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Coachcraft

November 13, 2013

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.

 


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.

 



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 – 1958  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’t 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.

 



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 “bad”. 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.

 


CCC-Solomon-Wong-40Ford-05-WJ.W. on the right, and a friend removing the padded top.

 


CCC-Solomon-Wong-40Ford-06-WThe top removed and the side windows rolled up for an unique look.

 



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.

 


CCC-Solomon-Wong-40Ford-08-WThe upholstery is still original, but the Banjo Steering and new gauges were installed by J.W.

 


CCC-Solomon-Wong-40Ford-09-WCloser look at the Crocodile upholstery material. In the background we can see DeMaggio’s Cadillac.

 


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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About the Author

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. that car is fabulous, and i just can’t imagine driving such a beauty at 17 years old !! lucky young guy !


  2. Nice story. Hope the car will be found again!!


  3. What a great story Rik! Thanks for sharing it and the photos. Have you found the owner yet? I think Tony Miller once told me that someone made a clone/copy of the car too (but I might be mixing this up with another car he was discussing). Let me know if you need to find the owner (still) and I’ll do my best. Great job! Geoff



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