“Thumper” is a 1940 Ford Deluxe for the modern age

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I owned a 1940 Ford Deluxe coupe back in high school, and I never forgot how much I loved that car. It took almost 50 years—and a build team of nine—but I am once again the proud owner of a 1940 Ford.

I owe it to my childhood friend, Larry Seabert, owner of Tech-Ni-Kolor Autocrafters in Dwight, Illinois, who found the car in a barn in 2007 and immediately called me to ask if I wanted to have my old car back.

Of course, it wasn’t the exact car, but the barn find looked identical, and I was eager to once again get behind the wheel, so I asked Larry to start the project. He began in June 2007 and enlisted builders and fabricators from all over the country, as well as several members of my family, to help him. At the time, I was living in Dallas, but I made many trips back to Illinois to visit family and the car. There is a story behind every piece of this car, and so many people were involved in making it into what it is today.

1940 ford deluxe thumper front three-quarter and owner
Courtesy Martin Sampson

Although Larry and I wanted to re-create the look of the car I drove in high school, we also wanted to make some custom modifications and add modern features. I wanted a show car that could be driven, essentially, and the idea was to keep the look of the Deluxe coupe but to build it to 2010 specifications for drivability and safety.

1940 ford deluxe thumper rear three-quarter
Courtesy Martin Sampson

We paid special attention to creature comforts: air conditioning, power seats, steering, brakes, and windows, an XM radio with Bluetooth, and bucket seats front and back, all upholstered in dark brown leather and suede. For safety, modern shoulder seatbelts and door latches were also incorporated, and Classic Instruments supplied the gauges, which were set in a template by DC Street Rods. The original clock required winding every 36 hours; now it’s electric. Underhood is the LS1 out of a 2002 Corvette, which runs through the 4LE60 automatic from a Camaro SS. Everywhere you look, you see stainless steel and polished aluminum.

The car, named “Thumper,” also underwent significant body modifications, such as the extension of the back fenders to allow the exhaust pipes to come through the body. The door hinges were hidden and the side trim completely removed. The door corners were all rounded, and electronic remote latches were added for the doors, hood, and trunk.

1940 ford deluxe thumper side profile
Courtesy Martin Sampson

Despite the modifications, I wanted to retain many of the classic features so that it could easily be identified as a 1940 Ford. As nods to the original, I reused certain parts, like the rearview mirror, and also made the transmission work with the column gear shift, since 1940 was the first year Ford offered it.

Although the project took nearly four years to complete, it’s so wonderful to be the owner of a 1940 Ford Deluxe coupe once again. Fifty years later, I have my car back. It was worth the wait.

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