Ford’s First V8 Speedster

Edsel Ford’s First V8 Speedster was thought to have been lost in history and made its end under the crusher. The speedster that is believed to be the most historically significant car for the Ford Motor Company. Until recently it made light and will be auctioned this spring.

This car was designed by Edsel Ford and Bob Gregorie and the early 1930s. The original concept was to build a custom Ford sports car them similar to the Continent. Gregorie decided on a design a speedster with a topless boattail, it would have symmetrical prow like front end and a V-shaped windshield. He started the build at the Ford Trimotor and Lincoln Plants. Gregorie used a 1932 Ford Model 18 chassis and a Flathead V8 engine. The body was made by the Ford Trimotor builders. Trimming and finishing was done by the Lincoln Plants.

V8 speedster

The first ever V8 speedster was done in the summer of 1932 and was delivered to ford. Edsel Ford used it but kept it hidden from his father. In either 1933 or 1934, the engine was replaced with a new model and sold it in end 1934. Although the boattail design was probably not the design Ford expected, he still closely worked with Gregorie to build custom cars. They built a second speedster in 1934 and is a much desired car by concours, shows, and galleries.

first speedster

Even though Edsel Ford did not really take his first speedster seriously, many still recognize it as an important step for Ford Motors as this was the first car that gave importance to its design. As during this time Ford Motors still did not have a designing department and heavily relied on Henry Ford’s principle of taking function a priority over form. The design input where only from Edsel Ford.

The first speedster was sold to Elmer Benzin from Grosse Pointe and later resold to a nameless man but was believed to be a GM engineer. The car was heavily damage and believed to have been lost.

early speedster

Amazingly it came to light again and by the 1940s arrived in a junkyard at Bridgeport, Connecticut. A man named John Cox bought it and made efforts to repair the damages done by the young GM engineer. The front end was heavily damaged so cox replaced the front fenders with a mid-1930s Chevrolet. He also replaced the grille with a flat Ford grille shell and replaced some plates with metal sheets. Eventually Cox sold it and there are no longer any records as to where it went for more than 40 years. It was later spotted by Cox in the mid-80s. The speedster had new flathead drivetrain, hydraulic brakes, and bucket seats but still Cox recognized it was the speedster he bought 40 years before. He bought the speedster and intended in restoring it to its old glory.

Cox managed to disassemble the speedster but could only go so far. Luckily one of his neighbors, Jim Gombos, saw the speedster’s potential and help with the restoration. For more than 20 years, Gombos kept offering Cox to buy the speedster to no avail. After the death of Cox in the mid-2000s, his family sold the speedster to Gombos.

“There wasn’t much to it when I got it, it was all apart. All the body from the firewall back was there, but there were no fenders, grille, or hood.” Gombos said.

Gombos tried to restore the speedster with different parts he collected. It was even showed in the 2007 Grand National Roadster Show in an unrestored state. Due to old age, Gombos could no longer finish the restoration and passed it on to Barillaro Speed at Knoxville, Tennessee.

Because the speedster was one of a kind and no documentation was ever done on the original build. Gombos and Barillaro Speedster had to rely on 3 black and white pictures for the restoration.

“We were only able to get three pictures of it from the Ford archives — a front, a rear, and a side view — so we had the side view blown up to life size to make the patterns for the fenders and we studied the other two pictures with a magnifying glass. That gave us a lot of details that you wouldn’t pick up on unless you were looking for them.” Gombos said.

The restoration was finally done and was debuted in the 2013 Amelia Island Concours D’Elegance. It won the E.T. “Bob” Gregorie Award for Design Excellence given by Edsel Ford II.

There are no documents that can prove that this is the actual speedster first built by Edsel Ford built but because it is one of a kind. Just looking at it proves that it is the one and only First V8 Speedster made by Edsel Ford.

Gombos said he no longer have any plans for the speedster and decided to sell it. It will be available in the Amelia Island auction and estimated to sell for $1.2 million to $1.4 million. The second speedster built by ford was sold in the same auction last 2008 for $1.76 million. The third speedster is still lost.

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