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Lot 139

1933 Ford V8 Station Wagon

  • Chassis no. 18397590

Sold for $148,500

Model 40. 75 bhp, 221 cu. in. Flathead V8 engine, three-speed manual transmission, solid front axle and live rear axle with transverse semi-elliptic leaf springs, four-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 112"

The success of Ford’s new V8 was immediate. More than 200,000 were sold in the introductory 1932 model year, as opposed to 185,000 Model B four-cylinder cars. For 1933 the Ford was given a new cruciform double-drop chassis frame, and its wheelbase stretched half a foot to 112 inches. Evolutionary upgrades were made to the engine: improved ignition and cooling systems, and new aluminum heads with 6.3 to 1 compression that raised horsepower to 75. The major change to Fords for 1933, however, concerned the body. Interestingly, the design had British origins.

The Ford Motor Company, Ltd, had been operating in Britain since 1911. The Model T proved popular there, achieving a market penetration in the 1920s approaching 50 percent. However, Herbert Austin’s tiny Austin Seven began making inroads from its introduction in 1922, aided in no small measure by the fact that its small bore 46 cubic inch engine was taxed at barely one third the rate for a Model T. The Model A, with larger bore yet, was even worse. A smaller bore engine was developed, the Model AF, but its performance was disappointing. Sir Percival Perry, Ford’s British managing director, began development of a small car with an eight-horsepower rating, competitive with the Austin Seven. It was introduced as the Model Y in February 1932. Styling of the Model Y was delegated to Dearborn, and a young designer recently hired at Lincoln.

Eugene Turenne Gregorie , called “Bob” by his friends, had designed yachts for the Elco Corporation and at Cox and Stevens, a New York naval architecture firm. However, it was his tenure at coachbuilders Brewster & Company that brought him to the automobile industry. Laid off in 1929, as the custom body business deteriorated, he went to Detroit and was hired by Henry Crecelius, a former Brewster colleague who had become chief body engineer at Lincoln. Gregorie’s work became well-regarded in a short time, so when the “little English job” came in he was asked, he later recalled, to “design us a nice, up-to-date body for it.”

Applying some of his nautical themes, Gregorie slanted a flat windshield back, and employed a similarly sloped grille whose silhouette suggested a heart shape. Headlamps were mounted directly to the fenders, and the doors hinged at the rear, opening, in the common parlance, “suicide fashion.” Both Edsel Ford and Perry liked Gregorie’s design, and the Model Y went quickly to production.

For the 1933 American Ford, Edsel wanted a more graceful design than the 1932 style. It was Edsel himself who came up with the idea of using Gregorie’s Model Y concept for the lengthened 1933 Ford. He asked his draftsmen to simply scale it up. Taking the new drawings to the design’s creator, he asked Gregorie “How do you like it?”

“Fine,” said Gregorie, and fine it was. The Model Y’s proportions had survived a mechanical scaling, becoming, if anything, more beautiful in the process. This proved the wisdom that scaling up an attractive car is much more successful than shrinking one down.

The perpendicular surfaces of the station wagon body, however, took some effort to integrate with the new contours. This work was entrusted to Murray, builder of most of Ford’s wagon bodies. Amos Northup was chief designer at Murray Corporation of America, responsible for many Lincoln and Packard bodies, as well as Ford’s attractive A400 and B400 convertible sedans. He oversaw the rework of the front of the wagon body to create a sloping A pillar and teardrop-shaped front door. In the process, the front doors became wider, the rears narrower and the roof gained a subtle slope at the front. These hallmarks would remain for many years, long after the suicide front doors that spawned them had disappeared.

Industry sales for 1933 increased some 40 percent over dismal 1932. Ford’s increase, at 44 percent, bettered the average, and station wagon sales improved even more. What was dramatic, however, was the way the V8 engine took over. From a distinct minority of wagon production in 1932, the V8 commandeered more than 80 percent in 1933.

Originally from an estate in Massachusetts this car was purchased in the early seventies by Bob Slack, a well known Ford collector who was famous for acquiring well maintained unrestored ‘32, ‘33 and ‘34 Fords and warehousing them. His health failed and his collection was auctioned in 1999. Given its original paint, wood and upholstery, the decision to restore this car was quite difficult and Nick took almost two years before finally deciding to commence restoration.

All told, this Station Wagon required only modest effort to return to near-showroom condition. Its wood is all original, with only the slightest staining at the joints and discoloration on the tailgate. The varnish is impeccable. The hood and cowl harmonize in authentic brown, while the fenders are finished in gloss black. All metal contours are smooth and correct, the alignment of the wood body is excellent, and the doors close perfectly with even gaps. The roof is covered in new brown artificial leather. The black spoked wheels are fitted with 5.25/5.50-17 Firestone blackwall tires, new in 2002. The spare is mounted in the right front fender. The car’s body number 1281 dates from September 1933.

The brightwork is similarly excellent, with only the occasional scratch. The windshield is correct Ford safety glass; the side portals are protected with canvas side curtains, which slide into place, while the tailgate curtain snaps on. The running boards are covered in new black rubber in the correct pattern. An authentic accessory mirror is fitted to the driver’s windshield post.

The seats are upholstered in new black-brown artificial leather, and two lap belts are installed in front. The floor has new brown rubber mats, front and rear. The dashboard is painted in matching brown and the restored instruments are set into an attractive damascened panel. The odometer reads less than 2,600 miles, and the black steering wheel is in excellent condition.

The engine compartment is clean with only modest signs of use. The engine is painted in Ford Green, while the cylinder heads and intake manifold show their natural aluminum finish. The chassis and underbody are painted gloss black and show some road dirt, commensurate with the regular exercise that all cars in the collection receive. The car runs well and is ready to be driven anywhere. It is registered with California year-of-manufacture plates 1C6541, which go with the car.

The car was judged at 990 points at Dearborn in 2003, receiving the prestigious Dearborn Award from the Early Ford V8 Club. Tim Krehbiel, manager of Alexander Restoration drove this reliable 75-horsepower Ford from Los Angeles to Dearborn in 100-degree heat, while Nick drove a 1942 Ford Station Wagon and Don Krehbiel, the Columbia two-speed rear end expert, drove a ‘34 Station Wagon. All three received Dearborn Awards and the ‘33 returned to California in time to participate in the 2003 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.


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Alexander Weaver

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Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

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Gord Duff

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