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Only problem with 1940 Ford is driver error

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A decade and a half after Ford built 541,896 vehicles in 1940 they were still popular. Timeless styling and the venerable flathead V-8 engine proved to be a winning combination.

Toby Aaron recalls that in his Highland Park, Ill., high school days, a 1940 Ford was THE car to own though he did not have one. About a half century later, Mr. Aaron set out to belatedly correct the situation. He began looking for a 1940 Ford and wanted one of the 23,704 convertibles that were manufactured.

Thanks to the Internet, the hunt was brief. He located a Yosemite Green 1940 Ford Deluxe convertible coupe in Balston Spa, N.Y., north of Schenectady. He asked for pictures of the car and then enlisted the aid of a friend who is knowledgeable about 1940 Fords. More photos were requested, along with additional information.

Reassured by his friend, Mr. Aaron began negotiating and eventually, a deal was made. Mr. Aaron purchased a car sight unseen. "What am I doing?" he thought.

The Ford made the trip to Mr. Aaron's McLean home in a truck a year ago next month. He was anxious before the car was unloaded from the truck on 6.00x16-inch white sidewall tires but afterward, he was relieved and extremely pleased. "It's a wonderful car," he says.

He noted that each half of the two-piece windshield had a wiper but that inside the handsome cockpit, only the driver's door had an armrest.

Papers that came with the car indicate fluid capacities are 5 quarts of oil, 22 quarts of coolant and 15 gallons of gasoline. A two-barrel downdraft carburetor of the Chandler-Groves design feeds fuel to the 221-cubic-inch V-8 engine to enable it to produce 85 horsepower in order to move the 2,956-pound convertible.

When new the Ford had a base price of $849, however, the original owner of Mr. Aaron's car most certainly paid substantially more because the car is equipped with extra cost accessories including:

• Oil filter.

• AM radio.

• Exterior mirrors.

• Rear fender skirts.

• visor vanity mirror.

• Oil bath air cleaner.

• Bumper end guards.

• Bumper grille guard.

• Locking gasoline cap.

• Wheel inner trim rings.

The radio antenna is mounted on a swivel immediately above the center of the windshield. Mr. Aaron surmises that the previous owner of his car must have been very tall because the driver's seat was close to the floor.

Mr. Aaron had the nice upholstery wrapped around new seat springs and now he can see out over the two-spoke steering wheel.

As for the two exterior mirrors on long, graceful swan-neck stanchions, Mr. Aaron says, "I can't even see the right one."

The 100 mph speedometer is directly in front of the driver while the front seat passenger can view the clock in the glove compartment door.

To lower the tan top, the three chrome-plated clamps above the windshield must first by unlatched. A hydraulic pump then provides the muscle to lower or raise the top. "It works pretty good," Mr. Aaron reports.

In the raised position, the glass rear window is so small it hinders visibility.

However, the window is mounted in a larger section of the top that can be opened. "Doing so," Mr. Aaron says, "increases visibility by 300 percent."

To make the best use of trunk space, the spare tire is mounted horizontally.

From a design standpoint, running boards were one the way out, yet the rubber-coated ones on the 1940 Ford appear to blend into the lines of the car quite naturally. Riding on a 112-inch wheelbase enables the car to be turned in a 38-foot, 2-inch circle.

Mr. Aaron admits to over-engineering the starting process and says any trouble he has encountered in starting his car has been "driver error."

"I'm still getting used to it," he says. "I've learned to just get in and start it."

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