This car is exactly what my father typically had in mind when he set out searching for a driver. A very presentable, straight body, gorgeous fresh interior, and 100% reliable mechanicals, all wrapped in a reasonably-priced package that won’t break the bank to acquire. I think a lot of folks forget that part of the fun of having old cars is driving and enjoying them on the road as they were when new. Guys say their modified hot rods drive like ½-ton pickups, but if I wanted something that drove like a truck, I’d drive my truck. What I don’t have is a car that drives like a 1940 Dodge, and that’s a ton of fun in its own right.
This car received a decent restoration in the early 2000s, and has been driven very little since. The black body was obviously straight and with very little rust to begin with, making for an easy restoration. The floors are solid, both in the passenger’s compartment and the trunk, and the body is clean. That is single stage paint on there, which is perfect for black because you can easily buff it to a high shine and it gives the car a more authentic, original look than a clear coat system might. Body gaps are good all around and there are very few signs of use suggesting that this car has lived in a garage since it was restored. I would guess that the body has been wet sanded and buffed judging from the smoothness of the finish, and our own techs put a shine on it that will make much pricier cars envious. There are a few signs of repaired paint runs in the paint, but the work was expertly done and not objectionable. The overall effect is a tidy, presentable, drivable, showable car that you will be proud to own.
The chrome and other stainless bright work on this car has also been restored. From the intricate front grille, to the cool bezels around the headlights that also incorporate parking lamps, to the big chrome bumpers front and rear, there’s recent plating that looks deep and lustrous. You’ve probably also noticed the stainless steel strips that run the length of the hood with cool red-painted hash marks that really pop against the black body. And dig that ram hood ornament that has been very well restored – these were often made of a zinc-based pot metal that tended to pit and corrode easily, making them incredibly difficult and expensive to restore. The fact that this one looks so great suggests that the restorer spent a lot of money having the chrome repaired and refinished. You’ll also note that this car sports a pair of front bumper guards that were period accessories designed to protect the front fenders. The fog lights are aftermarket replicas of original period accessories, and have been wired to operate as the front turn signal indicators for the aftermarket system attached to the steering column.
The glass in the car has been replaced, and it’s all easy-to-cut flat glass that looks original. However, the rear window is curved, and is OEM glass since I doubt anyone is making reproductions for these cars.
The engine is Dodge’s famous 218 cubic inch flathead six cylinder making 87 horsepower, which was pretty good considering that Buick’s 248 cubic inch overhead valve straight-8 was making only 110 horsepower that same year. Combined with tall gears in the rear differential, it managed to move this car around town with some vigor, although highway cruising is best limited to speeds under 60 MPH due to these tall gears. The engine in this car has been rebuilt and spins to life easily using a foot pedal that triggers the starter motor. It idles easily with a pleasant mechanical sound that is sadly absent from today’s cars – it sounds like a precision machine, which is exactly how an engine should sound. The exhaust is quiet with a distinct sound under throttle, although the muffler looks modern and not OEM. The engine bay was restored to a very nice standard when the rest of the car was reworked, with all the correct details in place: cloth wiring harness, fabric-wrapped radiator hoses with wire clamps, and the correct gray paint on the engine itself. The only out-of-place item might be the modern wiring and wire ties for the aftermarket turn signal system wired into the front fog lights, but that’s easily concealed. The correct oil bath air cleaner is perched on top of the single-barrel downdraft carburetor, and there’s an oil filter on the other side of the block. Correct decals for the air cleaner, and replica serial number plates on the firewall finish the factory fresh engine compartment. And yes, those giant horns work – they’re LOUD.
The engine is backed by a 3-speed manual transmission with the shifter mounted on the column. “3 on the tree” was a relatively recent invention in 1940, and was state-of-the-art in terms of comfort and convenience back then. The shift mechanism on this car has been set up properly and glides through the gates easily. The rest of the chassis is pretty much as the factory made it. Sure, there are guys who hyper-detail their undercarriages when they restore cars like these, but evidence suggests that these cars were assembled and then the entire chassis was just sprayed with a coat of chassis black paint for a uniform appearance.
The hydraulic brakes have been rebuilt and have a firm pedal. It’s difficult to tell when the lever-action shock absorbers are operating, since they were marginal at best when new, but these appear to be in good condition with no leaks. The single exhaust system is in good condition. The wheels are 16-inces in diameter wearing 6.00-16 BFGoodrich Silvertown wide whitewall bias-ply tires. And check out those gorgeous wheel covers – they’re actually 3 pieces, a center, the intermediate rim with the fins, and then an outer trim ring.
The interior is another treat. Fully restored in the original Bedford cord fabric, it was covered with blankets when we first got the car, suggesting that someone went to extra lengths to take care of it. The headliner, door panels, carpet and seat covers are all new and show very little evidence of use. The dashboard is steel with a woodgrain pattern painted on it (this is authentic – most cars of this vintage used wood grained metal dashboards), and the gauges look to be original, including the very cool speedometer with a needle that rotates around the face like a phone dial. The Bakelite steering wheel has obviously been recast (they rarely survived, and never in perfect condition like this), and all the knobs and handles throughout the interior have been restored. There are new rubber seals throughout, and new windlace around the door openings. The trunk has also been reupholstered with a mixture of the correct fabric and a carpeted mat on the floor. There’s a fifth matching wheel and Silvertown tire back here as well.
And just in case you need to reference something for repairs, this car includes a 1940 Dodge Passenger Car Shop Manual.
The really great thing about this car is that you couldn’t duplicate a restoration like this for what we’re asking for the entire car. It’s ready to drive and enjoy, you can take your entire family with you, and it will be a reliable, comfortable runner for years to come. Don’t let people tell you that old cars aren’t reliable – they were daily drivers when they were new, my father drove one daily in the 1980s, and cars like this are so anvil-simple that keeping them running is pretty much only a matter of putting gas and oil in them. Parts are plentiful and cheap, and there’s nothing else that feels like a vintage car like this ambling down the road making its traditional sounds. In fact, all those reasons, plus the fact that my father had one when I was a kid, is why I sold my hot rod and bought a 1941 Buick of my own to restore to stock condition. Don’t overlook the fun you can have at 45 MPH on a car with skinny bias-ply tires and a tube-fired AM radio. You might just be surprised by how wide your grin is every time you drive it. Call us today, because I’m betting this one won’t last long.
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