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Billy Powell 39 Ford




The goal was to create an early Custom Car, one that could have been built shortly after it was driven from the showroom floor. Styled as an Early Custom with everything as period perfect as possible.

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Billy Powell loves Custom Cars, and not just any kind of Custom Car. He is passionated about the very early Custom Cars. Those cars that shave set the standard back in the early 1940’s. Custom Cars that were driven straight from the dealer to the Carson Top Shop to have the windshield cut a few inches and a padded top installed. Customs with mildly lowered suspensions that matched the new lower top and gave the whole car better overall looks. Cars that were custom restyled in a matter of a few weeks before they could be driven on the roads again. Those early Customs from the pages of the Dan Post books, and the photo albums of the old timers, those are the Customs that Billy likes the best.

CCC-billy-powell-period-39-ford-01This is how Billy’s 1939 Ford Convertible looked like when he bought it, a very nice restored stocker.


When Billy came across this wonderfully restored bone stock marine blue ’39 Ford convertible his brain immediately started to visualize it as an early Custom. And when he was able to make a deal on the car he waisted no time in shipping the car to Desert Hot Springs in California where David Martinez runs his Martinez Industries Co. Specialized in Custom upholstery, period perfect Padded Tops and Coachbuilt body work. Billy had been working together with David on a few previous projects. So he knew David would totally understand what he meant when he asked for an early style period perfect custom interior and padded top.

It was decided that the shape of the padded top should flow with the shape of the body and the new ’37 Lincoln skirts that Billy had found for the car. The original Carson Top Shop tops were made on a jig and have a more upright rear portion of the top. Which is great for more space inside the car, but the outside shape sometimes interferes with the flowing shape of the car. Bill Gaylord also created padded tops, and his tops were flowing much nicer in the back. He usually cut the rear bows a lot shorter than the Carson shop did. A blend from both styles was used on the top that David created for the Ford.

CCC-billy-powell-period-39-ford-02Billy asked David Martinez to create a unique, luxurious, period looking interior for his convertible, but left the design over to David. The oxblood red color naugahyde with the simple pattern looks absolutely stunning and fits the theme of the car perfect. Front bench on the left and the rumble seat on the right.

CCC-billy-powell-period-39-ford-03David Martinez combined oxblood red naugahyde with mohair to create the right period look. The carpets are matching oxblood red German wool, with naugahyde piping. The steering wheel and dash were color matched to the mohair color.

CCC-billy-powell-period-39-ford-22David also upholstered the rumble seat in that beautiful oxblood red Naugahyde.

David removed the original top and frame, and chopped the windshield 3 inches. He used the original front bow of the soft top and created new bows and everything else that was needed to create the period perfect padded top. David also modified the rear fenders to make a set of ’37 Lincoln fit flush with them. A very subtile great looking Custom detail. The paint on the restored Ford was in great condition, so David had the paint color matched and blended in the paint on the windshield and rear fenders where he had performed the body work. The front of the car was lowered using a 3-1/2″ dropped axle, and the rear was brought down with modified leafs. The car received new shocks all around.

Next job for David was to create an all period perfect looking custom interior. Billy had settled for an oxblood red colored beautiful patterned naugahyde for the main upholstery. And the satin finish would be accompanied with the luxurious feel of a slightly different shade oxblood red mohair. The surface texture difference of both these materials really enhance each other. And even more so with the few chrome plated and bone colored parts used in the interior. David used  a design inspired by the stock interiors from the late 1930’s early 1940’s. Nothing wild, just a perfect match for the rest of the car. The seats were done in the oxblood naugahyde with piping and buttons from the same material. For the side panels David combined the naugahyde with the velvet with some nice piping and chrome accents. The arm rest alone are a work of art.

CCC-billy-powell-period-39-ford-17David Martinez taking the ’39 for spin around Desert Hot Springs, California after he finished the car.

CCC-billy-powell-period-39-ford-16Driving around in the desert made David feel like he was driving this period perfect Custom in the early 1940’s.

CCC-billy-powell-period-39-ford-19The nice vintage setting makes the Ford look right at home. When the car was at David’s shop it still had the white wall tires it came with when Billy bought it. Those were later replaced with period 16” Firestone bias ply blackwall tires.

CCC-billy-powell-period-39-ford-18This could as well be an early 1940’s photo…

The idea for the whole car was to create a very luxurious feeling of an upscale car from the lat 1930’s early 1940’s. Using only the oxblood colors with a few chrome and bone colored accents really help with this feeling. And the use of the oxblood velvet on the top really helps making it feel very luxurious inside Billy’s ’39 Ford. David had some paint color matched to the upholstery material and painted all the metal parts in the interior. The end result was a very classic, high-end custom interior. When the car was completely done David took it out for a spin to see how it all handled… perfect. He drove around making some nice period photos of the car before it was time to ship the car back to Billy in Texas.

Upon arrival in Texas Billy had already ordered a set of Firestone 16 inch bias ply blackwall tires for the ultimate early 1940’s look. And he topped it off with a set of beauty rings and Single bar flipper hubcap. The en result was exactly how he had envisioned it. A period perfect custom cars that had been driven straight from the showroom floor to the Carson Top shop (or similar) for a cut windshield, sharp Padded Top and luxurious all custom interior…  And then driven back home perhaps a few days later…   Mission accomplished!

CCC-billy-powell-period-39-ford-20Billy wanted a padded top that was a cross over between something the Carson Top Shop and Bill Gaylord could have done. The Carson tops were always a bit more squire at the back, while the Gaylord top had more flow, with a lower rear bow.

CCC-billy-powell-period-39-ford-04Apart from the flush Lincoln skirts, the chopped windshield, padded top, lowered suspension and flipper hubcaps, the car remains virtually bone stock.

CCC-billy-powell-period-39-ford-05Beautiful birds eye view shows the beautiful lines of a stock ’39 Ford, enhanced by the chopped windshield and flowing padded top.

CCC-billy-powell-period-39-ford-08Rear quarter view shows the great flow of the top and how it matches the flow of the body.

CCC-billy-powell-period-39-ford-07Close up of the modified rear fenders with the flush mounted ’37 Lincoln fender skirts. David blended in the paint after doing the body work on the fenders and windshield. “You can’t tell its blended in, so nice”. The blue dot taillights were on the car when Billy bought it.

CCC-billy-powell-period-39-ford-14A better photo of the interior in bright daylight shows the great color and surface texture difference of the naugahyde and mohair. Combined with a little chrome and some bone colored plastic makes the perfect period look.

CCC-billy-powell-period-39-ford-13David upholstered the headliner in mohair for a more luxury feeling.

CCC-billy-powell-period-39-ford-23The engine compartment is super clean and the car is still running on 6 volt, and everything electrical works as it should.

CCC-billy-powell-period-39-ford-24The motor in Billy’s ’39 Ford is an all original (restored) 90 HP- 221 Cubic Inch flathead motor, 3 spd manual trans with all original drivetrain. It runs and drives flawless.

CCC-billy-powell-period-39-ford-11Rumble seat.

CCC-billy-powell-period-39-ford-10Another rear quarter view showing the wonderful lines of the padded top, the flush skirts and the flow of the body together with the top.

CCC-billy-powell-period-39-ford-vintageJust for fun I situated Billy’s convertible in a vintage color slide.

CCC-billy-powell-period-39-ford-09Close up of the David Martinez padded top.

Letting go

After having to make a very hard decision between Billy’s ’35 Ford Roadster project and this completely finished ’39 Ford convertible, Billy decided the ’39 Ford needed to go. This way he had the space, time and funds to create a dream custom out of his ’35 Roadster. In July 2016 the car was sold to Blake Burwell, the new owner in Texas.

CCC-billy-powell-period-39-ford-21The reason for Billy to sell the car is the ’35 Ford Roadster in the back of this photo. Billy simply had to choose between the ’39 and the ’35 Ford, and the ’35 won and can stay and will be turned into a period perfect Custom. A set of flush fit teardrop shaped fender skirts have already been added.

The Details on the ’39 Ford Chopped Padded Topped Convertible

  • 1939 Ford deluxe Convertible Mild custom with Carson style top, great running original 90 HP- 221 Cubic Inch flathead motor, 3 spd manual trans, all original drivetrain. (1939 Ford Deluxe Convertible Coupe 91A-76number produced: 10,422)
  • Car has been lowered in front with a dropped axle 3-1/2″, rear leafs removed with new shocks all around.
  • New 16” Firestone bias ply blackwall tires, with 16” national flipper style hubcaps and beauty rings.
  • Still a 6 volt car, everything electrical works, rumble seat still in car, beautiful inside and out with a new custom Martinez Industries Interior, flush mounted ’37 zephyr skirts, 3″ chop on windshield with new Martinez industries Padded style top, absolutely stunning car!
  • No trim removed from the car and the body has not been modified other than the flush mounted skirts and windshield being chopped.
    Paint is in really good shape, no rust, no dents or dings in car.
  • Floorboards are solid, and this car is in excellent shape with no issues at all, daily driver car!




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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