Nose Job at 40
Gently reshaping and gapping the hood on a ’40 Ford
The '40 Ford has long been considered one of Ford’s more beautiful offerings. The shape of the car was originally penned by E.T. “Bob” Gregorie, the first design chief at FOMOCO. If you can’t find a good, solid '40 coupe to build fear not, Dennis Carpenter Ford Restoration Parts can supply a complete body, or individual panels ranging from doors, decklids, fenders, floor panels, and more.
Like many beautiful things there is sometimes room for improvement, but bear in mind improving on a Bob Gregorie design requires vision, skill, and most of all restraint. Yes, enhancing the profile of a '40 Ford coupe requires a subtle touch—as a matter of fact, when the modifications on this coupe go almost unnoticed, leaving the admiring hot rodder to mutter, “Wow, that’s the best looking '40 I’ve ever seen” without realizing the myriad of modifications that contribute to the look.
If you are interested in the subtlety of gently massaging the '40 nose into a more pleasing shape you’re in luck, as Bobby Alloway recently invited us to follow along with just such an operation. All of the changes made are done by removing and relocating sheetmetal in relatively small amounts. The biggest little change is actually cutting the hood, but first the hood must be perfectly fit to the body and fenders.
With the fenders in their final fitment the hood is mounted with hinges to the body. First the hood is checked to be certain it is perfectly centered on the body, with the center hood seam perfectly centered on the windshield divider strip. Next the hood is adjusted to the cowl for even gaps. With the gaps established, the hood latch is installed and the hood is closed to check the fit between the hood and fenders.
The original Ford hood did not have perfectly symmetrical hood gaps as
the fender radius and the hood radius was slightly different, particularly midway through the fender. A uniform gap here would go a long way to that “perfect fit” Alloway builds into all of his cars. Originally the hood to fender gaps were set by a series of rubber bumpers attached to the hood flange. These rubber bumpers set the gaps and protected the hood from rubbing the fenders.
After looking at both the hood and the fender it appeared the best approach was to modify the fenders to align with the hood as there was more metal to work with on the fenders. With that in mind, small pieces of 1/8-inch flat stock were tack-welded to the hood flange where it meets the fenders. These pieces would act as a gauge to set the gaps. After the fenders were modified these pieces are removed from the hood.
With the hood closed a thin cut-off wheel in a die grinder was used for several long cuts into the fender where it meets the hood. Toward the center of the hood the fenders were pushed down slightly to follow the lines of the hood. Next fenders were split from front to back in the same central area and the inner fender flange was pushed inboard toward the hood to close the gap. A piece of filler sheetmetal was formed and tack-welded in, filling the hole in the fender. Then, after all of the gaps were tack welded, a hammer and dolly finished shaping the fender. Final welding and metal finishing completed the hood gapping process. Once again, we are talking about moving metal in small amounts to make a big difference. Such metal movement is standard fare for the team at Alloway’s, but the next cut was a bit more ambitious.
While the sweeping lines of a '40 Ford
DeLuxe coupe are stunning, the hood on the '40 Ford does appear to climb upward toward the nose. This angle is accentuated when a proper hot rod rake is applied to the car, and if anyone loves a hot rod rake it’s Bobby Alloway. The solution is to pie-cut to the hood, eliminating 1-1/4-inch in the front of the hood and tapering back to nothing just past the third trim hole from the cowl. Since the hood latch is part of the hood trim on a '40 Ford there is a latch mount and bracing built into the hood. For this reason the cut was initiated just above the latch assembly. Team Alloway also decided to do away with the actual latching mechanism and employ a cable hood release from inside the car. This prevents the hood from being open unless you are inside the car; a nice security feature.
After the cuts were carefully made with a die grinder and cut-off wheel the hood was gently pushed down to close the gap. It is best to have two or three people on hand to push the top portion down as this will ensure the piece comes straight down and avoids unwanted twisting and subsequent distortion. Happily, the leading edge of a '40 Ford DeLuxe hood is nearly vertical, and since the gap was only 1-1/4 inches the two pieces aligned almost perfectly. A little bit of pushing, pulling, and tapping with hammer and dolly had the panels perfectly aligned.
A single tack-weld was applied in the front center of the hood and one more tack-weld was used midway on each of the side gaps. The next step is really easy but oh-so-important; it simply involves rolling the car outside. This is important because the car should be rolled onto level pavement and looked at from a distance and on every imaginable angle. This is the
only way to know if your modification is a success and ready for finishing. You simply cannot judge body angles standing 5 feet from a car. It is important that you see the entire vehicle unobstructed to ensure proper lines. As it turns out the 1-1/4-inch drop was picture perfect, so the car was rolled back inside and final welding and metal finishing ensued.
Before finishing the panels, the team at Alloway’s Hot Rods built a very stout core support and radiator mount from box tubing. Close gaps require good, solid mounting to prevent the panels from moving when the car is being driven. The fact that this coupe rides on an Art Morrison chassis also goes a long way to minimizing body flex.
The final challenge was modifying the hood ornament. Since the hood profile had been altered, the stock hood trim must be cut and shortened and then fit to the new profile. Since this piece of hood chrome is die-cast, sectioning the piece involved cutting it into two pieces and then fitting the two pieces to the hood. From there the pieces were sent to Dan’s Polishing where they stripped the pieces and then copper plated the pieces before soldering them back together. The piece was then sent back to Alloway’s Hot Rod Shop for final fitment before being returned to Dan’s Polishing for the final finish in mile-deep chrome.
After metalworking the hood, the original hood trim was refitted to the hood sides and the center strip. With the trim in place it is difficult to tell the hood has been modified, which may be the ultimate compliment. Only the trained '40 Ford eye will pick up on the new hood profile, and that is the difference between changing a car and improving a car.
6 Here we can see the series of rubber bumpers that support the back side of the hood when it is closed. The bottom of these bumpers can be sanded to achieve the perfect height and pressure on the hood, resulting in fitmentCallprecise.
5 With a little work and some custom rubber bumpers fitted under the top of the hood we now have perfect panel alignment. Note the cowl vent has been filled on the Dennis Carpenter body.
3 The first order of business was fitting the stock hood to the brand-new body from Dennis Carpenter Ford Restoration Parts. As you can see the original hood has some fitment problems. A little hammer and dolly work and metal shrinking will take the...
4 After patiently adjusting the hood, team Alloway was able to achieve uniform gaps where the hood meets the cowl. It is imperative to fit the hood perfectly before doing any modifications.
1-2 Talk about a subtle yet effective modification; check out the hood profile after the Alloway’s Hot Rod Shop modification (left) compared to the original, taller hood in stock form on the right.
8 This side profile shows the stock sheetmetal in place. The new Dennis Carpenter body is a high-quality piece that permits the use of original panels. Notice how the front of the original hood seems a bit tall, making the hood appear to climb upward.
7 The hood is also precisely fit to the front grille and fenders. After this initial fitting the sheetmetal will be modified so all gaps conform to Alloway’s high standard.
9-10 The hood to fender gaps on a stock '40 Ford were built to the standards of the day, so the gaps were not perfectly uniform. Gapping the hood to fender line involves re-contouring the fenders. A series of 1/8-inch blocks have been tack-welded to...
11-12 Moving the fender flange inward and slightly upward closes the gap. Next the resulting void in the fender will be filled with a piece of sheetmetal and metalworked to perfection. The passenger-side fender was new from Dennis Carpenter and...