The First Forty

The First Forty

The 1940 Ford Coupe is indisputably a beautiful design.

Not only does the swoopy bodywork stand proudly on its own merit, but it also lends itself to a fair bit of customization be it mild or wild. The ’40 has always had a special place in Don’s heart as evidenced by the wildly customized El Matador joint with Bill Cushenberry and the perfectly understated black 1940 Coupe he build for himself 45 years later.

So I had to ask, “Don… is your fascination with the Forty because it was the first car you ever built or was it the first build because you liked the design?”

His reply, “The Forty is timeless.”   ‘Nuff said.

First FourtySo barely twenty years old and the first project is a frame off restoration of a 1940 Ford Coupe. Even at that young age, the rules of engagement were set firmly in his mind. Do it right, do it better and never use filler! Of course, back then plastic body fillers like Bondo weren’t the go-to “repair” they are now, but take a look at the cars Varner has built over the years and keep in mind not one of them uses any body filler! Truly staggering.

First FortySo in the borrowed garage of a friend’s parents, the tear down begins. Between long hours working at the plywood mill Don fully disassembles the ole Ford and teaches himself to paint on the newly stripped chassis. With hammers, anvils and files the sheet metal is brought into line and the body is taken out for sand blasting. Unfortunately a too heavy use of the blaster warps the back quarters and the hammers, anvils and files are brought out for round two.

As you can see, the stock motor was deemed unworthy and was replaced with a Oldsmobile Rocket 88 which, of course, was treated to a rebuild and fresh paint before roughing it into place. Every possible part that could be saved or repaired was rescued as the $2 / hour pay from the mill meant spare cash came about as quickly as rain in California. Because of this there was much polishing and straightening of the shiny bits over long hours and many days.

First FortyWith the experience gained painting the chassis and engine, Don takes on the bodywork with a classic black lacquer. Converting the unfinished garage into a paint booth, he spends weeks painting, sanding and buffing the finish. With a year and a half into the project, it’s finally ready to enjoy.

It probably goes without saying the ole Ford was a hit at the few car shows he attended. Sadly the payoff was short lived as a draft notice arrived and Don was called to duty. Without further ado, the Ford was sold and his bags were packed just in time to receive a draft cancellation notice!

With his beloved `40 gone, Don decided it was time to take on a new project that started with a brand new Ford F100 pickup. With his first build behind him and a lot more confidence, he tore into the pickup with a vengeance. This build was going to be anything but subtle!

… and that’s when the second draft notice arrived.


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