Tom Hocker ’40 Ford is making a comeback

Brandan Gillogly

A well-known California show car is almost ready for the spotlight once again. This chopped and customized coupe, known as the Tom Hocker ’40 Ford, was built and then rebuilt by Barris Kustom Industries in the 1950s. It has gone through several iterations, not uncommon for a high-caliber show car, and even made a cameo appearance in American Graffiti. Now, owner Rich Hubbard has placed it in the hands of John Canepa at Canepa Customs in Huntington Beach, California, who is restoring it to its most well-known style while going above and beyond with fit and finish.

Tom Hocker didn’t own his ’40 Ford coupe long before he began its lengthy customization process. One of the early changes was to the frame, which was modified to allow for a lower stance. The chopped top, completed at Barris Kustom Industries in Lynwood, California, came a bit later. It was done by Sam Barris, with final bodywork and paint prep by Junior Conway. George Barris was responsible for the paint. After leaving Barris’ shop, the car toured California and was featured in the November 1953 issue of Rod & Custom magazine. Even when the car wasn’t called out by name, Canepa was able to find photos of the coupe in dozens of publications. You can find some vintage photos of it on various sites dedicated to custom car history. Tom Hocker’s widow, Lois, was also able to provide lots of information about the car to help Canepa with the process.

Canepa painted the car himself and did a lot of research to get the colors just right. George Barris painted the original scallops, while Dean Jeffries pinstriped the spotlights. Legendary artist and designer Steve Stanford stepped up to recreate them. Brandan Gillogly

As you can see, tremendous progress has been made, and before long the coupe will be back in one piece. We’ll be following up as the project moves along, but for now, here’s a look at some of the fantastic work that has already been done on the chassis and drivetrain. Better take a peek before the body goes back on and it gets hidden from view!

Hocker had lowered the car before it ever found its way to Barris Kustoms. The notched frame had seen quite a few miles and had been repaired at various times over its long life. Canepa found a clean ’40 frame and started fresh for the rebuild. This frame has been notched, with the X-member brilliantly extended to blend into boxing panels that reinforce the sectioned portion. Further, the crossmember that holds the transverse rear leaf spring has been flattened to yield the proper rear stance.

The 1953 Cadillac 331-cubic-inch V-8 was a fantastic find. The low-mileage mill was in such great shape that it didn’t need a rebuild. After a thorough inspection, it was buttoned back up, masked off, and painted. Cadillac’s 331 debuted in 1949, the same year as Olds rolled out its Rocket V-8. Both were overhead-valve designs that brought a lot of power to the market and found favor among hot-rodders. Hocker’s coupe used a hopped-up flathead until the early ’50s but switched to a 331 Cadillac V-8 by 1957.

Canepa has made quite a lot of progress on the build, which is planned to appear early next year in time for the 70th anniversary of the coupe’s 1953 Oakland Roadster Show debut. The body is looking as beautiful as ever and we’re sure the chassis never looked this good. We’ll be following along as the car is completed and hope to see it at Pomona for the 2023 Grand National Roadster Show!

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