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Lot 125

1948 Ford Super Deluxe Sportsman Convertible

  • Chassis no. 899A2064609

Sold for $275,000

Model 89A. 100 bhp, 239.4 cu. in. L-head V8 engine, three-speed manual transmission with Columbia overdrive, solid front axle and live rear axle with transverse semi-elliptic leaf springs, four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 114"

It is remarkable enough to encounter what is almost certainly the last Ford Sportsman built. To learn that it was originally a Christmas present and that its third owner had to purchase it twice is quite astounding.

Elbert Marston of San Diego, California, purchased the car from Pearson Ford in December 1947, and gave it to his wife, Georgia, on Christmas Day. For 20 years, Mrs. Marston, a teacher in the San Diego public schools, drove it to work every day. It was driven across country twice, and had two tops and a new radiator during her ownership. Twice the hydraulic system that operates the top and windows was repaired.

The car was well-equipped, even by Sportsman standards. In addition to a radio and heater, it was delivered with a front grille guard, windshield-post spotlight and outside left-hand mirror. The mirror is unusual, as it has a straight arm rather than the more common “swan’s neck” type. During Mrs. Marston’s ownership, it had a plastic rear window in place of the original glass type, installed when the top was replaced. The only true 1948 Sportsman convertibles, just 28 with 89A chassis numbers, were built during October 1947. This car has the highest body number of that run. Unlike other Sportsman body numbers, it has an “NN” prefix, the significance of which is not known. It has all the features of the later Sportsman models, including the revised trunk lid that sheds water better than the earlier design. Interestingly, the Sportsman was the only ‘48 model to retain the early coincidental ignition switch and steering wheel lock.

During the night of November 3, 1983, the Sportsman was stolen from Mrs. Marston’s garage. Since it was already a celebrity car, and Mrs. Marston was well-known in several clubs, the theft was well-publicized within the collector community. The car hovered below the radar of the law and enthusiast network for several years. Eventually, it was offered to early Ford collector Bob Everts of Campe Verde, Arizona, one-time owner of another woodie in this sale. Everts purchased the car, but, when he went to register it, the chassis number came up as stolen. In order to legitimize the sale, he purchased the car again, this time from Mrs. Marston. He later sold it to W.T. “Ty” Froemke of Fontana, California, who performed a painstaking body-off restoration in 1988.

Froemke completely rebuilt the engine, boring it out 30 thousandths and turning the crankshaft. The pistons, rods, crankshaft and flywheel were balanced and the engine reassembled to factory specifications.

Collector Curt Heaton, of Corona Del Mar, California, bought the last Sportsman in May of 1988. Heaton kept it for 11 years, driving it about 10,000 miles and adding a Columbia two-speed axle for freeway travel. During that time he did no further work on it except the installation of new tires, a testament to the quality of restoration. In 1999 he sold it to Raymond C. Derby, of Cambria, California, from whom Nick Alexander purchased it in January 2006.

The last Sportsman remains gorgeous, as repainted in the original color Maize Yellow. The paint has no flaws and exhibits a deep shine. All body contours are correct. As for the wood body, it appears the wood workers at Iron Mountain decided to make the last Sportsman body something special. It contains large amounts of some of the most exquisite Birdseye Maple to come out of Henry’s forest and over 60 years has acquired the rich patina of the finest antique furniture. It is truly a stunning automobile.

The seats are upholstered in red leather, all in good condition, and the front is furnished with lap belts for two. The floor has black rubber mats in front, and maroon carpet in the rear. The tan canvas top, with correct glass rear window, looks new, and is lined in tan. The dashboard woodgrain looks original, and exhibits a few scratches. The instruments and dashboard plastic are both good, as is the steering wheel, and the car has a radio, heater and working electric clock.

The luggage compartment is detailed in correct gray cardboard with a black rubber floor mat, and is furnished with a top boot. The 59AB engine is correctly outfitted and painted blue, but has seen many road miles since last detailed. The chassis and underbody are painted black, and show only modest road dirt. The car is fitted with Firestone 6.50-16 blackwall tires, installed in 2006, and there is a matching spare.

It has not been judged since joining the Nick Alexander collection, but it is driven regularly and is enjoyed. Like all its collection-mates, it runs and drives well. The odometer currently shows just over 82,000 miles, and the Columbia overdrive makes it feasible to effortlessly add many more. The car is registered with California year-of-manufacture plates 2A8311, which go with the car.

Fewer than 3,500 Ford Sportsman convertibles were built in two full years of production. Just 28 of those were 1948 models, survivors of which are few. This particular Sportsman, with its documented fascinating history, is absolutely singular. It represents and opportunity that will not soon be repeated.


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Alexander Weaver

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California, United States

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

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

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Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

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California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

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United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

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Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Jake Auerbach

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California, United States

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Kurt Forry

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Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

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A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

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United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

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United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

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Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

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California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

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United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more