Sixteen-year-old Lonnie Mathews was living at home with his folks in 1955, going to school in Londonderry, Vt., and was very interested in acquiring a set of wheels. For $50 he purchased an Ivory Green 1939 Ford Deluxe four-door sedan.
“It even had a heater,” Mathews recalls. “It was a pretty good old car,” he says.
The Ford served him well through his high school days and beyond. “You kind of beat on them a bit in those days,” he says. Eventually the trusty Ford was sold and life moved on.
Decades later Mathews had moved to Westminster, Vt., when a friend called him for assistance in hauling a 1939 Ford from Manchester to South Londonderry. The car was a well-worn twin of Mathews’ first Ford.
The friend had plans to restore the Ford, but other projects kept getting in the way. After a decade of being parked in a garage, Mathews asked his friend if the restoration was ever going to begin. He was surprised when his friend, who had lost interest in the car, said, “Take it, it’s yours.”
Before the friend had a change of heart, Mathews hauled the 1939 Ford home. “It was in pretty rough shape,” he recollects.
The Ford sat in Mathews’ garage for a few months while he decided on a course of action. He removed the 221-cubic-inch flathead V-8 engine and discovered that it was from a 1946 Ford. Nevertheless, it was identical to the original engine and Mathews decided to have it rebuilt so it could once more deliver 85 horsepower.
Mathews then tackled the body of the 1939 Ford. “I did it the hard way,” he says. He hand-sanded every part of the car down to bare metal. He found evidence that the car had been repainted three or four times. All four fenders were dimpled with minor dents, which Mathews hammered out. “There is a lot of steel in those fenders,” he observes.
An inspection of the floorboards showed healthy steel everywhere, except in the trunk. “The trunk floor was a mess,” he says. New steel was welded in.
Mathews then selected Washington Blue paint to coat his 1939 Ford. Every one of the 10 windows was replaced, along with the rubber moldings.