KEITH HARMAN, CONTRIBUTOR, NORTH DORSET
1934 Ford 5-Window Coupe Hot Rod 1929 Ford Roadster Hot Rod 1939 Ford Pick-up (Modified)
Having got the ’34 coupe back on the road early in 2021 after the engine hassles and then lockdown, I was looking forward to using it again, with a decent run down to Pendine Sands planned from my home in North Dorset. I’ve raced the coupe on the beach a few times before and I’m a member of the coveted VHRA 100mph Club, so the ’34 has now been retired from beach racing. Fun as it always is, it was clear that it wasn’t going to go any faster than it did without any further engine mods like bigger carbs etc, so this was to be a spectator and press trip only. We’ve already had our report of the weekend published in Classic American a while back, but what it didn’t mention was our little ‘incident’ on the way home.
It was late Sunday morning, somewhere on the M4 in South Wales. We were cruising along in the middle lane at around 70mph, when suddenly the driver’s door flew open. 1934 Fords have ‘suicide’ doors, and so it can be a little disconcerting to see the tarmac rushing past just inches from your feet! The door is fitted with rubber check straps and opened to 45 degrees to the body, before starting to return, I hit the brakes, indicated left, and headed for the hard shoulder with one hand on the windowsill, (the window was wound down already) and the other on the steering wheel. It all happened in seconds, and once stopped, I jumped out to check for damage. It didn’t look too bad, a chunk of paint was missing from around the external hinge and the lower door looked slightly kinked, though it hadn’t damaged the paint; I was lucky. It took some force to close the door again as the hinges had bent, but once closed, I got back in from the passenger side and made it home okay.
The car is now repaired and repainted, thanks to Del Whittaker at DW Automotive, and when stripping the door, he found that the small spring inside the lock assembly had broken, meaning that although the door looked closed, it wasn’t fully latched. Aftermarket sliding safety latches are available for early cars, and a pair is definitely on the shopping list!