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Illinois Mystery Custom 40 Ford




Very interesting Custom 1940 Ford Convertible restyled in the very early 1940’s in Illinois. Who was the builder, and who owned this Tail Finned Convertible.

Over the years I have written a lot about Early Custom Cars, the importance of them, and how these early Custom Cars have influenced the style of Custom Cars we see today. Articles based on old snapshots, family albums, photos of cars I found online and photos shared by friends and CCC-Members. I have noticed that in my article, especially on the Early Customs Cars I most often use photos of California based Custom Cars. Generally we accept that the Custom Car, as we know it, was born in sunny California, and because of that the majority of the Early Customs Cars were created there. Possibly the year round good weather also allowed people to take more photos of the cars they owned, or saw on the street, making sure the California Custom Cars were better documents than those in other States.

Even early on there were Custom Car enthusiast that created Custom Cars in other states as well. Possibly influenced by photos shared by West Coast family or friends, or perhaps from trips to the West coast. And more than likely also because Car enthusiasts outside of California had the same urge to own cars styled after the European Couch-build cars, or those from Movie Stars from California, that might have appeared in national magazines or news papers. I always enjoy when new old photos of early Customs surface, and it might be even more sepcial to find new interesting and nicely restyled early Custom Cars from outside of California.

This article is about a series of photos I came across on eBay, over a period of years. The first ones I came across in 2012, and then another on in 2015, 2016 and one a few month ago in 2017. It was not until I send the last one to a friend that I all of the sudden realized I had seen the car before and went on a search in my digital Car Files. I found 7 photos of the same car, all offered on eBay in different auctions. The oldest one, from what I can tell in the pictures was taken in 1941, and in other photos I can make out a 1943 Illinois license plate.

The oldest photo of the car shows a 1941 Illinois license plate. The car has black wall tires (at least on the front) and a black top, in this photo it was impossible to see if it was a padded top of working soft top. The line on the side of the body looks to be a 3D side-trim, but could also have been painted on.

About the Ford

So far I have not been able to find anything on this car. None of the photo came with any info on who could be the owner or the builder of this car. So hopefully this Custom Car Chronicle Article will lead to some more information on the car. The only things I know about this car is from what I can see in the picture.

As mentioned the oldest photo shows an 1941 Illinois License plate. It is one of the later photos I came across. It is where the two guys are working on the car with the hood open. Could this perhaps be at the shop that created the car? In this picture we can see that the car has a chopped and laid back windshield. The soft top bows were cut down and reshaped to fit the chopped windshield, and they managed to create a really nice flowing working soft top. the running boards have been removed and a filler panel to cover the frames below the body has been added. The lower rear section of the front fenders have been reshaped.And the rear fenders have the hole left from the running boards filled and a stainless rock shield was added.

In 2016 I came across this nice snapshot showing the ’40 Ford at the beach (Possibly at lake Michigan). There was no info on the photo, and I cannot see any license plates in this photo. No way to correctly date this one, other than 1941 or newer due to the 1941 Cadillac in the photo.

In this snapshot we can see a military guy, that could possibly be the owner of the car, together with his girlfriend, or wife. The car now has a 1943 Illinois License plate, and the front tires look to be black walls, while the rears appear to be white walls. This photo shows the peeked hood and v-shaped grille to match the shape of the hood really well. I came across this photo in 2012.

What is especially nicely done on this car is the grille. At first I though it was a modified 1940 Chevy grille, or perhaps 1940 Buick, but after I compared the grille with the other photos I have I came to the conclusion that the grille must have been either completely hand made, or created from 1940 Buick parts, but a lot of work was put into it to make it work with the Ford hood and fenders. The stock Ford bumper has been replaced with 1937 De Soto units.

The rear of the car shows a very nicely and elegant done shark fin. Most likely influenced by something seen on European Coachbuild cars, or perhaps it was Batman influenced. The car also had a nicely set in license plate in the trunk, just below the fin. This photo, as well as the one above show that the top was actually a cut down working soft top. Notice the angle on the windshield frame. Taillights are stock and the gas filler is on the stock location.

This is the most recent photo I came across, in 2017. A military guy getting in, or stepping out of the ’40 Ford. It shows a later year steering wheel, front black wall tires and white walls in the rear, indicating that this must have been in, or shortly after WWII.

The car has been mildly lowered all around and the stock hubcaps have been replaced by Single bar flipper ripple disk hubcaps. At the rear an interesting shark find has been added to the center of the trunk. Something like this I have seen on several European Coach-build cars, so most likely this was influenced from those. Or another thought is that perhaps the Batman Comics might have inspired the builder. Below the fin they added an set in behind glass license plate. The exhaust was modified to dual pipes, and at the rear the stock bumper was also replaced by an ribbed 1937 DeSoto unit.

Possibly taken in front of the house the owner lived in. This snow covered photo makes it look like the top is covered with light material, but it could also be just snow. It shows the car with fender skirts added. And it also look like the side trim, or painted on effect has been removed. It is also the only photo that shows the car had a single spotlight. The car parked behind the Ford on the left side appears to be an 1942-48 Oldsmobile.

Another photo in the show from the back. The snow has covered up the set in license plate completely. Dual exhaust pipes under the ’37 DeSoto rear bumper.

I really would love to know more about his car, who was the owner, and who was the builder. And since the car is looking so good, were there more Custom Cars created by this builder? Hopefully some of our readers will know more. Please contact us if you know more about this Early Illinois Custom, or perhaps you have other photos of other Custom Cars that you like to share here in the Custom Car Chronicle.


(This article is made possible by)




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 “Illinois Mystery Custom 40 Ford

  • Yet another custom car mystery!
    It still amazes me how the internet has made so many things possible. Different pictures of the same car found over the course of 5 years….Wow.
    Great article Rik. Lets hope some one that knows more abut this car comes forward.

  • Rik, From these photos, I am leaning towards the location of these photos being taken at Fort Sheridan (1887-1993) Army Base. Northern IL.

    • I too believe that the photos were taken at Fort Sheridan, additionally, the beach that ajoined the fort on Lake Michigan was the only one in Illinois that cars could drive on to, in Illinois and Indiana that is a rarity, so it is possible that the car originated elsewhere but the owner was stationed at Sheridan
      Illinois has always required military personnel to register their cars with Illinois plates after the home state plates expired
      It does look like the majority of the shots in front of homes were the area that the officers would have lived in, the smaller “huts” look very similar to the enlisted billets, I did a school project on the various military bases in and around Chicago and how they impacted the architecture in and around Chicago. Hope that more info is found it’san Interesting car

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