Custom Car Chronicle
Custom History

Boat-Tail Roadsters




In the late 1920s and early 1930s several luxury cars were introduced with Boat-Tail shaped rears. This body-style was later also used on a few Customized cars, lets take a look.

Jamie Ennis send the Custom Car Chronicle an email about a few negatives they had recently come across. The first email did not include any photos, only a brief description of the car in the four negatives they had located.

“In a collection of many negatives my husband and I are going through we have come across 4 photo’s of a really nice car. We have been able to identify the front of the car as a 1938 Ford. We can’t find any exact examples on the internet to verify what it is. The photos are taken in 1946. Can you take a look for us and see if you agree with us that it is a 38 Ford Deluxe Custom Boat-tail Speedster?”

I immediately had to think about an 1938 Ford roadster with Auburn based boat-tail body that was featured with four photos on a full page in the 1947 published Dan Post’s California Custom Car Photo Album booklet. I had always liked that car, and it was on my list on doing something with here on the Custom Car Chronicle. The next email included the four scanned negatives, and it turned out to be a quite different car than the one from the Dan Post book. A Custom, or perhaps a Sports Custom from Staten Island.

I had always been inspired by boat-tail bodied custom cars, and we recently showed a nicely done 1936 Ford Roadster in another CCC-Article so I figured its time to do another article on the Boat-Tailed Custom Roadsters. And hopefully we get some more information on the cars shown, and especially from the one Jamie Ennis shared from Staten Island.

Staten Island 1938 Boat-Tail Roadster

Lets first take a look at the Staten Island 1938 Ford based Roadster. Jamie is looking to find out more information on the car. There is very little we know about the car, but we do know that the photos were taken in 1946. The car is at a relatives house. Address of the home is 27 Fort Hill Circle, Staten Island, N.Y. And thats all the info there is.

CCC-38-ford-boat-tail-roadster-02Side view shows how much longer the 1938 Ford wheelbase was made to make the car look proportional right.

The front end of the car, fenders, grille and hood appear to be pretty much stock. A set of seal beam headlights have been added, and the hood sides are dressed up most likely with an aftermarket “exhaust” tube kit to give the car a more sports car look and feel. The main body and boat tail rear section appears to come from an 1929 Auburn boat-tail. The windshield is also from this same

CCC-38-ford-boat-tail-roadster-03Sealed-beam headlight conversion and added fog lights on the front. The v-windshield appears to be stock 1929 Auburn.

CCC-38-ford-boat-tail-roadster-04When we view the car from the front 3/4 the body seems to put the car on an odd angle, due to the boat-tail section. The photo shows that the front bumper appears to be pirated from an older, unknown car.

To be able to get the new body to look good with the much more teardrop and bulbous shpaed fenders the builder decided to make the body as long as possible. The chassis has been extended, and the 1929 Auburn body was addapted to the 1938 Ford front end using an new created cowl section that was either made from stainless steel, or is completely chrome plated after it was shaped. It gives the front of the car an extra look, very powerful look.

The running boards were extended at the rear of the doors, and an “step” plate was added the length of the extension of the car. It looks like two sets of 1938 Ford rear fenders were used to create the pontoon shaped rear fenders. A left and right side fender were modified,¬†narrowed and welded together to form a single unit. A set of 1941 Buick fender skirt was added. On both sides of the cowl a spare tire mount was added. And on the drivers side of the cowl an teardrop spotlight was added. The main body appears to be mostly stock. In the photos it appears as if the car has seen quite a bit of road usage, indicating the car has been around for some time when these photos were taken in 1946.

CCC-38-ford-boat-tail-roadster-01The rear quarter view gives us a good look at the really nicely done rear fenders. Most likely four rear fenders were used to create this effect. The body panel connecting the fenders with the main body appears to be home made as well. Unidentified taillight and bumper have been used.

CCC-38-ford-boat-tail-roadster-05Cropped section of the photo shows that the step plate appears to be coming from another car… It also looks like the steering wheel might have been pirated from an 1941 Cadillac.

CCC-1929-auburn-boat-tailA stock restored 1929 Auburn Boat-Tail Roadster.

Does any of the CCC-readers know anything about this Staten Island 1938 Ford with 1929 Auburn Boat-Tail body? If so, please email Rik Hoving at the Custom Car Chronicle. We and Jamie Ennis would love to learn more about his uniquely styled early Custom. We would love to find out how the 1929 Auburn body found its way to the 1938 Ford chassis.

A few other Custom Boat-Tail Roadsters.

There are a few other Boat-Tail Customs that came up when I started this article. Frank Kurtis created a few, but I will share more about those in a future article. And one of the first was one Edsel Ford¬†commissioned¬†for himself¬†based on a 1932 Ford.¬†The stunning looking car was designed and created by¬†E.T. ‚ÄúBob‚ÄĚ Gregorie and his team. The original one was later sold and redone with mid 1930’s GM fenders, which actually looked very good on the car. The car was then lost and found again in the mid 1980’s. It was completely restored back to its original configuration over a period of time and finished in 2013. More information and photos of this stunning looking boat-tail roadster can be found in the excellent Hemmings Post by Daniel Strohl.

CCC-edsel-ford-32-ford-roadster-01Original photos of the Speedster from 1932.


CCC-edsel-ford-32-ford-roadster-02In the early 1940s, the damaged from an accident Ford speedster was bought of a Bridgeport, Connecticut, junkyard by body man John Cox. John Cox rebuilt it with new smooth hood sides and mid0thirties Chevy fenders.

CCC-edsel-ford-32-ford-roadster-03Smooth hood sides were created and two, most likely fake, exhaust tubes were added. New headlights were added and the new teardrop shaped fenders gave the car a whole new look.

CCC-edsel-ford-32-ford-roadster-05The rather large frame cover of the original was replaced with a much thinner, more elegant looking ribbed frame cover just below the main body.


CCC-edsel-ford-32-ford-roadster-04The finished new version of the Edsel Ford boat-tail roadster in the early 1940’s.

2 more Fords with Auburn bodies

There are two more cars that I like to include in this article. Both Ford based cars with both Auburn Boat-Tail roadster bodies. But this time a body that appears to be a bit newer than the one at the start of this article. It appears that these use a 1932-33 Auburn body.¬†We know that the 38 Ford comes from California, but have no idea where the 1937 Ford¬†was from. The 1937 Ford based roadster was pictured with two small photos in an 1947 published booklet by edgar Almquist. And these are the only two photos we have ever seen of the car. One very small photo showing the car from a birds point of view shows how amazing the lines of the Ford look combined with the Auburn body. And how the wonderful V-Shaped windshield gives the car a really great speed boat feel. The other photo is a bit larger, but still very small and does not show the complete car. It does show the rather high (early 1940’s) custom stance and the 1940 Ford? teardrop skirts used on the rear. It also shows that the cargo door on the rear quarter panel is still in place. We do not know anything more about this nice looking 37 Ford Boat-Tail Roadster.

CCC-37-ford-boat-tail-roadster-021937 Ford Boat-Tail speedster from the 1947 Edgar Almquist Speed and Mileage Manual.

The last Custom Boat-Tail Speedster I like to include is another 1938 Ford based car from California. This is the car I was thinking about when Jamie send the first email about the four negatives they had found. This car appeared with four photos in the Dan Post California Custom Car Photo Album booklet. This car appears to have a stock size wheel base, although I’m not 100% sure about that. The photos in the booklet are a bit fuzzy, and the side view is a bit dark. The car was photographed on the streets of a California city in the early/mid 1940’s. The license plate on the rear quarter photo appears to be blanked out, so we cannot rear a date from that. The car has some similarities with the Staten Island Roadster, but yet they are completely different. What happened to these Boat-Tailed Roadster Custom Cars. Obviously a lot of time, effort and most likely money was involved in creating these.

CCC-38-ford-boat-tail-roadster-Ca-01The up top gives the car a really unique look, This Ford also uses a set of aftermarket sealed beam headlights. Notice that the car is running a set of odd propellor hubcaps.

CCC-38-ford-boat-tail-roadster-Ca-02The rear fenders on the California 38 also appear to be made from two sets of 1938 Ford units, but they are much wider than the NY Roadster. They use a set of 1940 Ford taillights and 1940 Ford teardrop shaped fender skirts. The Bumper looks to be 1936 Fords both front and rear. In most of these dark photos it appears the car has the running boards removed, but this photo shows they are till in place.


CCC-38-ford-boat-tail-roadster-Ca-04The side view makes me wonder how this car might have looked with the top down. What ever happened to this car?

CCC-1934-auburn-boat-tailStock Auburn with the same body used on the 37 Ford and the last 38 Ford.

There have not been a great number of Boat-Tail Roadster Custom made in the past, nor in more recent years. Most likely because in general these Boat-Tail cars are¬†revered¬†to as Sports Customs, which are less popular than the general Custom Cars. I think that the Staten Island ¬†1938 Ford based Roadster in this article could be qualified as a Sports Custom, but the 37 and 38 Ford based cars further down in the article could be called Custom Car, or perhaps with a few more body refinements they sure could.¬†I think that the Boat-Tail rear end on an late 1930’s car could fit a full Custom look very well. Perhaps not¬†necessarily¬†based on an early 1930’s Sports Car based body, but perhaps rather on a home made body using perhaps a second hood or something like that to create the Boat-tail section. I have still a dream custom in my mind based on an 1939-Mercury or Ford, channeled, raised fenders and with the rear of the body replaced with a gentle boat shaped section reshaped from a spare hood. And obviously with a DuVall style V-Windshield.


(this article is sponsored by)

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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)

4 thoughts on “Boat-Tail Roadsters

  • Fantastic article about such beautiful design as the boattail , as many other special design features I think this origin in the coach group of custom body styles , a completely useless feature as far as practical use but for streamline design its to die for . Why not very many did it is probably labor intense which translate to much money / time spent on creating it . One thing they were thinking of in the dire depression years of the thirties was fuel consumption , possibly origin of a lot of the streamline design in the thirties and we can only be thankful for that simple reason that sparked such fantastic designs created during that period .

  • Loved the article Rik. Very insightful and informative. There may be a few more folks out there who may be able to offer a few more details but you did a wonderful piece here. Thank you. Did anyone notice the metal band on the hood of the 1938/1929 Ford/Auburn hybrid? Whoever put this car together also had a sense of humor. Attached to that metal band it looked like a front sight from an ariel machine gun used on biplanes. Thanks again. J.Ennis

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