Rides from the Readers: 1940 Ford coupe hot rod

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1940 Ford Coupe
Eric Wittak

Hagerty readers and Hagerty Drivers Club members share their cherished collector and enthusiast vehicles with us via our contact email, tips@hagerty.com. We’re showcasing some of our favorite stories among these submissions. To have your car featured, send complete photography and your story of ownership to the above email address.

Today’s featured car is a 1940 Ford coupe hot rod. Owner and builder Eric Wittak spend much of the ’70s racing at Great Lakes Dragaway in Union Grove, Wisconsin. Inspired by the Stone, Woods, and Cook’s Willys gasser, Wittak decided to build a Willys street rod. However, he’d take a few detours on the way. The first was a 1939 Plymouth coupe. The second came in the form of a beautiful original 1940 Ford coupe. Wittak promptly sold the Plymouth to finance his new project and got to work.

1940 Ford Coupe
Eric Wittak

“It needed a lot of sheetmetal,” Wittak writes. He got right to work tubing the Ford’s rear wheel wells and boxing in a new frame, including a cross member made from 1-inch thick-wall steel to accommodate the new drivetrain: a Boss 302 mated to a four-speed Toploader and turning 4:11 gears in a 9-inch rear end. Naturally, he upgraded the turning and stopping systems as well, adding power steering and power disc brakes all around. The interior wasn’t left out, either; after a 3-inch chop to the roof, Wittak installed power windows, a power seat from a Mercury Sable, shoulder harnesses, and a walnut dash with VDO gauges.

“A lot of my parts came from donor cars,” Wittak writes. The time invested in sourcing parts, in addition to the dozens of hours spent doing the mechanical work (and paint!), enhances the build’s significance to him. “This car has a lot of meaning to me because I didn’t buy all the parts from a catalogue.”

“It’s still not a Willys,” Wittak admits, “but you never know what the future has in store!”

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