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Street Rod Icons - 1939-1940 Ford Coupes

  • The 1939/1940 Ford coupe has been a hot rodder’s favorite almost since its introduction. - 0
  • The rear view of a '39/40 shows the iconic split rear window & chevron style '40 taillights. - 1
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  • Flames are a classic style addition. - 3
  • The nose of Pete Arnold’s coupe has flames and louvers – two classic street rod touches. - 4
  • Wayne Davis upholstered the factory bench seat in his coupe with old school black & white tuck and roll. - 5
  • Small-block Chevys and flathead Fords are the two most popular engines in 1939 & 1940 Fords. - 6
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by Bruce Caldwell  More from Author

Top Ten Iconic Street Rods.

Images by Bruce Caldwell and Jerry Heasley.


Certain cars (or car series – e.g., 1955-1957 Chevys) start out popular and tend to stay that way. The 1939/1940 Ford coupe is one of those cars/series. The 1940 Ford was pretty much the last great pre-war Ford. The 1941 restyle wasn’t as aesthetically pleasing or as successful. The major 1942 restyle was cut short by the war, but did well when it returned in 1946.

The 1940 DeLuxe coupe, with its unique multi-part grille and chevron taillights, is the true icon street rod, but we’ve included the 1939 coupes due to their strong similarities. In the late thirties, Ford had a system of making the previous year’s deluxe model the next year’s standard model. That system has created some confusion between 1939 DeLuxe coupes and 1940 Standard coupes. The grilles are the same, but all 1939 Fords have the iconic “teardrop” taillights, while 1940s have the chevrons.

A couple other distinguishing features between the two years are different headlights, the lack of vent windows in 1939, and placement of the windshield wipers. For 1939, windshield wipers were mounted above the windshield, while 1940s have cowl-mounted wipers. Many former and current builders mix and match parts between the two years. The split rear window is considered a “marker” for these cars, but that design originated on 1937 Ford coupes.

These coupes do have some racing connections, but it’s more about NASCAR than NHRA. Ford V-8 coupes were very popular in the rural south with moonshine runners. That popularity transferred to early circle track racing (and resulted in a lot of destroyed cars).



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Street Rod Icons - 1939-1940 Ford Coupes
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