Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press
Winnipeg’s Rick MacKay says his 1933 Ford three-window, rumble-seat coupe was a real find. The car will make its debut today at Piston Ring’s World of Wheels car show.
While 1932 saw the Ford Motor Company undertake the multi-million-dollar launch of its new Ford V-8, the 1933 model posed a new set of hurdles. Henry Ford saw model changes as “the curse of the industry.”
Yet, faced with ongoing competition, he delivered one of the most streamlined bodies ever mass-produced in a low-price car line. Totally new, from its X-braced frame up, the 1933 Ford featured a new, rakishly laid-back grille and long flowing fenders that gave the car the illusion of motion — even while standing still.
Still suffering through the Great Depression, new car purchases were slow, but the three-window coupe was very popular. Offered as a standard or De Luxe model, it could also be had with an optional rumble seat, to carry additional passengers. Through the 1940s and ’50s, the coupe was the model of choice for hot-rodders and the car saw several incarnations to match the current trends. Ten years later, the coupes were becoming harder to find, yet their popularity remained strong, thanks to Pete Chapouris of Pete & Jakes Hot Rod Parts. Dubbed the California Kid, their coupe was featured in a 1973 television movie of the same name, starring Martin Sheen and Vic Morrow.
For many years, fibreglass replica bodies of the ’33 and ’34 could be purchased. But, finding a real steel coupe was becoming a challenge. Today, the steel coupes are revered as the best of the best from the 1930s.
For Rick MacKay of Winnipeg, his 1933 Ford three-window, rumble-seat coupe was a real find. While on a family vacation in 1995 with his wife Tuulikki in Indian Lake, Ont., they saw it sitting in a nearby garage. MacKay wasn’t looking for a car at the time, but he saw the body was solid and complete. Having been hot-rodded in the 1950s and last driven in 1960, the engine was out for a rebuild. When asked if it was for sale, the owner reluctantly gave a price and MacKay said he’d get back to him.
“Being on vacation, I had a video camera, so I took a video of the car and showed it to a few friends when I returned home,” MacKay says. “The reaction to the video was that I needed to purchase the car, so I made the deal and started to build a garage for it.” Over the next 23 years, MacKay worked on the car a bit at a time, and with help from friends, he made some slow but steady progress.
With the car completely dismantled, the frame was fully rebuilt with Chassis Engineering’s forged front axle, with dropped spindles with front disc brakes, and a Jeep steering box with Flaming River steering column and a 1940 Ford steering wheel. In the back, a newer 20-centimetre Ford 3.80:1-geared rear axle rides on new Posies dual leaf springs. Rolling stock features 38-cm, chrome steel wheels, with stainless beauty rings and chrome V-8 caps, turning BFG Silvertown wide-whitewall radial tires.
For the body, Walter Kowalsky at Kowalsky Kustoms performed the body work and metal fabrication.
All original steel except for the new reproduction rear fenders, it’s a solid car. Final preparation and application of the gloss-black paint and clear coat was the work of Ken Kolisnyk. Doug Bobbie stitched and installed the new red vinyl “tuck-’n-roll” upholstery and black carpet.
Powering the coupe is a 1950s vintage 239-cubic-inch Ford flathead V-8, over bored 0.1016 centimetres and fitted with Offenhauser finned aluminum cylinder heads and Sharps dual deuce aluminum intake manifold.
An MSD electronic distributor, flex fan and 12-volt alternator top off the mechanicals. Assembled and tuned by Bob Sterner, it combines that ’50s nostalgic look with new-world reliability. Exhaust duties are handled with a set of exhaust headers leading to a custom dual exhaust system with Smithy’s mufflers. Backing the flathead powerplant is a highway-friendly five-speed manual overdrive transmission, for added cruising capability.
MacKay credits the coupe’s final fit and finish to Bobbie, Sterner and Randy Kehler from Vintage Tin. With only a few test miles from last summer, MacKay’s ’33 Ford three-window coupe will make its show debut today at Piston Ring’s World of Wheels car show. It’s all part of a stunning local hot rod display that you can only find in river city. See you there!
Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press
This ford model features a 1940 Ford steering wheel.