Rod & Bede Sanford’s 1940 Ford Deluxe Coupe


Our family moved to Watsonville in 1959 and began raising cattle on the properties that are now Spring Hills and our golf courses. One summer day, when I was 14, I was on my way to a neighbor’s pond to fish when I discovered an old Chevy convertible that had been pushed into a ditch for erosion control. I went to the neighbor’s house and asked if I could have the old car. The farmer told me he needed it for erosion control, but if I could find another car to replace it, I could have the Chevy. I bought an old Ford from another neighbor for $5 and with my Dad’s permission used our tractor to drag it to the Chevy. We had to use our D-4 to get the Chevy out of the ditch. We then pushed the Ford in its place and took my new find home. During the next few months my Dad showed me how to rebuild the engine, transmission and rear end of the Chevy. He also guided me through a brake job, packing wheel bearing and other projects until finally the car was running. My friends and I drove all over our ranch and neighboring ranches, riding in style in that old 1949 Chevy convertible.

As youngsters my brothers and I worked hard on our ranch. We moved sprinkler pipe, helped build barbed wire fences, loaded hay and tended the avocado orchard. Along with that I had a little business raising calves. By age 15 I had saved $450 and so I took Southern Pacific’s Daylight from Pajaro to Santa Barbara on a quest to buy a hot rod. My Mom’s brother, Uncle Jim helped me out. At first I found a bright red 1932 Ford roadster. It had full fenders and a Corvette engine and was for sale for $450. My uncle convinced me that if I went home with it my Dad would probably disown me. So we continued to look until we found a 1940 Ford deluxe coupe hot rod in Santa Paula. It was bright red, had tuck-n-roll upholstery, a 396 cubic inch V-8 with three 2’s. The engine was loaded and the car was beautiful. It was just what I wanted! Since I was too young to have a driver’s license my Uncle trucked the car up to Watsonville for me. As I look back it was a good idea that I didn’t buy the ’32 Roadster. As it was, my Dad came pretty close to disowning me. Hot rod enthusiasts of today would die knowing I passed up an original steel bodied ’32 roadster, in pristine condition, with a Corvette engine that was priced at only $450. If only I had known!

Throughout high school and into college I built and drove hot rods. Almost every Saturday my friends and I would gather at the shop on our ranch and work on our cars. My Dad always seemed willing to help us. We had to do the work, but he would guide us through our projects. In return for his help my friends and I would often work in the avocado orchard, load hay or move sprinkler pipe. Most Saturday nights you could find us cruising the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, enjoying our cars and friends.

As the years passed by I owned a number of exotic sports cars, such as a 1956 Jaguar XK-140, I beautiful 1965 Porsche SC and a 1966 Morgan. But the ’40 Ford was always my favorite. In 1982 I was with a friend and as we drove we talked about the good ‘ole days and the subject swung to hot rods. I expressed my love for the ’40 Ford I owned back in the ‘60’s. With that he said, “I have something you’ve got to see!” We headed to his storage unit and when he opened the door I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was a beautiful ’40 Ford hot rod. That did it, I decided right then and there that someday I would own another ’40 Ford.

Well, for the next 20 years I had to table that thought. All my energy and the little money I had were directed towards building my two businesses. But then, some 20 years later as I was browsing through eBay I found a ’40 Ford that was, except for the color, just what I wanted. I called my wife over to look at it. Her reaction took me totally by surprise. She said, “You’ve wanted one for a long time. If that’s what you want, why don’t you buy it?” She didn’t have to say that twice, I bought a ticket and flew back to Ft. Myers Beach, Florida to check it out. It was a 1940 Ford Deluxe coupe with a 283 Corvette engine. The only problem was it was black, not the color I wanted. But with a little negotiating we arranged to have it painted silver before it was shipped to California.

One evening after the car had arrived in Santa Cruz my wife and I were sitting in it talking. Finally she observed, “You’re not real happy with this car.” I had to admit that in many ways I was disappointed with it. Once again she took me by surprise when she said, “Then why don’t you do what you want with it.” With her blessings, we began a three-year total rebuild of my ’40 Ford coupe. She did add one condition, that was that we drive the car once it was finished.

We took the car to Dave Lawrence, a technician who, at the time was with Quality Automotive in Santa Cruz. When Dave moved to GMP Speed And Machine we moved the car with him. We had a custom TCI chassis built for it. It features 4-wheel power disc brakes with an 8” dual diaphragm power brake booster, Mustang II tubular independent front suspension, rack and pinion steering, polished steering linkage, 4 link rear with coil overs and front and rear sway bars. A Currie 9-inch rear-end with 3.00 posi-traction. The entire chassis and under carriage has either been powder coated black or is stainless steel.

We stripped the body to bare metal. This 60 + year old car had been hit on both rear quarter panels and had been rear-ended. So nine months of sheet metal and bodywork began. The end result is an all steel body that is straighter and fits better than when it came off Henry Ford’s production line! Emilio Belmonte, also of GMP Speed, did the bodywork and paint. Sem Products sponsored the paint job. The color is called Wine Fire Candy. The deep, rich red is the result of 13 coats of product and Emilio’s secret base. In the sunshine you will notice the sparkle of a fine metallic flake.

We have used an all-original steel body. But everything else is new. The car has a significant forward rake (Lowered in the front) and although it sports the original stainless steel trim and vulcanized black rubber running boards, the dropped front end, louvered hood, custom paint job and the beautiful tires and rims says “Hot Rod” loud and clear, through and through. We wanted a nostalgic ‘60’s look. Kind of building what I would have loved to own back when I was a youngster with my first red ’40 Ford.

The engine is a GM Performance ZZ 383 c.i. Stoker, 425 horse, 450 torque. Fast burn heads and polished finned aluminum valve covers like the old Corvette ones from the late ‘50’s. It has 3 Vintage Speed full show chrome Rochester 2gc induction carburetors with stainless ball bearing progressive linkage, custom polished intake manifold, Hunt magneto, TruRam polished stainless exhaust manifolds, Powermaster alternator, Griffin all aluminum radiator and Vintage air conditioning, Flowmasters and ceramic coated exhaust by Sanderson. The transmission is a custom built Turbo 350 by Phoenix.

To keep with the nostalgic look we have kept the ’40 dash. We have used Vintage Air so the heater, defroster and air conditioning provide plenty of comfort. The air conditioning controls and vents have been tastefully built into the dash in order to keep the vintage look. The dash has custom dash knobs, chrome dash insert with black face Stewart Warner Wings gauges. The clock face was hand-pinstriped by Real Ralph to match the gauges. It has a tall Lokar shifter, Grant polished stainless banjo steering wheel and a Flaming River polished stainless steel tilt steering column. An overhead console houses a 7-inch touch screen that controls the Kenwood sound system featuring satellite radio, touch-screen navigation, Bluetooth technology, I Pod and secondary audio-visual inputs, Morel speakers and GPS tracking. The sound system was designed and built by Shane at Santa Cruz Sound Garden. The black leather interior is by Ray’s Upholstery in Watsonville. The seat is a split-back bench seat with fold down armrest and pull out drink tray. The seat was custom built by Wiseguys and has 6-way power, power lumbar, seat heaters and built-in phone chargers.

The wheels are ET Classic Fives with custom offset and BFG tires. The Japanese character machined into the center hub says, “Patience.” The car is detailed by Dave Scott of Scotts Valley.

The rebuild and modification was completed late on a Wednesday afternoon in January, 2010. Early the next morning it was trailered to Pomona for the Grand National Roadster Show. The car won first place in its division at the Grand Nationals. A few weeks later it won first place in its division at the Sacramento Autorama and won an award for Outstanding Paint. Add to this the great honor of being invited to Blackie Gejeian’s 51st Fresno Autorama in March and an Elegance Award there; It was featured indoors at the GoodGuys All American Get Together in Pleasanton and collected an award for Excellence; In mid April, 2010 it was a Featured Car at Kool April Nites in Redding; It was accepted into the Gold Division at the Pismo Beach Classic; It received a Sponsor’s Choice award at the Capitola Rod & Custom Classic and was in the Gold Division and received the Best In The West award at the Rock-n-Rods show in Monterey; It was Best In Show at Hot Rods On The Green; First in the Street Rod Division, Judges’ Choice, Participants’ Choice and Best Paint at the Cops And Rodder’s show and won first in the Gold Division at the Marina Airfaire and Car show.

The car was trailered to shows for the first few months of its life but now we are driving it. We still take it to local shows, particularly shows that are raising funds for kid’s programs or other worthy causes. Yes, it is still winning awards, but the best part of it all is that Bede and I regularly go cruising in it.