Having never come across a chopped ’40 Ford coupe for sale in America, Peter Farrant knew this one had to be his when it came up for sale in New Zealand

Having owned his fair share of classic American automobilia, Peter Farrant knows his way around them. After hunting for vehicles over in the States and having never seen a Ford Standard coupe come up for sale, when the opportunity arose to purchase this wicked 1940 sled in New Zealand, Peter was all over it. The car came already complied and with a four-inch roof-chop that had been done about as cleanly as possible. This is by far the most noticeable body modification on the car but not the only one. Also performed in the States, to the same high standard, were the shaving of the rain gutters, rounding off of the door top corners, and smoothing of the running boards. The visual impact of these cars is enormous, and this one is no exception — Peter drove the coupe down to Napier for the Marineland Hot Rod Festival, where the sled was chosen by Billy Gibbons as his pick of the few hundred cars on display. 
Unfortunately, the mechanical side of the car left a fair bit to be desired. After the Napier trip, Peter spent about half a year slowly touching up areas he felt to be problematic before he was happy with the coupe’s drivability. 

Stripping the car down, he got a pleasant surprise in finding no rust at all — work could start on the oily bits without his having to worry about expensive and extensive panel work. The 454ci big block engine was given a once-over, which included fitting Carrillo rods and forged Arias dome-top pistons. These give a compression ratio that Peter estimates to be around 11.0:1. With Peter being an engine balancer by trade, this was but a walk in the park for him. The top end features square-port open-chamber heads, as well as the usual go-fast goodies in the form of roller rockers and a Weiand Stealth intake manifold, while Hooker headers and a custom exhaust system help the car to transform its drinking problem into the most incredible noise imaginable.

The camshaft is an extremely angry grind that came with the car. Although it sounds exactly as you’d expect a grumpy old rod to sound, Peter is hoping for something with a milder profile at some stage in the future. He has already swapped the 850cfm carburettor for a 780cfm vacuum secondary Holley item to help mellow the big, raging engine a bit. A nice nostalgic touch under the hood is the 1936 Royal Crown Cola glass bottle doubling as the radiator overflow tank — the bottle was actually owned by the grandfather of the original builder.
Surprisingly for such a car, the transmission is a four-speed Muncie M22 equipped with a Hurst Competition Plus shifter — the original shifter broke a day after Peter purchased the car! The effortless torque of the big block means minimal chopping and changing of gears is required, but when it is, Peter is assisted by a hydraulic clutch throw-out bearing. This engages a Hays clutch and pressure-plate assembly, which is mated to a Hays flywheel.

The aftermarket pedal assembly incorporates double hang-down brake and clutch pedals mounted to the customized Bitchin Products firewall, which has been seamlessly grafted into the coupe’s body. Brakes were recycled from a 1970 Camaro, and include the front brake calipers, 10-inch rotors, and a 4.11:1-ratio 12-bolt Positraction diff and drum-brake assembly. What wasn’t used was the brake booster, or any booster for that matter, not that this bothers Peter too much — even with the big 454 up front, the coupe stops well enough that he hasn’t lost any sleep over it.

The sled’s beautiful curvature is enhanced by its ground-scraping stance, made possible through the use of Shockwave air suspension incorporating QA1 shocks all around. This system includes an in-car controller that allows Peter to make it over speed bumps when he has to and drop it low for the perfect cruising stance. The front end incorporates a Fatman Mustang II independent-front-suspension system, with a triangulated four-link holding the rear end in place. This all goes some way towards bringing the coupe’s ride and handling well into the 21st century. 

To allow the car to sit as low as it does, the chassis was C-notched at the rear, with the work having already been done in the States. Tucked into the big guards are 15-inch steel wheels with original 1961 Dodge hubcap centres. These ride on BF Goodrich whitewalls, lending the car that period-correct ’60s Kustom look that Peter was trying to achieve.

Having taken care of the mechanical work, Peter turned his attention to the sled’s exterior. The recessed tear-drop tail lights were flush mounted to help clean up the car’s rear end and help with visibility. Peter was also fortunate enough to pick up some mint-condition steel spats to replace the fibreglass items covering the rear wheels. On the car’s front, the 1940 Ford Standard headlights have been replaced with 1939 Ford Deluxe items, which contribute to the sleek overall look of the vehicle.

Inside, the cabin has been re-trimmed in black vinyl and red cloth, with a red metal-flake finish applied to nearly all the metallic surfaces. VDO gauges help keep an eye on the car’s vitals. The coupe even boasts power steering — no doubt a great help with the weight of the cast-iron big block hanging over the front wheels. Since Peter has no qualms about taking the car on long drives, he also had the Kenwood sound system that the car came with professionally reinstalled, enabling him to listen to some tunes on the rare occasion that his ears tire of the big block’s symphony. 

As you’ll have probably guessed by now, Peter’s not afraid to drive his car and has driven it to shows all over the North Island. Prior to his owning it, the car had been driven throughout the States, making it to the Las Vegas Rockabilly weekend and the Viva Las Vegas car show among others. 

Though the car is now at a stage at which Peter is content with it, he is always looking to make improvements and, as time permits, will perform a few minor modifications. These include redoing the exhaust system, a diff-ratio change to help with cruising, and some general touching up here and there. Though the quality of the roof-chop is top-notch, some of the minor interior detail work remains unfinished. Peter has also expressed a possible desire to have the car repainted when this work is done. Though we reckon the car looks stunning in the satin green finish presented here, Peter is thinking of a metal-flaked red finish not unlike that found inside the car. If done right, this could elevate the car’s visual impact well above where it sits now — no mean feat. Knowing what Peter is capable of with his builds, we can’t wait to see how it ends up!

The other rides

This is far from being Peter’s first hot rod, and we’re sure it’s far from being his last. His recently completed ’32 Roadster was featured in NZV8 magazine earlier this year and is powered by a very trick 392ci Hemi. Running Auckland Balance, Peter is no stranger to dealing with engine internals and building his own motors.

Peter’s ’32 Sedan is also Hemi powered, and features a lot of subtle bodywork that gives it an appearance unlike any other sedan around. Between these two and the ’40, it looks to us as if he’s got all bases very well covered!

Vehicle: 1940 Ford Standard coupe
Engine: 454ci big block Chev, Arias forged pistons, Carrillo con-rods, square-port open-chamber heads, roller rockers, stud girdles, aggressive profile camshaft, 750cfm vac/sec carburettor, Weiand Stealth intake manifold, Hooker headers, electronic ignition
Driveline: Muncie four-speed, Hays flywheel, Hays clutch and pressure plate, hydraulic clutch bearing, GM 12-bolt Positraction diff, 4.11:1 ratio, custom driveshaft and universal joints
Suspension: Fatman Mustang II independent front, triangulated four-link rear, QA1 shockwaves all round
Brakes: Double hang-down pedal assembly, Chevrolet 10-inch front discs, stock drum rear
Wheels/Tyres: 15-inch steel rims, 1961 Dodge hubcaps, 185/70R15 Coker Classic tyres
Exterior: Four-inch roof-chop, sectioned body, smoothed drip rails, rounded door top corners, smoothed running boards, Glasurit satin green paint with flat base
Chassis: C-notched rear
Interior: Custom black vinyl and red cloth re-trim, painted dash, Limeworks column, aftermarket steering wheel, Hurst Competition Plus shifter
Performance: Untested

Drivers: Peter and Toni Farrant

Car Club: East Bay Rods
Age: 54 (Peter)
Occupation: Engine balancer (Peter)
Previously owned cars: 1965 Impala Super Sport, 1937 and 1938 coupes, Ford Galaxies, Ford F100s, 1955 and 1956 Chevrolets, 1963 Ford Fairlanes, 1932 Roadster
Dream car: Whatever the next one is!
Why the sled? I bought this car because I had visited the States on numerous occasions and had seen what was available. When this car came up, it was a no-brainer!
Build time: Ongoing
Length of ownership: Between five and six years; seems like just yesterday!
Peter and Toni thank: Paul Smeets for the help and expert fabrication, Grant’s Auto Upholstery, Glen and Jeff from Engine Specialties 

This article was originally published in NZV8 Hot Rod Special Vol. I. You can pick up a print copy of the magazine below: