Befitting the March 31st anniversary of the introduction of Ford’s milestone motor, the flathead V-8, The Old Motor is featuring one of the most celebrated and well documented cars ever to roll behind one such powerplant.
Better known and more highly skilled writers than myself have related the history of this car, from it’s initial concept as the second of two sport cars inspired by cars Edsel Ford saw on a trip to Europe in 1932, through his work with collaborator E. T. “Bob” Gregorie on the design, to it’s careful fabrication by Ford master craftsmen.
The original 1934 design (seen below) was somewhat different. Although Mr. Ford used the car for personal transportation for six years, in 1940 he again consulted with Gregorie about modifications to improve engine cooling.
The solution, seen below on the left in a 1/25th scale model built by Gregorie, shows the modifications intended to increase air flow to the radiator. Clearly visible on the print is a handwritten note from Edsel Ford to Gregorie approving this reconfiguration of the grille and relocation of the headlights. The thumbnail on the right shows the completed car’s new look.
But in the ensuing years, this unique roadster didn’t remain quite as visible as it was when Edsel cruised the streets of Grosse Point Shores in it. After Mr. Ford’s untimely death in 1943, this significant automobile changed hands several times in the next 67 years, undergoing some engine modifications, but thankfully none to it’s one-of-kind coachwork. Between 1958 and 1999, Earl and later his son, John Pallasch of Sebring, Florida owned it. That last year, an article in Special Interest Autos led Bill Warner, founder of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, to the famous car. A deal was struck and Edsel’s beautiful speedster changed hands once again. While in his care, it underwent a sympathetic refurbishment that returned it to running condition, but retained the soft patina that had developed over the years. It was in this state of preservation, after it’s acquisition by the Edsel and Eleanor Ford Estate, that I encountered the car in 2010 at the Saratoga Automobile Museum’s “Barn Find” exhibit.
Shortly after it’s appearance in Saratoga, the ambitious task of a total restoration of this historic automobile began. Photos documenting that meticulous process can be seen here.
The end result, depicted in the fine photographs at the beginning of this post, is stunning. While it’s design was clearly influenced by the best Europe had to offer at the time, it seems to your writer that this sleek roadster exists at the nexus where those memorable cars, contemporary American open wheel racers and the hot rods of future decades come together. No doubt it made a strong impression on any budding backyard car builder who saw it when it was new and inspired many to try to replicate it’s clean lines and lithe shape in the following years. I, for one, am very happy that this special car has returned to it’s Michigan roots where it’s preservation seems assured.
We at The Old Motor gratefully acknowledge the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House for allowing us the use of the excellent photos that accompany this article. The car will be displayed at exhibition called: Sensuous Steel: Art Deco Automobiles at The Frist Center in Nashvile, TN. starting on June 14, 2013.