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Gilding the Lily: Accessorized Thirties Fords

After viewing this set of images, the thought crossed our mind that the first accessories available for the automobile probably appeared in the late-1890s, not long after some of the first production cars were manufactured. Soon afterward manufacturers and entrepreneurs jumped on the bandwagon and began selling parts and trinkets to “improve” a vehicle, and since that time, many a proud car owner has added something that they considered special to personalize their car.

  • The lead image contains a 1932 Ford coupe – The “Tudor” sedan above is a 1933 Ford.

Only having a limited knowledge of the accessories that were available for thirties Ford cars, we thought that these photos might present the perfect opportunity for our readers to help identify the add-ons. Let us know what you see here in the way of aftermarket parts and trinkets, and identify the makers of these parts if possible. The photos are via Rudebaker and show the car’s his father’s friends owned in the late-thirties. 

  • Above a 1936 Ford “Tudor” sedan – Below a 1936 Ford convertible coupe.

Editors note: Due to torrential rain yesterday and loss of both electricity and internet services for over 14-hours we are re-running this popular article first posted late in 2013. Since power losses seems to be happening more often these days, perhaps we should start looking for a vintage generator? Do any of readers in New England have quiet small-sized one in working condition? We need a reliable unit capable of running a limited amount of lights, a pair of computers, and a refrigerator – the installation of one might make for a unique technical article.

42 responses to “Gilding the Lily: Accessorized Thirties Fords

  1. Funny how for two of those cars that despite all of the other “stuff” they bought they couldn’t come up with the money for a passenger-side wiper blade.

    • Not just no blade, no mechanism. “Standard” model Fords in the ’30’s only had one windshield wiper (and one tail light). You had to get the “Deluxe” model to get the second wiper. Adding one would not be so easy.

  2. Most interesting. The topic of accessories has been a personal project with my own 1930 Packard I bought over a year ago. I have the Packard authorized accessory catalog and price list for 1930 and it is amazing what the profit margin was and what could be added. I did not add any to my car, most all were added at the factory or at the dealer when delivered, and for a standard 8 it is remarkable the extra $ that was spent on the car. In 1930 the adverage weekly salary was about $38, and the deluxe wind wings on my car cost $50. Translate that into today’s world – would you spend a week and a half’s salary on a pair of wind deflectors?

  3. Wow, those are excellent accessories. I have seen some, but not all of them on ’30’s vintage Fords. Thanks for posting the photos.

  4. I am afraid to ask why you would need a refrigerator in order to compile a newsletter.

    I would hope it is to keep your coffee cream from spoiling… or do we drive you to drink?

      • One of my buddies lives in NE Australia, somewhere in Queensland, and he is in a community that is ‘off the grid’. He bought the place fairly recently as is and it is mainly solar powered, but with some dated solar panels and a bit of battery storage for night use, etc. he has a generator, but the use thereof is fairly strictly regulated by the community. He has two kids and does most of his translation work on line or on the computer. Being Australia, there is a great need for a fridge, especially with young kids. So although this sounds pretty idealistic, when nature calls and leaves you with a week or two of clouds, those wonderful solar panels stop emanating free energy! So, before your readers urge you to go green in a big way, just remember what warm beer and melted ice cream taste like….(BTW, I have a full set of solar panels and do appreciate their contribution to easing global warming). Let us know what you come up with!

  5. Accessory hood ornaments of the fifties & sixties were the type that required drilling a hole thru the hood and bolting securely. Commonly they were dashing foxes or jumping horses or leaping toads

  6. the wrap around (radiator & hood) belts on the 1936 cars are called Pines trim. The people who made the Pines winter front.

  7. Mr. G. : For the load you mention, you’ll need about a 3KW generator–refrigerator draws a lot when it starts. Also Google generators and computers. You will definitely need a good surge protector at least. Be aware that generators tend to ‘walk away’ during extended area-wide power failures.

      • Get swiped, David. Down here; we lose power all the time and many people drag out the gens only to find them gone if they’re not careful. Oh, and every storm related outage, in order to prevent theft, people run them in their garage and succumb to CO poisoning.

        • Did you mention “succumb to CO poisoning”? A silver-lining to my normally dismal day! I have to be shoveling-off now …..

  8. If it any consolation. century Sussex is getting as bad no cell phone sevice worth a plugged nickel either

  9. The problem with a vintage generator is it will very likely supply “square wave” AC power as opposed to sine wave like what comes out of your wall on a good day. You would definitely want sine wave for the computers and it would be helpful for the fridge as well. The light bulbs won’t care. This is commonly referred to as “inverter technology.” I had an old 2kw Allis Chalmers that I’d drag out for blackouts but is was so noisy I would park it out by the garage and run a 100′ extension to the house just so I could hear myself think. This summer I bit the bullet and popped for a Honda EU2000. Hideously expensive but it is just a superb unit.

      • There’s nothing wrong with the old stuff, people have been using it for generations. You just have to know what you are doing.

        For example, if you had an old generator, and at least two big banks of batteries, and get things set up so that the battery bank that is being charges by the genny is totally isolated (I mean like a couple of big knife switches operated by a skilled operator) from your modern sensitive loads, then everything can all get along just fine. Those Edison type batteries had been getting the job done for decades before anyone started worrying about smoothing those square waves to avoid blowing holes in the silicon wafer bits.

        For maximum flexibility if you had something like a steam traction engine to belt up to that genny, then there wouldn’t be very many worries about either the engine or that large pile of steam coal going walkabout before you need it. Or, for that manner, in the case of an extended outage, anyone ‘borrowing’ it while you are using it. I do suppose that you’d want to keep the copper and brass bits (like the whistle and steam gauge) that could be easily removed out of the midnight scrapper’s view.

        As far as the batteries, Edison type Nickel Iron are really heavy and the average thief doesn’t bring a crane or forklift, or even recognize what Edison batteries are for that matter. Edison type batteries are just about bullet proof, so even if the local varmint hunters get carried away, there won’t be a bigger problem than a tote or two of baking soda or similar can’t remediate.

        So you can have a few thousand invested in a modern generator and some jerry cans of gas, like all your neighbors might wish to have. Then you can always be sure that EVERYONE with a dishonest inclination will be watching your stuff like a racoon watches your sweetcorn patch.

        On the other hand, imagine approving TOM comments while listening to the stack talk and watching the cinders and sparks fly, and the warmth of hand firing on a warm July night. In the daylight you can watch the belts do their thing and you constantly remind the spectators not to get tangled up in that. Or could you imagine approving TOM comments while listening to the pleasant hiss of leaking steam and the calming steady drip of water lines left flowing so they don’t freeze on a cold January night? If you manage your system correctly and don’t waste too many electrons, you might be able to leave the fire banked for hours at a time before you have to raise the steam and make the stack talk!

        One of these paths allows you to be like everyone else, the other path gives any neighborhood kids a chance to look away from all those electronic devices and get close to some real fun! If you mount those Edison batteries on a trailer you could even have portable power instead of needing excessively long extension cords or a second modern generator.

        As the old Monroney used to say: YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY!

      • I suppose you don’t get natural gas where you’re at, but if you use propane to heat your place, you may want to look at generators run on gas. More expensive, but even in a long power outage, you don’t have to go looking for a gas station has power for their pumps. I read how a place in Canada had a 2 week power failure early this year….

    • I have had a Honda EU2000 for 15 years or so now that I bought for a little less than new price after a multi-day power loss when the owners wife complained that it would not run her hairdryer and microwave , etc at the same time. He took what I paid him and bought a 5kw construction generator. I run the little Honda 2kw, 10 feet from the house and can’t even hear it run inside if the windows are closed.
      It runs a frig, a small freezer, 2 computers and a bunch of lights. It usually runs in energy saving mode accept when the frig or freezer is running and the other one starts up, then it kicks up in speed to put out more power. I do have UPS units on my computers that are big enough to take over when needed for the occasional dip.

  10. You might be able to find a cool older generater for sale at a antique tractor or thresher show. Personally I would pass on the old world charm and buy a new Honda. They just plain work. ( Is that blasphemy? Sorry.)

  11. We called our cars “Fixedup” as we added multiple accessories; particularly lights. It was all in the worst of taste but did distinguish our cars from the old-man cars of our parents.

  12. Ok, one at a time, ONE AT A TIME!!!
    1st, only the top picture looks like any real “gee-gaws”, spotlight, head light visor’s, and the 2 “Pegasus” figures. The plate looks like a 1934-1936 ( plates changed for ’37) and I read, Mobil adopted the Pegasus symbol in 1931 from Vacuum Oil, so maybe this guy, who looks a bit scary for the mid 30’s ( anybody else hear the “Untouchable’s ” theme song?) I wonder if he had something to do with Mobil. The other cars don’t look too different from stock, I don’t think.( except those hood pipes, Cord wannabe?)
    On to your power dilemma. No generator??? David, you have a lot more faith in the “grid” than I do, especially out east. Last summer, while in Ashokan, NY, power outages were almost a weekly deal. The problem was, there’s very little dirt in the ground above rock, and the trees have shallow roots, so any gust of wind, usually takes down several trees, and the wires. I’m sure they could bury the lines, but then what would the electrical crew do? It’s clearly, job security for them. So, the place I stayed, had a generator, 2 actually. The main one, I think was 8,000 watt, and when the power went out, we’d flip the switch for outside juice ( very important, or you’re generator won’t work) electric start, zoom, instant power, and off in the distance, all you hear is the drone of all the other generators. Apparently, Hurricane Irene caught everybody with their pants down, and Generac( a local Wisconsin company) has been running 24/7 to keep up with sales, years later( that’s not gonna happen again) Obviously, common sense dictates, and you can’t run 4 hair dryers, the toaster, and the dryer, and Internet usually goes down with the wires, so that’s out, but you can save food ( huge losses during Irene) or run a furnace and water. On the farm I live on, power outages are rare, but they have a pto driven generator, runs off a tractor, and it’s a biggie. Not sure of the wattage, but during a recent outage ( 1st time in 18 years) we dragged the generator out and a tractor ( Allis D17) , cut the power to the world, and it worked great, for hours ( don’t forget to check the fuel)
    In huge metropolitan areas ( like all of out east) get used to it. Our grid is so fragile, one hiccup, and 100,000 people lose power. Unless we build more power plants( good luck with that and who knows what this silly “electric car” will do to the grid) power loss will be a regular thing, and you should be ready for it.

  13. David – just a thought from an old generator mechanic. Make sure you ground it good. Either directly into ground with rod, or to water pipes. And an automatic transfer switch is a good idea, also

    • Hugh, you just reminded me of some great times in the Army. We had tactical units that we could deploy when something went wrong with our stationary positions (Listening to NKA radio traffic) and the 3k and 5k generators had about 7 ft. of copper grounding rods that needed to be driven into the ground before starting. Doing that was near impossible, especially in the wonderful world of Korean winter, but a grizzled First Sgt. told us to dig a trench, bury the rod therein and then for the coup de grace, perform ablutions over the dear departed soul. A bit tough in the winter, but we all survived with no shocks to the system. This is one case where frozen wieners were probably better than roasted ones.

  14. Great site David. First time visitor.

    My Great Grandfather had a place north of Toronto in the 30s. He had an 11HP Waterloo Steam engine with an early 1900s electric motor, reversed wired I think, then a motor became a generator, and glass jar batteries.

    The Steam engine is in Niagara Falls now, the motor in my brothers basement. The glass battery jars have been liberated as previously mentioned by an earlier poster by people who have a better home for them…..

  15. In the pic of the 1936 Ford “Tudor” sedan , anyone have any idea what that is hanging down from the chassis behind the left-front fender?

    • Looks to be a simple ‘Mud Flap’ to help keep the underside “Clean”. Speaking which, how many out there remember when rear Rubber Mud flaps were fancy, sometines with Chrome Stars, Reflectors and some cowboys even mounted clearance lights on them. You were somebody if you had the White versions.

      • The wheels / caps on the ’33 Ford apparently are from a Chrysler Corp. car as (if my memory is correct) they had the same bolt hole pattern as did Fords. GM wheels had bolt holes that were spaced differently. In regards to the previous comment about Mud Flaps, they were all the rage when I first started noticing cars (before Girls) about 1947.

    • Sure does look like a mudflap to me. My 1960 Volvo PV544 had them like that as factory standard. I bought flaps for the rear fenders emblazoned with the Volvo emblem and road spray didn’t have a chance!

  16. The two ’36’s have what is referred too as “Pines” trim on the sides of the hood (have no idea why it is called that) and the ubiquitous greyhound hood ornament , a poplar aftermarket accessory.

  17. For the”36 sedan with the “thing” hanging on the LHS running board is one of two (or more) , another on the RHS also : They are: Accessory “Mud-Flaps” (Schmutsfengers) . Actually, they are for: the ice, snow, mud dirt grit , — that sprays up on the bottom of the car’s actual “running board” and Freezes there — to add a serious amount of unwanted excess weight to the car – if travelling in freezing slush! When one arrives home and in the garage (if warmer than 32 degrees F ) 500 pounds of ice, mud & salt will drop! This bad mix is reduced by adding the extra flaps. Also: It is wise to pay attention to how much is “packing up” underneath the fenders! This advice usually applies to rural Winter conditions —where the sand, mud dirt ice & snow combine to form temporary “concrete”. It can pack enough to stop a wheel from turning in a curve !!! — from body lean! This IS serious business and the extra flap(s) has, have to be in the right place to do the job! it is, they are: Not a “gee – gaw!!! They are a Prevention Device! Caution: Do NOT put your raw hand on the fender(s)! it will freeze there!

  18. “Gee- Gaw “—and “accessory are related — but one is useful to “some” extent — and the other one — is: “personal choice”! To this day — you can buy (at Sears Roebuck ) a: (Suction cup applied) (plastic ) Wiggling- Hula- Girl, 6″ tall with grass skirt , Ukulele – and flowing hair, @ $ 4.98! (Gee- Gaw!) An excellent example of an early ‘3o’s, – safety related (useful), (in this case): 6 Volt Electrical Accessory (4 suction cup mounted ) 6″ X 18″ thin steel framework that holds a “grid of (exposed next to the (flat )windshield Steel Nichrome Heater Wire that: Defrosts your: 6″ x18” view of the world —out there!!! If you buy two — you might see the guy on the right! A Forties accessory for Hot Weather travelling was: A (window top mounted) – ( the size of an old tank-type vacuum cleaner) Evaporative “swamp” Cooler: A “pull-cord” dipped the rubberized horse-hair cooler in a water reservoir below: The forced air of forward motion – came into its front – and the exit was a 1-1/2 ” opening of the cooled air – coming in above the closed window glass. Result : (Only in a Dry climate!) was IF it was 90 outside —it was 80 to 82 inside ! an improvement in the Deluxe Model was a 6 Volt Blower Fan for slow traffic driving. Result: “Iffy” Dry outside: Some “relief “. Hot & Wet outside = Hot & wet inside! “Okay” for Arizona, not Okay for “back East “. The “direct to your face” : 6 Volt (Rubber blades) small fan, dash mounted — helped in both: Summer (& Winter by aiming it at the windshield. ) Edwin W.

  19. My ’49 DeSoto has as many options as possible. Wide Whites, Fulton Sunvisor with sight glass, fender skirts, peep mirrors, Appleton spots with matching amber road lights on the front bumper pan. Headlamp eyelids along with visors. Dropped 3 inches in the rear with dual glasspacks from split exhaust manifolds, exiting out of 3″ echo cans along with curb feelers. Fuzzy Dice optional. Period correct suicide knob along with crystal bud vases at the B-pillars and rear seat pillows covered in the same upholstery as the interior. My wife crocheted a gray lace throw to lay over the rear seat back to match the interior. That rounds out the interior in comfort. When We go to cruise-in’s or shows, My Wife always wears a period correct dress, hat, with gloves and rides in the back as though she is being chauffeured. Then there are the times when it takes on a Rockabilly theme….I won’t elaborate on that. Let’s just say that I am a very lucky man !

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