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Custom Car Builders

November 10, 2014

Dick Colarossi 1940 Ford

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Written by: Rik Hoving
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DICK COLAROSSI 1940 FORD

 

In the early 1950’s the Valley Custom Shop restyled this 1940 Ford for Dick Colarossi. He last saw it in 1966 in the San Fernando Valley, who knows what happened to it?



A little while ago the Custom Car Chronicle was contacted by Vicky Carabini, with the question if we could spread the word that her father, Dick Colarossi, was looking for a Valley Custom Shop created 1940 Ford he had in the early/mid 1950’s. The 1940 Ford was started by Dick, who handled most of the mechanical work, but when it came time for the body restyling he took the car to the Valley Custom Shop. The car was featured twice in Rod & Custom Magazine, once in an how-to article on how to build Nerf-Bar bumpers, and one feature article, both articles had 4 full pages.

Dick sold his coupe in 1957 to a new owner. All Dick remembers about him was that he was a pilot for United Airlines, sadly he could not recall his name. After that Dick spotted his old coupe one more time. This was in 1966 when he saw the car race at a drag strip in San Fernando Valley. The original flathead engine had been replaced with a hot Pontiac engine. This was the last time Dick saw his car. He has been searching for his Ford for several years, with no luck so far. So with the help of his daughter Vicky he is not spreading the word on the internet, in the hope somebody will recognize his old car, and he will be able to find out where it is today, or what happened to the “Monk-Wagon“, as Dick nick-named his 1940 Ford. There are a couple of very distinctive features on this car, that hopefully somebody will recognize.
Please contact us if you have any info on this 1940 Ford’s whereabouts, or know what happened to it after 1966.

Many thanks to Vicky Carabini, Dick Colarossi’s daughter for sharing the family photo’s of the “Monk-Wagon”, and Kustoms Illustrated editor Luke Karosi for scanning these photos.


CCC-dick-colarossi-valley-custom-01Vicky Carabini shared the 12 photos here father Dick Colarossi still has of his old 1940 Ford. Above are 6 of the mostly badly faded photos. We tried to do all we could to restore them as good as possible. But most of the photos have been faded to a dark yellow, leaving nearly no color at all. However a few of them, mostly the interior photos contained a bit more color.

 




The Monk Wagon, 1940 Ford

Dick Colarossi from Glendale, California, started working on his 1940 Ford in 1950, he had just turned 17, and was learning to do mechanical work while practicing on his own Ford. He knew what he wanted for this 1940 Ford, and also knew he could do some of the work, the mechanical stuff, himself, but would have to rely on somebody else for doing the cosmetic part. it would take him nearly 5 years before the car would be finished as we can see it in the 1955 Rod & Custom Magazine feature.

The car was lowered in the front using a 2.5 inch dropped axle, and the rear of the frame was stepped a full 5 inches. This resulted in a wonderful slight speed boat stance. The engine was replaced with a 59A block which was fully detailed and hopped up with three Stromber 48’s and an Edelbrock manifold. Dick created a special exhaust system that would exit thru the inner fenders and run underneath the running boards and exit at the end of the running boards with nice oval shaped chrome plated tips. The firewall was cleaned up as were the inner fenders. The whole engine bay was exceptional clean. Dick also filled the gas filler on the rear fender and relocated it inside the trunk.


CCC-dick-colarossi-valley-custom-02The Rod & Custom feature mentioned that the headlights were protected by chrome mesh screens over the bulbs. Since it does not show on any of the photos I asume this was installed behind the glass. Photo developed in the week of July 26, 1954. (Courtesy of Vicky Carabini)

 



CCC-dick-colarossi-valley-custom-09Dick took a photo of his wife Justina sitting in the Coupe in its early unfinished stage. We can see how much the stock rear fender covers the white wall tires in this first version. Photo developed in the week of July 26, 1954. (courtesy of Vicky Carabini)

 



Next Dick took his coupe to the Valley Custom Shop who would do their magic on the car. The hood was shaved, welded into one solid piece and peaked at the front. The door handles removed and electrical openers installed with micro buttons hidden in the side trim. The trunk was completely shaved and a new inboard lucking system installed that could be activated from the dash. Speaking about the dash, that is another thing that the Valley Custom Shop modified this first round. The stock gauge cluster of the 1940 Ford dash was filled and a much larger tunneled panel was created to house 6 round Stewart Warner gauges. The center section was also smoothed and fitted with a chrome 1954 Ford radio face. All the dash knobs were relocated in a section below the main dash panel for an ultra clean look. All window garnish moldings were polished smooth and send out to be chrome plated. The interior was updated with a full width rear bench and then uphostered in maroon and eggshell Naugahyde by Floyd Tipton’s Upholstery shop from Burbanks. Floyd Tipton handled a lot of the Valley Custom Shop created Custom interior.


CCC-dick-colarossi-valley-custom-07Floyd Tipton did the eggshell and maroon upholstery in Dick’s 1940 Ford. The Valley Custom Shop restyled dash was painted gloss black. Photo developed in the week of July 26, 1954. (Courtesy of Vicky Carabini)

 



CCC-dick-colarossi-valley-custom-04Wonderful detailed engine bay was the work of Dick himself. Photo developed in the week of July 26, 1954. (Courtesy of Vicky Carabini)

 




CCC-dick-colarossi-valley-custom-15Rod & Custom Magazine used progress photos taken at the Valley Custom Shop during the production of the Nerf Bars for Dick’s coupe in their March 1955 article on how to “Nerfing Bars”. The article shows the whole process, step by step with clear photos and explaining text to show the readers how to do this at home.

 



Valley Custom Shop reshaped the back of the car, where they shortened and rounded the bottom of the tail panel below the trunk as well as the lower edges of the rear fenders behind the wheel openings. Taillights were replaced with the popular torpedo shaped 1941 Studebaker units. The Valley Custom Shop was also responsible for the nicely shaped Nerf-Bar bumpers on Dick’s car. And how to article in the March 1955 issue of Rod & Custom magazine showed the readers how they were created, and setting a new trend. The louvered side grilles of the 1940 Ford were send out to be chrome plated giving the front a much wider look. The car was painted a wonderful deep Oxford Maroon by the Valley Custom Shop. This first version of the car also included a set of fender skirts, although some of the photos Dick took in 1954 show the car with out the hood and fender skirts. But that was just because he was still working on detailing the car during that period.


CCC-dick-colarossi-valley-custom-10According the back of this Kodacolor print it was developed in the week of Dec 6, 1954.  It shows the reshaped panel below the trunk, the simple but very elegant Nerf-Bars, the 1941 Studebaker taillights and the fender skirts.(Courtesy of Vicky Carabini)

 



CCC-dick-colarossi-valley-custom-03This much faded photo gives us a better look at the reshaped rear panel and lower rear edge of the rear fender and how nice everything works together. Photo developed in the week of Dec 6, 1954. (Courtesy of Vicky Carabini)

 



Dick won first price award in his class at the 1954 International Motor Revue. The car was displayed with fender skirts and aftermarket single rib moon hubcaps, the way Dick loved it during this time. But shortly after the show he decided he wanted a bit more sporty look for the car. The fender skirts had to go, and since he did not care much for the fender over hang on the wide white wall tires, he took the car back to the Valley Custom Shop to have them raise and reshaped the wheel openings. The new reshaped openings with reshaped and enlarged corners gave the car a completely different look. From a “heavy” tail-dragging look in 1954 it now had become a sleek streamlined sporty looking car what looked like it was going a 100 miles just standing still. This was the real look Dick had been after when he started his 1940 Ford in 1950.
In the September 1955 Rod & Custom magazine feature we can see that Dick still used the typical Valley Custom Shop aftermarket single rib hubcaps on the wide white wall tires. But later Dick would remove them to give the car en bit more aggressive look.


CCC-dick-colarossi-valley-custom-08Dick proudly showing the award he won at the 1954 International Motor Revue. Dick’s 1940 Ford took 1st place in its class. This is one of the few photos of the car showing the fender skirts in place. Later Dick removed them, for a more sporty look. Photo developed in the week of Dec 6, 1954. (Courtesy of Vicky Carabini)

 



CCC-dick-colarossi-valley-custom-06The R&C feature article showed the car with a stock 1940 Ford steering wheel, but his January 17, 1955 shows the steering wheel had been replace by an 1951 Lincoln unit, after the R&C feature photos were taken. (Courtesy of Vicky Carabini)

 



CCC-dick-colarossi-valley-custom-05Enlarged section of the interior photo gives us a good look at the modified 1940 Ford dash. The Valley Custom Shop did the restyling work. The window cranks were replaced with Chrysler units for a more exclusive look.

 



CCC-dick-colarossi-valley-custom-13Ina Mae Overman took this great picture of Dick’s Coupe in either late 1954, or early 1955. This photo shows the great style Dick had created for his car. Elegant and sporty. (thanks to Mary Ellen Marcy for scanning this photo)

 



CCC-dick-colarossi-valley-custom-12Color slide taken by  Tad Hirai which was shared by the Valley Custom Shop Facebook page. On the left we can see Dick’s Ford, in the middle is Tad Hirai’s 1950 Ford and Glen Hooker’s 1939 Merc convertible sitting in the shadow on the right.

 



CCC-dick-colarossi-valley-custom-11Enlarged section of the Tad Hirai photo shows how low Dick’a mercury was. The nerf bar bumpers, the white walls and black wheels on this version made up for an interesting Custom/Hot Rod/Race Car look. 

 



CCC-dick-colarossi-valley-custom-16The September issue of Rod & Custom showed the finished version of Dick’s Ford including the radiused wheel openings. The interior photo shows the stock 1940 Ford steering wheel.

 



In 1955, when the Rod & Custom Magazine article Monk’s Machine appeared, dick was serving in the Army. The article mentioned that Dick still had the car at the time and that he had future plans for it for after he would leave the US Army. The article did not mention that these plan were, but most likely Dick had been inspired by other cars and wanted to update his own version to make it even more perfect. But it never came to that. Dick sold the car in 1957, just as you can see it in this CCC-Article.

One June 2nd, 2017 we received a picture and some info that 46to64 had shared on his Instagram. Another piece of the puzzle.
“June 26 1961 Valley Times Newspaper. My friend Hoodhistorian562 has been digging through old so cal newspapers and we’ve been keeping in touch with each other with the content we find, today he showed me this picture of a beautiful 40′ ford custom, the first car that came to mind when I saw this was the famous Valley Custom Dick Colarossi 40′, this is the same car, the Nerf bar is exactly the same except in this newspaper shot its bent, the front wheel openings look the same and the hood/trim line up, it has shaved handles, and the ride height is correct and the dead giveaway is underneath the hood look at the scoops the oil catch and everything is exactly in place as when Dick owned it. And the best part about this is when Dick sold his car in 1957 It was said to be in the San Fernando Valley at this time. So many things are the same it has to be the same car in 61′! Sadly there is no name of the person next to the ford in the newspaper.”

This photo was posted in the June 26 1961 Valley Times Newspaper, it shows the Calarossi 40 Ford with new hubcaps, and a modified (bend?) nerve bar up front. Sadly the article did not mention the name of the then owner, most likely the guy posing in front of it.

 


The Most distinctive features on this 1940 Ford that might help locate the car today are:

  • Reshaped, raised wheel openings, with softened corners.
  • Running board exhaust tips
  • Shortened rear splash apron, reshaped lower edge on rear fenders.
  • Shaved door and trunk handles, with gas filler moved to inside the trunk.
  • Heavily reshaped dash with 6 Stewart Warner gauges.
  • 5 Inch stepped frame in the rear.


 

I had never seen the photos from the car with the aftermarket hubcaps, and fender skirts installed, as it can be seen in the much faded color photo from the 1954 International Motor Revue. These faded photos are the only photos that show the car with this set up. So I decided I wanted to have a better look at this set-up and used the Ina Mae Overman photo for a Digital Restyling version. I added the right hubcaps, and added some material to the rear fenders, where the Valley Custom shop had opened up the wheel opening, and fender skirts to see how the car must have looked back in 1954… pretty neat, I like it. I gives the car a whole different feel.


CCC-dick-colarossi-valley-custom-17Digital restyled version shows the car as it looked in 1954, with full hubcaps and fender skirts. 

 


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About the Author

Profile photo of Rik Hoving
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)




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3 Comments


  1. Profile photo of Tom Nielsen

    Great story on one of my all time favorite ’40 Fords! Hope he can get a lead on where it is today.


  2. Profile photo of Jeff Neppl

    Valley Custom dominates. This car is just great. I mostly see em stock or heavily customized but im loving this car.



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