Ron Dewoskin was sitting at his desk in December 2006 when a banker friend called to ask if he’d be interested in a ’41 Ford convertible with 6,450 original miles. “Sure,” Ron said. He was sure he wanted the car. However, as a longtime collector, he was also sure the stated mileage wasn’t real.
“My banker friend told me the original owner — an old lady from Sister Bay, Wisconsin — had purchased the car when she was young,” Dewoskin recalls. “She had stored it in a heated garage attached to her house. She had used it only on nice weekends and in an occasional parade.”
The lady was being forced to move into an assisted-living facility and would lose her storage when the house was sold. She had offered the car to her neighbor, a Madison man who had a second home in Sister Bay. They made a deal in February 2005, but she refused to let him pick up the car until springtime because, she said, “It might snow.”
The Madison man offered to pull an enclosed trailer to within 40 feet of her garage, but she said, “No, it might snow.” So, they signed an agreement that stated he would pick the car up that May. Then, the man ran into some business problems and had to dispose of some of his “toys.”
Dewoskin’s banker friend asked if he should have the 1941 Ford’s owner call Ron. “I said sure,” Dewoskin explained. “But I sure don’t believe the mileage.” When the businessman called, he repeated the story and asked Dewoskin to come and see the car. When he gave his address, it was only a block from Dewoskin’s home.
Naturally, the 6,450-mile car looked wonderful. Dewoskin asked if I could take it for a spin and the owner said, “Take it for the weekend.” Ron drove it a bit. He drove five miles on a highway at 65 mph and it felt like a new car. There were no rattles.
Dewoskin returned to his garage and called John Sanders, of Sanders Antique Auto, in Rockford, Ill. Sanders does Pebble Beach-quality restorations and really knows his cars. Dewoskin asked him if he could come take a look at the 6,450-mile ’41 Ford. “That’s BS,” Sanders said, although just a bit more colorfully.
Before Sanders arrived, Dewoskin went over the car with a magnet and it tested out as solid as new. When Sanders got to the garage, he took a flashlight and played around under the car for about 10 minutes. When he emerged he said “If you don’t buy this thing, I will — and I don’t care what the price is.”
Sanders said that not a single nut under the car had ever been turned. All the areas where dirt, mud and rust might normally accumulate were clean. The Ford had not even been detailed — it was just as clean as new.
With Sanders’ approval, Dewoskin made a deal for the car. After his name was on the title, he had the hoses and fluids changed. Dewoskin also ordered a pair of steel fender skirts, one of the few factory options not already on the car. He also installed a dual exhaust system with “Smitty” mufflers. “I bought a DVD of James Dean’s ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ to check out the sound of my exhaust against Dean’s Mercury,” Dewoskin says. “Mine sounds better.”
The Ford is the car that Dewoskin wanted when he was younger. “When, I was in high school, back in the ’50s, all any of the guys wanted was a ’39, ’40 or ’41 Ford,” he says. “The few guys who got one got girls. On occasion, I was able to borrow my neighbor’s ’53 Plymouth standard coupe. I was a very lonely high schooler.”
On the dash of the low-mileage Ford is a plastic stick-on gizmo that service stations used to hold cards indicating the date and mileage of the last service. The card on this Ford reads, “6-23-89, 4,940 miles, 10-40 oil.”
“I called to see if the service station was still there,” Dewoskin said. “It was. When I asked if there was anyone who had been there since 1989, the fellow said he was the owner and he’d taken over the station from his grandfather back in the ’70s. When I asked if he knew the Ford, he said, ‘Of course.’”
According to the service station owner, the old lady would call the station each September and they would go over to her house and take it to their garage for the winter. The battery would be taken out, the car would be put up on blocks and it would then be wrapped in a blanket. Each May, the process would be reversed. It appears that during the last 16 years of her owning the Ford, the lady put on about 1,500 miles.