(from Ford Press
Release) Edsel Bryant Ford’s 1934 Model 40 Special Speedster
Debuts at Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance
Discoveries during restoration
confirm originality of design and engineering
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif.,
Aug. 19, 2011 – It has grace, style and a 77-year history shrouded
in mystery that has intrigued automotive collectors, enthusiasts and
writers worldwide. Edsel Ford’s restored 1934 Model 40 Special
Speedster was unveiled today by Lincoln and the Edsel & Eleanor Ford
House at The Lodge, Pebble Beach in Monterey County, Calif. It will
appear again on Sunday August 21, at the Pebble Beach Concours
d'Elegance. Restored to its timeless elegance, Edsel’s personal
roadster shared its story of a decades-long journey.
The Speedster’s extensive restoration by award-winning RM Auto
Restoration in Ontario, Canada, revealed the stunning, custom made
“one off” as it originally looked in 1940 after its final redesign
by Edsel and designer E. T. Gregorie. The revelations uncovered
during a year-long restoration have resolved many long-held
assumptions about the illustrious vehicle’s journey over time. But
more than a story of restoration, the vehicle provides a glimpse
into the early years of Edsel Ford’s design and automotive styling
as President of Ford Motor Company and its luxury Lincoln line.
The Speedster celebrates Edsel's eye for design that began when as a
small boy he would take pen to paper to sketch cars as well as
everyday objects. "My grandfather was an early believer that
everyday objects - including automobiles - could be seen as works of
art,” said Edsel Ford II, who unveiled the Speedster. “While he
wasn't a designer in the traditional sense, his eye for styling and
influence was apparent as he initiated and built the design
department at Ford Motor Company.”
After Edsel’s death in 1943, the Speedster crisscrossed the U.S.
making limited appearances, then it disappeared – some feared it had
been destroyed. It was last seen when it was photographed in
Hollywood in the 1950s after which it was purchased by a U.S. Navy
sailor in Florida for $603 in 1958. It didn't appear again until
Bill Warner displayed it at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in
In 2008 it was sold to a
Texas car collector for $1.76 million, then, following the
collector’s untimely death in 2010, the Speedster returned to
Edsel's home, now operated as an historic site called the Edsel &
Eleanor Ford House. Over the years, alterations were made to its
grille, engine, paint and interior - it is these alterations that
have been reversed by RM Auto Restoration to take the famous car
back to the 1940 design and engine.
The Model 40 Special Speedster
Its rich history began
in 1932 after Edsel returned from a trip to Europe. He asked Ford’s
chief designer, E.T. “Bob” Gregorie to design and supervise the
construction of a personal sports car similar to those he’d see “on
The first design reportedly disappointed Edsel because it wasn’t
lower and racier. But Gregorie, who was adept at turning Edsel’s
visions into tangible designs, went to work on a more dramatic,
streamlined design. This “continental” roadster may have started
with a stock 1934 Ford (aka Model 40) frame, but its subsequent
chassis was radically altered. The Model 40 Special Speedster was
unlike anything Ford Motor Company had built up to that time.
At 113 inches, the Speedster’s wheelbase is approximately the same
as the standard 112-inch wheelbase of a 1934 Ford roadster. Yet, it
appears longer and lower. This illusion was achieved by modifying
and lowering the car’s chassis, positioning the cockpit toward the
rear of the car and extending the tail section.
Robinson, supervisor of the Lincoln plant, and Ford Aircraft
Division personnel, fabricated a topless, taper-tailed aluminum body
with cut-down door openings and mounted it over a custom welded
tubular aluminum structural framework.
It was believed that the Speedster’s fenders were modified Trimotor
Aircraft “wheel pants,” but Ford’s aircraft fabricators undoubtedly
fashioned them from scratch. The custom-designed front cycle wings
were mounted so they turned with the car’s Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels.
The all-aluminum bodywork followed the best aircraft practice –
light and very strong.
The Speedster was painted Pearl Essence Gunmetal Dark; the interior
upholstered in complementary gray leather. The flat, engine-tuned
instrument panel incorporated period Lincoln instruments. The
2,100-pound Speedster was powered by a stock 75-bhp, Ford Model 40
flathead, with straight exhausts that were enclosed by the bodywork
with only the tips protruding.
The Speedster had low-mounted faired-in headlights, an enclosed
radiator with a concealed cap, a starter button on the instrument
panel, minimal chrome trim and no running boards – features that
didn’t appear on production Fords for years.
The Speedster’s shapely hood had louvered side panels that subtly
matched the angle of the radiator grille and the windscreen. A pair
of narrow vee-ed grilles with a single row of louvers (vents)
running the length of each side of the hood limited the flow of
cooling air. The Speedster had a tendency to overheat.
Two period photographs of the car show two different louver
treatments. One shows a single row of side louvers; the other
features two rows of louvers, one atop the other. It’s reasonable to
suspect that because of overheating issues, the hood was modified
between the times these photos were taken.
Reportedly, a winter freeze in 1939-40 cracked the engine block; a
new 239-cid, 100-bhp 09A Mercury V-8 was installed. This would have
been the most powerful version of the Ford flathead V-8 available at
By 1939, Gregorie had designed wider twin grilles for the
Lincoln-Zephyr, so it followed that he would take the same approach
for the Speedster. He redesigned the Speedster’s front end by
shortening the upper grilles and fabricating a wide, horizontal
grille for improved cooling. The new design, which required
extensive modifications to the hood, was likely completed in 1940.
The instrument panel may have been updated at the same time with a
160-mph racing type speedometer and matching Stewart-Warner
“The Model 40 Special Speedster was only enjoyed by Edsel for a few
short years before his death in 1943, but its journey was just
beginning,” said Ford House President Kathleen Mullins. “Ford House
is proud to give life to Edsel’s original vision for a unique,
The Model 40 Special Speedster has moved through almost eight
decades of owners and modifications and has returned to its early
design elegance. After Pebble Beach, its journey will continue,
ultimately returning home . . . to Ford House.
To follow the Speedster’s travels, and view the restoration process,
visit www.fordhouse.org. For video footage of the Speedster, go to
The Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich., is a
place of inspiration and discovery where visitors explore
connections to art, design, history and the environment while
celebrating Ford Family traditions. The 1934 Model 40 Special
Speedster is part of its permanent collection. For more information,
Lincoln is the luxury automotive brand for Ford Motor Company,
committed to becoming a world-class luxury brand with compelling
vehicles and an exceptional ownership experience to match. Lincoln
will launch seven new or significantly refreshed models in the next
three years. For all the latest information, please visit Lincoln at
facebook.com/lincoln, media.lincoln.com, or www.lincoln.com.