- The Washington Times - Friday, June 13, 2003

A well-worn black 1939 Ford served as transportation for high-school student Dave Blum. Back in the 1950s a teenager couldn’t go wrong with a flathead V-8 Ford.

He would much rather have had a Deluxe convertible coupe. However, with typical teenager finances, he considered himself lucky to have even a standard model two-door sedan.

By February 2003 both high school and the Ford were distant memories. That’s when Mr. Blum finally got the Ford that he had wanted for 50 years.

A black 1939 Ford Deluxe convertible coupe with a rumble seat was available in Longwood, Fla. With a dual-downdraft carburetor, the 221-cubic-inch, 85-horsepower, V-8 engine had recently been overhauled and had been driven less than 100 miles since the rebuild.

A trusted friend in Florida agreed to give the car a once-over for Mr. Blum and he pronounced it fit.

Mr. Blum purchased the Ford sight unseen.

The 1939 model year was the last year in which Ford offered a rumble seat, as well as the last year for a floor-mounted gearshift lever and non-sealed-beam headlights.

It was, however, the first year for hydraulic brakes, which competitors Plymouth had had from its first car in 1928 and Chevrolet introduced in 1935.

When Ford finally climbed on the hydraulic-brake bandwagon, it outdid the competition by installing huge 12-inch brake drums.

Ford offered the 1939 convertible in 10 colors plus black with a choice of two convertible tops:

• Tan-gray with tan edging.

• Black with red edging.

The three-passenger Ford has russet leather upholstery. Pull the driver’s seatback forward and the spare tire is exposed. The dashboard originally had a golden mahogany finish, but the years and sunlight have taken their toll and the finish has faded.

Of the 487,000 Fords that were manufactured in 1939, only 10,422 were convertible coupes, less than 3 percent of the total. They sold with a base price of $788.

When the 2,840-pound car arrived in Virginia, Mr. Blum was most impressed with the fact that the doors fit. They didn’t sag, which was unusual for 1939 Ford convertibles with a few years of wear. Additionally, he says, “It has never been hot-rodded.”

There was an exhaust leak when he got the car, which a new gasket corrected. A new oil breather cap appears to be in order as well.

Brake cylinder work was accomplished because it’s always nice to be able to stop when necessary.

Mr. Blum has noticed a few frayed wires so a new wiring harness is in future plans.

Because his car is a Deluxe model, it has two taillights, two windshield wipers, bumper guards and a clock in the glove compartment door.

Attaining the full capability of the 100 mph speedometer is within the realm of possibility with the venerable V-8 engine.

A pair of gracefully curved swan-neck exterior mirrors sprout from the door hinges to alleviate the extreme blind spot created by the convertible top. Unfortunately, the right side mirror is virtually useless to the driver. Still, it looks marvelous.

An oval interior mirror is as functional as it can be when the top is up and actually useful when the top is down.

Seated behind the three-spoke “banjo” steering wheel, Mr. Blum reports, “It starts like a snap.” One touch of the starter button is all it takes.

At the hub of the steering wheel is a lever that controls the headlights. Just below the starter button on the dashboard is the hand brake.

The one thing Mr. Blum wishes his car had is a Columbia overdrive. On the other hand, he has no intention of taking his car on any long-distance trips where overdrive would be advantageous.

Above the 22 vertical “teeth” in the grille is the engine hood release, cleverly camouflaged in the V-8 emblem.

The nimble Ford rides on a 112-inch wheelbase and can be turned in a 40-foot circle.. Fluid capacities are average for the era including 15 gallons of gasoline, 21 quarts of coolant and five quarts of oil.

The convertible has a road clearance of 8.5 inches, a reminder of pre-World War II road conditions.

By 1939 roads had been improved to permit high speeds, which essentially made rumble seats obsolete.

The 1939 Ford, the last of the breed, still has two step plates on the right rear fender for access to the open-air rumble seat.

Unlike earlier models, this rumble seat is spring-loaded, which means that whoever opens it must twist the chrome handle at the base of the rear of the car while placing an arresting hand at the top of the rumble seat. This eases it into the open position, avoiding the thunderous slamming of the seat.

Mr. Blum hasn’t yet had many opportunities to enjoy his convertible, but with summer approaching he intends to get those 6.00x16-inch tires rolling.

Monday will mark the 100th anniversary of the Ford Motor Co., a perfect time to take his 64-year-old Ford out for a cruise to honor the man who put the world on wheels.

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