Story and photos by Brian Earnest
Jumping into an old flathead Ford and taking off on a lengthy road trip is nothing new for Jerry Vincentini. He’s been piling up the miles on his old Fords since he was a kid, and a 1,500-mile trip this summer, starting from his hometown of Bennington, Neb., with a stop in Wisconsin for the Iola Old Car Show, was certainly no big deal.
Sometimes, his biggest challenge is just deciding what car to take. Vincentini is the national chief judge for the Early Ford V-8 Club of America, and he has plenty of options when he wants to go globetrotting in a vintage car. “I have about 20 flathead V-8s that were made from ’32 to ’53,” he said. “I’ve owned one of ’em for 37 years. I drove it so much I had to restore it twice!
“We drive ’em all. They all have to be exercised, then we bring them in and put them on the hoist, clean ’em all up inside-out, underneath, change the oil and everything, then you fix everything that’s broke.”
Vincentini clearly has a special affinity for his ’34 Tudor sedan. He has a matching Cordoba Gray cabriolet at home, and loves the look of the ’34 Fords so much he even used the front end of one to build a bar for his “clubhouse” at home. “The ’34s have a great look to them. The front end is real artsy,” he said.
With no trunk, the Tudor sedan can be challenging to travel in. His companion droptop, however, is even cozier. “The cabriolet has a rumble seat, so you have no trunk room. You really have to scale down in that one!” he said. “But this one, we have three tubs in there in the back seat and an extra generator. I never take an extra starter because you can push ’em. We’ve got an extra distributor, extra fan belt, three fuel pumps. We had to change the plugs once on the way up [to Iola]. It’s all stock on the inside. It’s a nice, stock ’34 Ford. We went 65 mph, 500 miles in one day, and it’s very comfortable.”
It would be hard to find a bigger flathead Ford fan than Vincentini. He’s bled Ford blue all his life, driven old flatheads all over the country, and even raced them at the Bonneville Salt Flats. “I actually raced a ’40 Ford at Bonneville up until two years ago — went 175 miles an hour in it,” he said.
He drives his 1934 Tudor sedan a little more gingerly, but he certainly doesn’t baby it. Vincentini acquired the car about six years ago after it had been partially restored. The interior was already done and didn’t need any work, but he decided to re-do the rest of the car. “It came out of Arizona and it went to California. The car was built in Canada, and it was restored probably about 8 or 10 years ago,” he said. “Then I went through it completely — brakes tires, motor, transmission, all that. I re-did the paint. I didn’t do the interior, but everything else was re-done.
“It was a real rust-free body. It was wonderful to do work on. It’s just been a great car.”
The car eventually earned a Dearborn Award from the Early Ford V-8 Club — an honor reserved for only the finest restored vehicles.
The lovely ’34 wasn’t looking its best one fateful winter day a few years ago, however. While Vincentini was in Arizona at his winter home, part of the roof in his Nebraska storage building collapsed and the Tudor emerged with some wounds that needed attention. “What happened was the snow kept blowing in through the vents and it’s a heated garage, and it got so heavy with the insulation from the snow that it fell on four cars,” Vincentini said. “It got dented and scratched real bad, that’s why we re-shot the whole thing … We had to re-do everything [with the building] and I had to re-do the four cars.”
The eternally popular 1934 Fords were introduced in January of 1934. Calendar year production was 563,921 cars, which was a nice jump over the 1932 and ’33 model years as Ford continued to evolve following the Model A era.
Counted among the ’34 Ford’s legions of fans was notorious outlaw Clyde Barrow of “Bonnie and Clyde” fame. Barrow seemed to always stay one step ahead of the police behind the wheel of his ’34, and famously wrote to Henry Ford himself and congratulated him on “what a fine car you got in the V-8.”
The 1934 Fords were given the Model 40 designation and were available in Standard and Deluxe trim levels. Both models could be had with either a four-cylinder or the flathead V-8, which was in its third year.
The cars didn’t change much in appearance from the previous year. The hood louvers were straight instead of curved, and the V-8 emblems on the hubcaps were painted rather than chrome-finished. The re-shaped grille featured fewer vertical bars and the chrome frame was changed slightly.
The body shells were painted all the same color instead of having black fenders as they had in the past, although you could still order the black fenders as an option. There were two body pinstripes instead of three, as there had been previously. The Deluxe model carried twin exterior horns and cowl lights.
Under the hood, the horsepower on the V-8s grew from 75 to 85, thanks to a new Stromberg carburetor. The four-cylinder engine was in its final year and still rated at 50 hp.
The Tudor sedan was one of 14 body styles offered on the 1934 Fords. The Deluxe Tudor sedan, with 121,696 copies built, was second in popularity only to the Standard Tudor. The Deluxe model carried a base price of $575 and weighed in at 2,625 lbs.
Popular options on the ’34s included either the ashtray or glove box radio, heater, clock, cigar lighter, radio antenna, seat covers, whitewall tires, bumper guards, dual windshield wipers, balloon tires and the greyhound hood ornament.
Vincentini’s car came with the red-painted wheels, ashtray radio, bumper guards and an optional locking hubcap on one rear wheel. “We have a 4-inch-core radiator in it, which was sold in the desert by Ford, and that keeps it running nice and cool,” Vincentini said. “It’s got mechanical brakes, of course, and they’re adjusted very well. One thing that’s interesting about the ‘34 Ford is it’s got a four-wheel emergency brake. All four wheels work on the emergency brake.
“We put a bug screen on it, and we should get home trouble-free. It’s definitely a fun car. It’s set up to drive, and it’s all stock. There’s nothing on the car that’s not original.”
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