1935 Ford three-window V8 back on the road

1935 Ford V8 coupé - Photograph by Tom Pilston

1935 Ford V8 coupé – Photograph by Tom Pilston

Ford Motor Co Ltd chose not to exhibit at the 1935 Motor Show at Olympia. Instead, for the same period, 17-26th October, they went westwards to the more fashionable part of Kensington for their own Ford Motor Exhibition. In the exclusive surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall they announced the new 22hp V8 Model 60. This was an ‘economical’ model designed to comply with the British taxation system, and formed the basis for the European smaller capacity eight until the outbreak of war. For annual road tax purposes this 2226cc engine was rated at £16.10s, whereas cars powered by the larger 30hp Ford V8 attracted a tax of £22.10s annually. But the smaller engine proved unreliable and the Model 60 was short lived. Many owners asked Ford to exchange it for the Model 62 unit which came out in 1936.

The car belonging to David Acon, which is described here, is a three-window coupé that was probably built in Canada as a Model 48 30hp. This model was also built in that country as a ‘colonial’ version for sale in British Empire markets. This particular car was sent over to Dagenham for assembly with the smaller engine, transmission, rear axle and right-hand drive controls. British built cars can be identified by the trafficators on stalks, sidelamps on top of the wings, different headlamp reflectors with the vertical post and, of course, the 30mph warning line on the speedometer.
JB 7203 was ordered at the Albert Hall Show by Dr Robert Shepard and his wife Zoë and supplied through A W Heybourn and Co Ltd, of Maidenhead. It came with its side panels, wheels and headlamps finished in Ivory. This paint job was an extra which cost Dr Shepard another £2.10s after a 50 per cent discount. At some time very early on in the car’s career, as recorded in the 1939 log book, it was fitted with the replacement Model 62 engine which it retains.
After Dr Shepard’s death in 1940, the car was laid up for the remainder of the war. His widow had it re-commissioned in 1950 by Stevenson’s Automobile Sales Ltd, of Maidenhead. It was then used for a short time before being returned to the garage. In 1962 two schoolboys, Jem Bowkett and John Brice, badgered Zoë Shepard into letting them clean the car up and get it running. By the time they went back to school at the end of the summer holiday, JB 7203 had been cleaned, was running and had water in its cooling system. Unfortunately the big freeze of 1962-63 took its toll and one of the stainless steel water jacket plates was pushed out of shape by the ice, which popped the welds securing it to the block. The car remained in this state until it appeared in a Sotheby’s auction in 1978, when it was bought by an American collector living in the United Kingdom, Bob Bass, for £5000 – much more than it was worth. David Acon remembers buying a second-hand E-type around that time for £1250, for example.

Eventually Bass took the car back to the USA, where unsuccessful attempts were made to repair the damage. Bob Bass died in 2012 and David Acon, who had been researching an English Model A Ford cabriolet, got to hear about it, loved the coupé shape and realised how rare it was in right hand drive form. He bought the car and had it shipped back to the UK. No sooner had it been cleared through Customs in November, 2013, than David dusted it down and it was taken directly to the Classic Car Show at the NEC, where it was displayed on the Early Ford V8 Club stand. Up to that time the car had covered only 19,652 miles. It had spent most of its life in storage. The various buildings in which it had been kept had been dry and the car had survived in very good condition. It was completely original – nothing had been altered apart from the engine exchange by the Ford dealer early in its life. The paintwork was a little dull and one or two small areas had been touched up, but that was all. Even the floor mats were the original ones.

The main problem was the damaged engine. David took the car to Ford V8 engine specialist Jim Turnbull, of Royal Kustoms at Holton Heath in Dorset. The brief he was given was that everything possible should be done to keep the car original. David says ‘He has done a brilliant job and enjoyed every minute of the chase.’ The fuel tank had to be replaced – it would have been difficult to repair the original; the fuel gauge was inoperable and spares for it are impossible to get. Jim installed an original electric replacement, as fitted to the 1936 model, so as to keep the original instrument face. Replacement electric fuel pumps for this model are apparently quite hard to find, too. In the end Jim collected together four old ones and made a good working one out of them. New wheel bearings and brake shoes were fitted, as well as new tyres. The back axle and gearbox were inspected, cleaned and refilled. The dynamo and starter motor were overhauled but the water pumps had to be replaced with new/old stock. A small section of the wiring loom had to be replaced and a new coil obtained. The engine itself remained the main problem. New/old stock spares for these smaller V8s are very hard to come by. Jim explains that the stainless steel water jacket plates which had been damaged by the frost were originally welded to the block, a very tricky operation that virtually no present-day welder would tackle. In the end, they were reshaped to the original dimensions, electron beam tack welded in place, then brazed and silver soldered. The engine was rebored and fitted with new pistons and rings. The crankshaft was reground to a size for which shells were available. The camshaft proved to be reusable. The aluminium heads were beyond repair, having crumbled away in places, but a new/old stock pair was eventually found. The radiator was completely blocked up with dirt and rust and had to be recored.

This is a very pretty car. Its cloth bench seat has attracted the moth, but will be left in its original condition. The roof lining is complete. The original rear blind is in place and the opening rear window works perfectly. The instruments were in working order and just needed to be cleaned. The two-seater dickey is still upholstered in the original leathercloth. The paintwork is faded in places and there are knocks and some damage to the Ivory finish, but it will not be repainted. No attempt has been made to disguise the fact that the engine has been completely rebuilt. The rarity of JB 7203 should not be forgotten: it is the only known 22hp model coupé to survive that was made in Dagenham in right-hand drive form. In post-war years many like it, and similar models, were sought by the early stock car racing fraternity and driven to destruction. David wants it to remain in its Oily Rag state and be shown at selected events that are appropriate. What better year to do this than 2015, which will mark 80 years since it was built?

1935 Ford V8 coupé - Photograph by Tom Pilston

1935 Ford V8 coupé – Photograph by Tom Pilston

1935 Ford V8 coupé - Photograph by Tom Pilston

1935 Ford V8 coupé – Photograph by Tom Pilston

Words: Michael Ware
Photographs: Tom Pilston
This article originally appeared in The Automobile magazine

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