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The Rarest Pre-War Ford - 1942 "X-Ray" Chassis

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by John Gunnell  More from Author

Ford was just ramping up production of their new 1942 models when World War II rerouted production for a greater cause.


The 1942 Fords were introduced on September 12, 1941. Only 160,211 were built before World War II erupted and brought the production of civilian automobiles to a halt. One of the rarest 1942 Fords made wasn’t a complete car at all, but a body-less chassis with running gear that Ford intended to use as a prop at auto shows to illustrate the features of 1942 Fords.

This "X-ray" Ford was specially painted to look attractive at auto shows that probably never took place. It has survived through the years and is now a part of the Lensing Auto Museum in Roscoe, Illinois. Wayne Lensing, the owner of Lefthander Chassis, a company that sells racing car parts and supplies, established this museum. It features racing cars, personality cars, presidential cars and unusual attractions like the working Ford chassis.

Since the early Ford V-8 chassis is something that hot rodders deal with often, we thought it would be great to show and discuss the features of the X-Ray 1942 Ford. But before we do that, let’s take a quick look at the history of the Ford flathead V-8 between 1932 and 1942.

The flathead Ford V-8 was king of hot rodding in the early days of the sport. When introduced in 1932, it was a revolutionary engine. The flathead gave the average American driver a $460 car with 65 hp that could keep up with Buicks, Packards and other big multi-cylinder cars. Never had eight cylinders and so much power been offered for so little. In addition, the engine was well suited to performance modifications. It wasn’t long before a plethora of aftermarket speed equipment was offered to make the hot little Ford go even faster.

In 1933, the V-8 model got a longer, 112-inch wheelbase. But a stubborn Henry Ford refused to match Chevrolet’s move to independent front suspension in 1934. He said, "We use transverse springs for the same reason that we use round wheels – because we have found nothing better for the purpose."

The V-8 Ford was a popular automobile. In 1935, it even managed to outsell Chevrolet, which was quite a feat back then. The performance potential of the Ford V-8 appealed to the go-faster crowd, whether its member be interested in a fast getaway (as with the bank-robbing Clyde Barrow, who wrote Henry Ford a testimonial letter) or a legal one (Ford V-8s virtually ruled stock car racing for several years, and Ford racing specials were a mainstay of the Automobile Racing Club of America in the mid-to-late 1930s).

In 1937, Ford introduced its smaller 60hp V-8 in a cheaper line of cars. Both it and the traditional V-8 (now at 85 hp) were fast cars, although they both had mechanical brakes that made high-speed driving a bit dangerous. The smaller V-8 was not a success at the time, but the little engines are still popular in certain vintage racing applications today.

The Ford V-8 finally got four-wheel hydraulic brakes in 1939, the same year that the Mercury V-8 was introduced. This was a big reason that the 1939 and 1940 Fords became tremendously popular with early hot rodders who wanted "juice brakes" in their cars.

The 1941 Fords had fresh styling and a revamped chassis with a two-inch-longer wheelbase. A wider body substantially increased interior dimensions. Base cars were dubbed Specials. Deluxe Fords had a glove box lock, dual windshield wipers, two interior sun visors and black-painted wheels. Only the center grille portion was chromed on Deluxe models. Super Deluxe Fords had bright trim on the running board edges and chrome grille sections. A Super Deluxe script was placed on the left front fender. They also had bright rear taillight surrounds, a trunk light, a glove box-mounted clock, bright wheel trim rings, twin interior sun visors, dual wipers, a unique license plate guard and plastic Kelobra-grain dashboard trim. The Super Deluxe wheels had Vermillion or Silver Gray striping.

The 1942 Fords that rode on Wayne Lensing’s X-Ray chassis were redesigned with fully concealed running boards, new front fenders and a new hood. The headlights were designed flush with the fronts of the fenders, and horizontal parking lights were located in the sheet metal above the grille. A new grille design featured a narrow center section in conjunction with side grilles considerably larger and more squared off than previous ones.

Common to all 1942 Fords was a revised frame design that was lower by one inch than the 1941 version. All 1942 Fords also had lower and wider leaf springs, a two-inch wider tread and dual lateral stabilizer bars. The transition to a wartime economy brought many material substitutes in the 1942 models. Among the more obvious were the use of plastic interior components and the replacement of nickel by molybdenum in valves, gears and shafts.

The new Ford looked larger and more massive. Riding comfort was improved slightly due to the use of longer springs. Larger brake pistons split the braking power 60-40 front and rear, instead of the previous 55-45. The redesigned frame was more rigid. New rubber rear engine mounts were adopted.

Deluxe models were equipped with the bumpers used on the 1941 Super Deluxe models. The grille frame was painted in body color. Unique to the Deluxe Ford was its center grille panel with "Deluxe" spelled out vertically, in bright letters, against a blue background. The wheel covers were painted to match body color. The Deluxe instrument panel was finished in Crackle Mahogany grain.

Ford’s Super Deluxe grille had its bright work accentuated by blue-painted grooves. The front and rear bumpers had ridges along their upper surface. A Super Deluxe script was now positioned just below the left headlight. The taillights on all 1942 models were horizontal, but the Super Deluxe lights had bright trim plates. Unique to Super Deluxe Fords was bright trim on the windshield, rear window and side windows. The wheel covers were painted to match body color and carried three stripes. Wheel trim rings were standard. The interior included an electric clock, a left-hand front door armrest, a steering wheel with a full-circle horn ring and crank-operated front vent windows. The instrument panel was done in Sequoia grain. Sedans and Sedan Coupes had assist cords.

Ford serial numbers were located on the left frame member directly behind the front engine mount. V-8 numbers started at 18-6769036 and ended at 18-6925878. A "C" prefix indicates a Canadian cart. Engine numbers for 1942 Ford V-8s were 18-6769036 to 18-6925898.

Only one flathead V-8 was offered in 1942. It was a 90-degree V-8 with a cast iron block and three main bearings. Its bore and stroke measurements were 3-1/16 x 3-3/4 inches for 221ci. With a 6.2:1 compression ratio it developed 95 hp at 3800 rpm and 156 lb-ft of torque at 2200 rpm. The engine had mechanical valve lifters and a Ford 21A-9510A two-barrel downdraft carburetor.

Perched on the 114-inch wheelbase introduced in 1941, the 1942 models measured 194.4 inches bumper-to-bumper. They were 68.15 inches high. They had a 58-inch front tread and 60-inch rear tread and rode on 6.00 x 16 tires.

Behind the V-8 was a three-speed sliding gear transmission with single reverse gear. Floor shift controls were featured. A single dry plate, molded asbestos lining clutch was used. The drive shaft connected to a three-quarter floating rear axle with a 3.78:1 overall ratio. Hydraulic brakes were mounted on all four wheels.

Popular accessories for 1942 Ford included fender skirts and center bumper guards. A radio was available for $39. A hot air heater cost $23, but a cheaper hot water heater was available for just $20. Whitewall tires were $15. Bumper guards retailed for just $2.75 a pair. An oil filter could be added to the engine for $6.14. Other dress-up goodies included a side view mirror, a passenger side mirror, a sport light, a locking gas cap, fog lights, seat covers, a visor-vanity mirror and wheel trim rings. Functional options included a defroster and a radio foot control feature.

1942 Ford Models, Specs and Production
Model No.,     Model and Seating         Price     Weight      Production

Ford Special Model 1GA Six-Cylinder
2GA 77C       2d Coupe-3P                  780       2910         1606
2GA 70C       2d Sedan-6P                  815
      3053         3187
2GA 73C       4d Sedan-6P                  850
      3093         27,189

Ford Deluxe Model 2GA Six-Cylinder
2GA 77A      2d 5W Coupe-3P             805
       2958       
2GA 72A      2d Sedan Cpe-6P            865
       3045       
2GA 70A      2d Sedan-6P                   840
        3122       
2GA 73A      4d Sedan-6P                   875
       3141       
2GA 79A      4d Station Wag-8P          1035
      3400       

Ford Super Deluxe Model 2GA Six-Cylinder
2GA 77B     2d 5W Coupe-3P
              850        3030       
2GA 72B     2d Sedan Cpe-6P
            910        3109       
2GA 76       2d Convertible-5P 
           1080       3218       
2GA 70B     2d Sedan-6P
                    885        3136       
2GA 73B     4d Sedan-6P
                    920        3179       
2GA 79B     4d Station Wag-8P 
          1115       3453       

Ford Deluxe Model 2GA V-8
21A 77A
     2d 5W Coupe-3P              815        2978        5936
21A 72A
     2d Sedan Cpe-6P             875        3065        5419
21A 70A
     2d Sedan-6P                    850       3141        27,302
21A 73A
     4d Sedan-6P                    885        3161        5127
21A 79A
      4d Station Wag-8P           1090      3460        567

Ford Super Deluxe Model 21A V-8
21A 77B
     2d 5W Coupe-3P             860        3050        5411
21A 72B
     2d Sedan Cpe-6P            920        3120        13,543
21A 76
       2d Convertible-5P            1090       3238        2920
21A 70B
     2d Sedan-6P                   895        3159        37,199
21A 73B
     4d Sedan-6P                   930        3200        24,846
21A 79B
     4d Station Wag-8P         1125        3468        5483




The X-Ray chassis was built to promote new Ford features at auto shows. The "Big Foot" Ford monster truck sits behind it in the Lensing Auto Museum.



A flip sign teases museum visitors to guess the year of the X-ray Ford. Museum owner Wayne Lensing says that most hot rodders can hit the nail on the head or at least get pretty close.



This flip card suggests that the car was rolled off the assembly line incomplete to help the home front effort during World War II.



The 95hp V-8 first appeared in 1939, and rodders will kill for such a mill today. This one is fitted with the optional canister-type oil filter at the rear of the LH head.



If you want a true "old school" tire and wheel setup, this unaltered 1942 Ford X-Ray car serves as a perfect model of the way they were.



Many rodders replace the Ford gearbox, often with a LaSalle unit. Most modern rodders wind up ditching that (red) under-the-floor brake master cylinder.



Although hot rodders change many things from stock, it can be nice to have a "factory" reference for bending fluid lines and setting up pedal linkages.



The open 1942 drive shaft connected to a three-quarter floating rear axle with a 3.78:1 overall ratio. Transverse rear leaf springs were retained until 1949.



All Fords after 1932 had prelubricated shackle studs at each end of the rear leaf spring. Radius rods supported the rear axle with such a setup



Original Fords used a single exhaust system, but rodders prefer dual exhausts with a throaty "Smittie" muffler on each side of the chassis.



This is usually rusty junk when rodders access it, but for those relying on the factory brake and clutch linkages, this X-Ray Ford is a great reference point.



Rodders seeking the popular "Old School" look have their steering wheels restored like this, but the wheel on the show chassis is an untouched original.



The X-Ray Ford can’t be used to reference colors. The chassis and engine hues are not factory correct and the engine has added bright trim pieces.



The Ford factory stuck to primitive suspensions. You’re not going to see a lot of rodders retaining these NOS lever-type front shocks.




Both Fords and Mercurys adopted this Torsion Type Stabilizer when the 85hp cars arrived in 1940. Many rodders switch to sub-frame setups today.



Any hot rodders who keep the factory suspension could use the X-Ray Ford to determine the correct placement of each part.

 

The gas tank is mounted at the rear of the chassis. Note the rubber body mounting "donuts" on the rear of the frame and at the top of the kick-up.



Sturdy squared-off U-bolts (which are 70 years old but still look like new) were used to attach the transverse rear spring to the chassis cross member.



This is usually rusty junk when rodders access it, but for those relying on the factory brake and clutch linkages, this X-Ray Ford is a great reference point.



Also displayed at the Lensing Auto Museum is this 239ci 100hp 1948 Mercury flathead that is stock on its blue side. (Note changed oil filter location.).



The other side of the Mercury V-8 is painted red and represents a typical modified 320-cid flathead with dual carbs, Offenhauser heads and 238-250hp.

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