Rare 1940 Graham convertible to be displayed at 2012 Concours d'Elegance of America at St. John's
The only known 1940 Graham Hollywood two-passenger convertible will be seen publicly for the first time since 1952 when it's dusted off for the Concours d'Elegance of America at St. John's in Plymouth, Mich., on July 29.
By 1940, Graham was clinging to automobile production as a way to make money. The company had survived the worst parts of the Great Depression while most of the other independents around it sank, but it was in trouble. The far out "Spirit of Motion" 1938-1939 Grahams with their "shark nose" styling hadn't caught on.
Lacking funds, Graham did what Hupmobile had also done and went even farther out by using the original 1936-'37 Cord body dies to build sedans and convertible coupes. Several thousand "Cord wannabe" Graham sedans were built in 1940 and '41, but only a handful of Graham convertibles were built. A four-passenger convertible based on the Cord Cabriolet was offered, as was a two-passenger Graham convertible coupe. The survivor shown to be shown at the Concours d'Elegance of America is the lone known representative of the Graham convertible coupe. (An extremely rare example of the four-passenger 1939 Hupmobile convertible based on the Cord Cabriolet is "Miss September 2012" of the Old Cars Weekly 2012 calendar.)
In 1963, while on vacation in Yarmouth, Mass., Earl Parks was walking down Willow Street towards the beach, he spied what he thought was a Cord convertible coupe tucked away in a garage. He called his friend, Al San Clemente, who was a collector of Cords. Al told Earl to photograph the car and get the owner’s phone number. Ultimately, even though the car wasn’t a Cord, Al purchased the car.
The serial number of this car indicates that it was the very first Graham Hollywood produced. From the firewall back, the frame and body are identical to the Cord 810/812 Convertible Coupe. The primary difference being the transmission tunnel and bump for the differential. Besides the original leather interior, there are other differences from the sedan including a chrome-plated steering column, Cord convertible windshield wipers and an accessory heater.
Although period advertisements mention a two-passenger "Sportster" with an "automatic" roof, this car’s roof assembly and deck are identical to Cord. The original paint code for the car was maroon, but it seems the car was painted at least three times prior to 1950: first maroon, then yellow and finally a dark green. The owner believes the car was painted a number of times by the factory for show purposes.
Another point of interest is that the car seems to have been sold as a 1941. The paperwork from the early 1950s lists it as a 1941, although the serial number certainly makes it a 1940. Graham/Hupp historians theorize that either the factory did not finish the car until the 1941 cars were rolling off the assembly line, or it was held and sold with the 1941s.
The earliest history of the car has yet to be discovered. Louis Handler of Handler Auto Parts owned it in 1949. In 1950, Elizabeth M. Keveney of nearby Yarmouth, Mass., purchased the car and removed the rear deck and placed a small wooden bench seat behind the front seat for children to sit upon. The car was briefly used for beach trips before it was stored in the family’s garage on Willow Street.
Don’t miss the opportunity to see this important, Historical Preservation of Original Features (HPOF) car in the Cord Cousins Class at the Concours d’Elegance of America on Sunday, July 29 at The Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth, MI. The show is open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. General admission is $25 and includes free parking, shuttle and Souvenir Program Book.