Styling inspired by the luxurious Lincoln and affordable V-8 power made the 1940 Ford an instant classic that is today revered by hot rodders and collectors alike. Concord-based old-car collectors Dennis Carpenter and Fletch Little will display their '40 Fords during the icon's 70th anniversary celebration to be held at Charlotte Motor Speedway's Food Lion AutoFair, which takes place on a new date this year, Aug. 26-29.

The '40 Ford gathering will be accompanied by the world's only collection of street legal bumper cars, a display of Hippie Vans and a visit from 92-year-old internet phenomenon Rachel Veitch and her 563,000-mile '64 Mercury Comet.

Local Ties

In 1968, Carpenter was having trouble finding interior parts to restore a 1940 Ford Deluxe convertible. After much experimentation in his basement, he reproduced a set of plastic dash knobs for the '40, which led him to establish Dennis Carpenter Ford Restoration Parts. Forty years later, the company sells parts for many pre-war and post-war Ford Motor Co. models from its 300,000-square-foot facility a half-mile north of Charlotte Motor Speedway. The '40 Ford convertible that launched this internationally known supplier to the old-car hobby will be displayed at the Food Lion AutoFair.

Little began his infatuation with pre-war Ford automobiles in 1977, when he restored a '40 coupe. An active member of the Early Ford V-8 Club and a 20-year Food Lion AutoFair veteran, Little currently owns 12 cars from the period, one of which is a bright red '40 Ford Standard coupe he has modified with a modern Mustang V-8 engine, automatic transmission and electric windows, seats and antenna.

History of the 1940 Ford

Henry Ford may have put the world on wheels when he introduced the

1909 Model T, but the public's transportation needs changed dramatically by the time he sold his 15-millionth copy in 1927. Drivers wanted to go faster in vehicles that looked less like farm tools and more like rolling status symbols. Ford's wildly anticipated 1928-'31 Model A brought many mechanical advances such as hydraulic brakes on all four wheels, advanced shock absorbers, and a 40-horsepower four-cylinder engine that doubled the Model T's output. It was a giant leap forward in the company's product development.

For 1932, Henry Ford performed the seemingly impossible task of bringing a V-8 engine, the legendary 50-horsepower "flathead," to the low-price, mass market many years ahead of chief competitor Chevrolet.

Henry's son Edsel, serving as Ford Motor Co.'s president since 1919, wanted the Ford line to have as much visual appeal as the corporation's expensive Lincoln automobiles, so designers were encouraged to create a family resemblance. "We're the company that builds the fabulous Lincoln Continentals," Ford's sedans, coupes, roadsters, and wagons seemed to boast from 1933 to '40.

This philosophy led to an eight-year-run of boldly aerodynamic grilles, round, full fenders and bodies that leaned into or back from the wind. Ford products from that period had flair and distinguished themselves from other entry-level brands. However, the new-for-1941 line was built on a longer, larger chassis with stern, "grown-up" styling, effectively killing the fun factor that had helped the company average a half-million car sales annually during the worst economic conditions in America's history.

Because civilian auto production was suspended during World War II, those final pre-war Fords, especially the stylish 1940 models, became highly prized as used cars. At the same time, thousands of soldiers came home with fresh fabricating, welding and mechanical skills, looking to turn everything on four wheels into a hot rod. Car customizers were naturally attracted to the '40 Ford with its Lincoln-esque beauty and V-8 performance.

The '40 Ford is also legendary among stock car racers. Curtis Turner, who was instrumental in building Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1960, was just one driver who started his racing career with a 1940 Ford following World War II. The cars were plentiful and easy to make into racers and they were famously used to haul illegal moonshine through the Carolina mountains.

Food Lion AutoFair

Hours for the Aug. 26-29 Food Lion AutoFair are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday. Ticket prices are $10 for adults; children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking for the event is $5. For more information on the four-day event, contact the speedway events department at (704) 455-3205 or visit

 

www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.