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Mystery 37 Ford Sedan




In 2008 the AHRF site shared a snapshot of an oddly shaped 1937 Ford Custom from the Tom Davis Collection. In 2015 three more photos surface…

In 2008 I was browsing the American Hot Rod Foundations (AHRF) site. I have always loved their amazing collection of Hot Rod photos and love their philosophy and way they share these collections, and make sure they will be saved for the future generations. As the name says, most of their material is Hot Rod based, but from time to some a few Custom Car photos appear. And there is something else I like to do wathing those Hot Rod photos… spot the Custom Cars in the background. Anyway, in the Tom Davis Collections I came across a snapshot taken at one of the dry lakes in an unknown year of an kind of oddly shaped 1937 Ford. Everything about this snapshot made me believe it was taken in either the late 1930’s or early 1940’s. A lot of the Tom Davis Collection dates to these early years as well.


The Photo Description on the AHRF site did not really say much about the car, not the location the photo was taken. Just the Dry lakes and that is was a cool Custom 1937 Ford, but that was about it. From the photo I could not even see the body style of the car that the builder had started with. I assumed it was a coupe with a chopped top, radically reshaped door side window openings, and the complete roof removed and replaced with a padded insert. A few other early styling element was the removal of the running boards, the ribbed hubcaps with possibly (hard to tell from the bit fuzzy snapshot) small diameter single bar flipper hubcaps, possibly originating from a mid 1930’s Cadillac, and the single A-Pillar mounted Spotlight. The hood sides are filled in, it looks like the hood has been shaved, and the front fenders have been reshaped at the bottom giving them a nice teardrop shape. At the time I shared the photo on the Hamb asking for more info. Somebody mentioned there might have been a photo showing the complete car in one of the Albert Drake books. Jamie Barter scanned the image from the Flat Out book for us.


CCC-early-custom-37-ford-sedan-a-drakeThis photo of the 37 appeared in the Albert Drake book Flat Out. The photo is not dated, but it is mentioned that the NEW 1937 was quickly customized, indicating that the photo was taken in the late 1930’s. (thank you for the scan Jamie Barter)

Then in August of 2015 three more photos (negatives) show up, they are offered on ebay. The car has changed quite a bit since the photo at the dry lakes was taken. The whole front end is replaced with a 1939 Ford front end. But it looks like the main body and top remain the same, although the roof insert, or cover was redone in a light color where it was originally done in dark material. But the side window opening and the oval shaped rear window is undoubtedly identical. Sadly there was again no info with the photos on the ebay auction. (The images seen here are the original scans taken from the ebay auction.)

The rear 3/4 view shows the angled forward trunk, the reshaped belt-line, the removed running boards, new 1939 Ford reshaped front fenders and the flowing top with oval rear window.

Most likely the proud owner posing with the car parked in a city on a rainy day.

Hard to see where the photo was taken, or what state the license plate is from. But the cold weather cloth of the owner and the woman behind the car does not suggest these photos were taken in California. Notice the odd very tall bumper guards.

These three new photos show that the body the original builder started with was most likely a 1937 Ford Flatback Sedan with the top cut off and the rear of the body canted forward for a more streamlined look. Perhaps the trunk had to be extended a few inches in the process. The beltline was reshaped towards the trunk of the car, and it appears that the rear fenders are molded into the body. The new photos show the shape of the side window much better than the AHRF photo. Perhaps the rear side window opening was used to reshape the door window opening and that is how the teardrop shape was created. It appears that the door frame fits inside a small frame left from the body, which makes the car most likely easier to make weather proof. The top has a nice flowing line to it, but its hard to see if the whole top can come off, like a padded top, or if a reshaped metal roof has been covered with canvas, and is fixed on the car.

It would be really interesting to find out more about this uniquely styled 1937 Ford early Custom Car. Where it came from, who customized it, an what ever happened to it. This car is a great sample of the heavily restyled early Custom Cars, from a time when hourly rates were very low and the amount of work that was needed to create these cars seamed to not matter all that much. It is also an great sample of the wildly restyled Customs from the early days where the restylers perhaps were searching for new styles, or at least styles to set their creations apart from all the others.

CCC-van-auken-grille-guard-1940On the front of this 1937 Ford we can see the use of an odd, very tall set of bumper guards. These happen to be an aftermarket part developed by Van Auken. I found an patent paper that was dated 1942 and that the patent was filed in 1940. 



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)

5 thoughts on “Mystery 37 Ford Sedan

  • Interesting car and article as well Rik.
    When I bought my first car in 1970 it had Van Aukens guards on it just like in the picture. It was a 1947 Chevrolet that I bought from the original owner for $60.

  • Pretty neat early custom. I can’t help but think the owner was influenced by some of the mid to late 1930s coachbuilt cars when they came up with the look for this Ford. Although a bit rudimentary looking, it looks like the workmanship was pretty good. It would be interesting to see a photoshop without the vertical guards in front of the ’39 nose…I don’t think those are an improvement. I hope you will be able to discover more information on this unique early custom, Rik!

  • Unusual, but i like unusual. I had only just finished reading the latest Collectible Automobile and a story on John Tjaarda and the streamlining of the Lincoln Zephyr. This radical design departure no doubt influenced the design of this Custom. The rear is pure streamlining.
    You never know, bring a relatively new car, perhaps the roof was damaged in an accident allowing a bit of creativity to make it usable again. I’m only surmising. . . But hopefully the real story will emerge one day.

  • i love it ..i love it, its so cool looking its like it came out of a cartoon, i dont care what it looks like its aaah kustom,

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