Al Howlett's 1933 5 Window Ford Coupe

33 coupe

In 1953 I was 21 and was living on a farm North of Hespeler along with my cars. The 1931 model A and the hot rodded 1933 coach plus a 1940 Ford coach that I had acquired in trade for a 1940 Ford coupe. I got the coupe cheap because it needed some bodywork. The 1940 coach stayed around for a while as the tow car for the 1933 Ford coupe build that I was starting to work on. I traded the Model A to Benny’s for the coupe.

33 coupe

The Coupe build would take a lot of work and this was started on the farm. Later I moved to Galt and lived on Augusta Street. Many hours of welding cutting fitting took place to the body. I had zeed the frame and then the body was channeled over it. All new floor pans and other bodywork were required. I owned an oxy acetylene torch and a lot of welding rod and even coat hangers were used up. I even had to learn how to work lead into the body welds. This was a common thing in bodywork before “Bondo” came in use. This is where the term “lead sled” for cars came from.

33 coupe

By this time I had become a member of the Strokers and we had the club garage so the project was moved over there as we now had tools and a better place to work. The project moved along a little faster at the club house garage. I purchased an Oldsmobile 88 engine from the wreckers along with a Cadillac transmission from around the 1940 vintage. Chrysler had an overdrive that was separate that I fitted to the output of the cad trans. This was operated by small lever on the floor and could not be used in reverse.

33 coupe

The rear drive axle came from an Oldsmobile. A lot of detail about all these innovations has not remained in my memory. I do know that they worked well. One thing that gave me trouble was the Olds engine. When the engine got hot, the 12 volt starter would not crank it over. I never did figure out why, but I solved it by installing a 6 volt starter.

33 coupe

I borrowed an industrial sewing machine and did the interior upholstery in pleats using vinyl that was manufactured in Galt. The dash instrument cluster was from a 1950 Ford. I think that the steering wheel was also Ford.

33 coupe

I thought the 32 Ford rad shell looked nicer than the 33 grill. The paint was Canary Yellow lacquer of many coats hand rubbed out each time. This was the first build of my 33 five window coupe that I would drive to Cayuga occasionally to help with setting up the races. Did not care to race it.

33 coupeWell I had to use some Ford parts considering that the drive was GM and Mopar.

 

The Rebuild

33 coupe

After several years and quite a few miles I decided it was time to make some changes. Was never to fond of the open wheels especially in wet weather. At that time myself and other members of the Strokers were working on building a fiberglass body for the club dragster. The next modification to the coupe would be a full tilt fiberglass front end making it a full fender rod. I had admired the look of some sports cars with recessed headlamps and proceeded to work these into the design. Airflow for cooling, plus a way to secure the hood down had to be considered. I used similar methods to the way we built the dragster body. Using steel rods, wire mesh and plaster of Paris to make a male mold.

33 coupe

The messy job of laying up the fiberglass and sanding it smooth took a lot of time. The grill in the front hood opening contained the directional lights and parking light combined. I made the grill from ½ inch steel rod and welded it, then sent it to be chrome plated. The grill was attached to the front frame rails and did not tilt with the hood. It was also meant to be the front bumper. There were many more details and changes that I did but my aging memory 50 years later has forgotten some of them.

33 coupe

The next modification was the replacement of the front suspension using a 1954? Chevrolet crossmember and coil springs. This was a great improvement to the ride and handling on the many cruises we took to the beach and picnic grounds. We even took the kids, but it was a bit crowded. Could not do that today with the required kiddy seats.

33 coupe

I had been keeping the car at the Strokers clubhouse and when I moved to London in 1963 I brought it along. Well since I had the 1948 pickup as well as another car I had to find someplace to keep it. I rented a garage down the street from my house and kept it there.

33 coupe

We did not take it out as often as it was not suitable for 4 people. So it sat inside the garage a lot until I sold it in 1968. And here is the incident that caused me to part with it; I went to the garage one day to check on it and discovered that the top of the car had a number of bullet holes. Seems this kid had a rifle and was doing some target practice on the garage and my beloved hot rod was the recipient.

I entered the car a number of times in car shows at London, Toronto and Barrie. My regret is that I did not take many photos of the car in the shows or on the road. If any of the car guys reading this have any photos in their collection, I would like to see them. I do not know where the car is now, however I know the owner did not like the hood as I noticed it in a field out near Lobo one day.

33 coupe

I hope you like the story of innovation and building a fun Street Rod in the tradition of “Dare to be Different”

Al Howlett 2/8/2018