Gary’s Ford Coupe, Fascination Realized
By Brian Brennan – Photography By Wes Allison
When speaking with Gary Upton, of SoCal, it becomes obvious of his lifelong fascination with 1940 Fords. Just prior to owning this potent 1940 Ford coupe he owned and drove a 1940 Ford pickup hot rod. However, the hopped-up Merc Flathead engine and modified stock chassis, while having served their purpose, had come to the end of their usefulness. Gary felt it was time to move onto something more in keeping with his relocation from the back roads of Oregon to the SoCal freeways.
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He sold off his pickup and opted to put together a 1940 Ford coupe that had the best in performance and craftsmanship all in one package. The coupe you see on these pages started its hot rod life in Abilene, Texas. While it changed hands several times over the years it basically sat in a Texas garage for 38 years. Then a friend of Gary’s purchased the car at an estate sale and in turn Gary purchased the car from him back in 2016. It was at this point the Ford was shipped to San Diego, California and the current build began. Gary wanted to keep in mind that the coupe was to retain as much of its original look as possible yet at the same time “cleaning up and enhancing” the overall appearance. But how do you do that to a timeless design like the 1940 Ford? The trunk-mounted license plate bracket and handle were removed as were the bumpers while a custom rear roll pan was added. You will also note that the dash, while modified, still maintains a strong resemblance to its original presentation, which includes the use of the earliest ashtrays.
Gary and Bryan Wheeler of Wheeler’s Speed Shop met up and once they were on the same page the project began. The chassis is based on Total Cost Involved with a custom kickup in the back to make the ride height even lower. The front is a Total Cost Involved custom Independent Front Suspension with Total Cost Involved spindles, front sway bar, rack-and-pinion, and adjustable Ridetech coilovers. The front and rear brakes are based on Wilwood 13-inch drilled-and-slotted rotors and four-piston calipers all activated by an ABS electronic system and a pedal assembly from Wheeler’s. In the back a Total Cost Involved four-link and Panhard bar are used along with a Ford 9 inch rear end with 4.11 gears plus 31-spline Strange Engineering axles. A set of Magnitude Schott wheels are used that measure 17×7 and 18×10 all wrapped with Pirelli P Zero Rosso tires that shakes out at 205/50R17 and 255/55R18. A unique feature about these specific Pirelli tires is that they are made for use with differing tire sizes from front to rear.
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The body is a 1940 Ford coupe that has had the firewall, floorboards, and trunk floor modified along with a set of rear wheel tubs installed while at Wheeler’s. The bodywork was then performed by Palmer’s Customs and painted in a Porsche Brewster Green.
Once inside the coupe you will see a stock 1940 dashboard that now features a custom lower section, which houses the Vintage Air registers as well as the ignition key and headlight switch. The Vintage Air controls are mounted directly in the center of the dash below what would have been the speaker grille section. If you are wondering about the instruments, wonder no more as they are directly from Dakota Digital and are wired using an American Autowire kit, as is the rest of the hot rod. More hot rod industry hardware includes the use of a LimeWorks Speed Shop steering column with a three-spoke leather-wrapped wheel from Juliano’s Hot Rod Parts. The seating is a bench by way of Glide Engineering that was stitched, as was the remainder of the interior, while at Gabe’s Street Rod Custom Interiors. The interior leather is colored in an Espresso brown following through to the headliners, doors, and other related panels, while a tight weave brown carpeting is used. A “spoon” early-style throttle along with more traditional fare, such as the round brake pedal, are all pressed into service.
Getting this hot rod down the road is a Ford 427 inch iron small block crate motor with a Borla Induction 8-Stack V8 throttle body injection system, Vintage Air Front Runner serpentine belt system, and a pair of Wheeler’s custom valve covers. Handling the computer chores is an HP EFI Holley ECU (and Holley coils) along with an HGM transmission controller marking the shifts on the Ford 4R70W transmission with a 10-inch billet converter and a 3,800-rpm stall speed. The transmission features a stout 2.84:1 First gear and an overdrive factor of 0.70:1, making this an ideal stoplight-to-stoplight performer as well as supremely suited for long highway runs. Wheeler’s crew fabricated the custom headers out of heat-coated 1-3/4-inch primary tubes then dumped into 2-3/4-inch custom exhaust systems that share a pair of Borla mufflers.
Gary is a lifelong hot rodder who has grown up with performance cars and enjoys all aspects of hot rodding and the SoCal scene. As a youth he would jump on his bike and ride to the newsstand and buy the latest rodding magazine (as many of us) and would dream about the future. Well, the future has arrived. MR