark red body. 
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We should be really happy that this well designed Coachcraft built custom has survived since 1940. It is also really great that the car has been restored and enjoyed by its current owner Tex Myers. But at the same time I personally really hope that a next remake/restoration will bring the car back to how it was originally intended by the Coachcraft team of craftsman…

Go to the J.W. Tidmore STORY on this Coachcraft Custom.



Special thanks to Geoff Hacker

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Coachcraft Ford forgotten years

 

BEING 17 YEARS AND DRIVE LIKE THE KING OF THE ROAD

 

In 1940 Clarence Solomon commissioned Coachcraft Ltd. to build him a one off custom roadster based on a 1940 Ford. The result was a very well proportioned, and styled custom. In the mid to late 1950’s young J.W. Tidmore from Texas was the caretaker. Lets hear his story.


CCC-Solomon-Wong-40Ford-01-70This photo was taken when the car was finished at Coachcraft.
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CCC-Solomon-Wong-40Ford-00-WA young and proud J.W. at the wheel of the 1940 Ford, not to long after the had bought the car.
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Original built by Coachcraft for Clarence Salomon in 1940, later on the car was better known as the James Wong Howe Ford. Wong, a well known cinematographer, loved the car, and drove it a lot. It is reported that the car had 100.000 miles on it when he sold the car in 1952 to David Crane from Texas. From then on the car sort of disappeared from the grid, until Street Rodder magazine did a  featured on a street rodded version of the car. The magazine listed the cars owner as Tex Myer.

We have been able to find some more history on the Convertible, from the 1955 Р1958  time frame which has not been covered as far as we know. During these years the car was owned by J.W. Tidmore Jr., who repainted the car in white, installed a new engine in it. Just like James Wong Howe, J.W. Tidmore Jr. drove the car whenever he could. Lets take a look at what mr. J.W. Tidmore shared with CCC about the three years owned the Coachcraft 1940 Ford.

J.W. purchased the car in Haltom City, Texas, about 3/4 of a mile from where he lived. The car was found on a small Used Car lot. The car lot people told J.W. ¬†a man came in from California, and traded it in to them. The Ford was a dark green but J.W. is having trouble remembering if the interior, and top were green or brown. It was done in alligator leather, and the top matched the interior. It was that way when he purchased it.¬†He never changed the interior or the top during the years he owned the car. J.W. was about 17 years old when he purchased the car, and of course, at that age you do things that you think enhances your ride. He didn‚Äôt like the green and wanted the car white, so that’s what he did.

CCC-Solomon-Wong-40Ford-ScriptJ.W. still owns the original Coachcraft script that was mounted on the rocker panel just behind the front fender on the passenger side. He removed it when he decided to repaint the car white.
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CCC-Solomon-Wong-40Ford-02-WThe rolled up side windows looks amazing with the V-Windshield. The shape of the window frame fits perfectly with the shape of the fenders.
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When he bought the car, it was equipped with a flat head Cadillac engine. Probably from a 1948 model with a Cadillac standard shift transmission. J.W. wanted it to look ‚Äúbad‚ÄĚ. So he installed a Dodge red ram, and made it to work with a 1939 Ford transmission.

The car was involved in an accident with a drunk driver in 1955 or 1956 which damaged the left front fender, portions of the grill and that was the demise of the Lincoln bumper that was on it. When he was trying to repair the vehicle, he found out that the front fenders were considerably longer than the stock fenders,. He had to have a piece of the fender made by Coachcraft. He welded that to a stock 1940 fender to replace the damaged beyond repair fender. J.W. remembers that the grill was a handmade solid steel bar grille, and quite heavy. It survived most of the wreck, and he was able to straighten it back to it’s original shape.When he bought the car, the solid side grilles from the original version, were already replaced by stock units. Most likely to cool the Cadillac engine better. When J.W. was rebuilding the car from the wreck, he wanted to put smooth side grille in the car, but ended up using stock units. Since he could not duplicate Coachcraft’s fantastic body work.

Being a 17 year old boy, J.W. had very little money to spend. He found the front bumper off a 1940 model Ford on a wrecking yard. Which is why it looks so used in the photos. He could not find an affordable “used” Lincoln bumper like the one that was on it originally.

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CCC-Solomon-Wong-40Ford-03-Wthe 1940 Packard taillights looks really great on the car.
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CCC-Solomon-Wong-40Ford-05-WJ.W. on the right, and a friend removing the padded top.
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CCC-Solomon-Wong-40Ford-06-WThe top removed and the side windows rolled up for an unique look.
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J.W. being 17 years, was in desperate need to make a few changes on the car to make it his own. He installed the moon hubcaps and, if you look closely at the interior photos, you can see that the gauges he installed were from a Hudson. J.W. always liked the look of the Banjo steering wheels. So he replaced the stock 1940 Ford unit with a 1939 Ford Banjo steering wheel.¬†J.W. mentioned that owning and driving a car like this was absolutely fantastic. He drove it to high school, and continued to do another year or so after he had graduated. Everywhere he went, he was “king of the road”.¬†He owned the car from 1955 through 1958 when a man traded him a brand new Ford for it.

If you look closely at one of the interior photos below, you can see a 1949 Cadillac parked next to the service station where these photos were taken. J.W. purchased this Cadillac in Haltom City, Texas. The documents in the glove box show that the original owner was baseball legend Joseph P. DeMaggio. He was told the car was given to Joe DeMaggio, when he retired from baseball at Yankee stadium, about the same time he married Marilyn Monroe. It was a beautiful, immaculate Cadillac and J.W. drove it for several years.

We would very much like to get in touch with the current owner of the car. J.W. still has the original Coachcraft tag and would like to see if the current owner would be interested in reuniting it with the car. If you have any info that can bring us in touch with the current owner, please let us know.

CCC-Solomon-Wong-40Ford-10-WJ.W. standing proud next to his Coachcraft Ford in 1958.
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CCC-Solomon-Wong-40Ford-08-WThe upholstery is still original, but the Banjo Steering and new gauges were installed by J.W.
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CCC-Solomon-Wong-40Ford-09-WCloser look at the Crocodile upholstery material. In the background we can see DeMaggio’s Cadillac.
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CCC-Solomon-Wong-40Ford-12-WThe Dodge engine was a tight fit.
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Go to the Tex Myers STORY on this Coachcraft Custom.

 


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