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Eldred Nelson 39 Ford




This unusual full size padded topped 1939 Ford Convertible was built by a young Campbell Ca student in 1949. He did all the work himself after school at his fathers shop. Eldred Nelson 39 Ford

Eldred Nelson built himself this very nicely done 1939 Ford convertible while he was at Campbell High in 1949 and 1950. The car is quite unusual because of its stock height padded top. We do not see to many of those on Custom Cars. The common practice was to have your windshield chopped a couple of inches, then the upholstery shop would tackle the lower padded top. But not for Eldred, he decided he like the top to be stock height, and enjoy the view from the windshield and side windows at full size.

Eldred’s father had a trucking company in Campbell California (Close to San Jose in Northern California). His father taught Eldred how to weld at age 13, and a few years later he bought himself a 1939 Ford convertible… and over a period of two years, 1949 and 1950, Eldred turned the Ford into his dream Custom.
He removed the running boards, added sections to the fenders both front and rear where the running boards used to mount to. Then he hand shaped a panel to fit under the main body that would cover the frame rails. The panel was flared into the both front and rear fenders. The two piece hood was welded solid, and all the trim and ornaments of the hood were shaved in the process. Only the hood belt line trim stayed in place, but was shortened about 50%.

ccc-eldred-nelson-39-ford-hall-06Front photo shows the smoothed hood and use of 1940 Ford headlights and ’49 Plymouth bumpers. 


At the back all the handles and emblems were also shaved, and a set of teardrop shape bubble skirts were mounted on the rear fenders. 2 1949 Plymouth front bumpers were used to replace the much thinner stock units. The new rubbed bumpers gave the car a nice long and low look. The stock headlights were replaced with 1940 Ford units, but at the rear the teardrop shaped taillights from the ’39 Ford remained. The suspension was modified to get the car a few inches lower to the ground. Eldred bought a set of Lyons aftermarket Custom hubcaps and mounted them together with a set of black wall tires on the car.


Eldred went kind of wild on the dashboard. He took out the complete center section and filled it with a smooth panel. He also welded the glove box door solid and smoothed out the complete dash, leaving only the two main gauges and the clock from the glove box door in place. Below the dash, in the center he created an extended panel that would house the controls he had removed when he smoothed the main dash. The whole dash unit looks now ultra smooth. He did all the gas welding, filling and leading himself, after school at his fathers shop. Eldred had Quality Machine in San Jose do the all the engine work. He mentioned that that was the lace where all the local hot Rodder’s went for machine work.

With all the body work finished and everything smoothed Eldred painted the car in a nice light blue DuPont lacquer with the help of his father, and once finished he drove the car to C.A. Hall Auto Tops in Oakland for a complete custom upholstery and padded top. Eldred remembered he had to pay about $400.- for the complete upholstery job.


ccc-eldred-nelson-39-ford-hall-07Eldred replaced the steering wheel with an 1948 Ford unit, and added a set of Spotlights.The C.A. Hall Auto Tops shop in Oakland California did the padded top and interior in very nice wide rolls.

ccc-eldred-nelson-39-ford-hall-03Eldred standing proud with his custom ’39 Ford Convertible. This photo gives a good look at the wide and soft rounded pleats on the door.

ccc-eldred-nelson-39-ford-hall-02The ’39 Ford dashboard was heavily customizing. The center console was removed and a smooth panel molded in place. The glove box door was also welded shut, and the whole unit was smoothed.

Eldred met his future wife in the car and drove it to San Diego for their honeymoon in 1951, and in 2016 they are still together after 65 years. Eldred sold the car in 52 for $900. Then for $900 he bought an almost new 51 ford for his growing family. He remembers that the guy who bought it was from So Cal, but he was not sure where. He never saw the car again, and he has no idea what ever happened to it after that.

ccc-eldred-nelson-39-ford-hall-ca-mapEldred built his 1939 Ford while he lived in Campbell California (blue pin), close to San Jose.

Special thanks to Pat Lash for sharing the story and photos and Andrew Figueroa for the scans.


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Rik Hoving

Rik is the CCC editor in chief. As a custom car historian he is researching custom car history for many years. In 2004 he started the Custom Car Photo Archive that has become a place of joy for many custom car enthousiasts. Here at CCC Rik will bring you inspiring articles on the history of custom cars and builders. Like a true photo detective he will show us what's going on in all those amazing photos. He will write stories about everything you want to know in the realm of customizing. In daily life Rik is a Graphic Designer. He is married to the CCC webmaster and the father of a 10 year old son (they are both very happy with his excellent cooking skills)

2 thoughts on “Eldred Nelson 39 Ford

  • Another great example of a “Home” built custom. I really dig the 49 Plymouth bumpers. 🙂 Also interesting to see that not all padded topped customs were chopped.

  • Great looking custom! That light blue colour must have made that convertible really stand out. I love it! Also, I’ve been noticing more and more of these old customs utilizing the rectangular exterior mirrors; I had been under the impression that that shape became popular much later. Learning all the time – thanks Rik!


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