Is This The World’s Most Tasteful Factory Hot Rod?
Photography courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
Read enough history on the early years of the Ford Motor Company and you’ll quickly understand the differences between its founder, Henry, and his son, Edsel. Growing up, he enjoyed unparalleled access the the company’s latest technology, styling and engineering teams…and when he was 25, he became the youngest President of Ford Motor Company. That didn’t mean ol’ Henry backed off, or let his son run the show—but it did mean that Edsel had a chance here and there to design and build cars he really wanted to drive.
Art and styling were Edsel’s passions, and his ability to improve how Fords, Lincolns, and Mercurys looked ended up selling a huge number of cars for the family business. In 1932, Edsel tasked a talented stylist and sketch artist, Eugene T. “Bob” Gregoire, to help him create a one-off collaboration.
Using the idle craftsmen at the Ford aircraft division—and a disused Lincoln factory—Edsel and Gregoire soon finished their first “Speedster”. Designed to be long, low, stylish, and fast, it was about as sporty as you could make a 1932 Ford Model 18. There’s a flathead V-8 engine underhood, yes, but 85 horsepower doesn’t stretch too far these days.
Instead, feast your eyes on this Speedster’s lines and details. Gregoire’s early career as a yacht designer helped apply a number of tricks to help the car look longer and lower than it really is. Sure, its 106-inch wheelbase is about the same as an E36 BMW M3s, but with its rudimentary body-on-frame construction and open fenders, there’s precious little metal for the “long, low, and lean” illusion to take hold.
Completed by hand, the car wears its bespoke styling well: cut-down split windscreen, a boattail, aluminum fenders, handle-less suicide doors, bullet-shaped headlights, aluminum discs to cover its wire wheels, no bumpers—and no top.
After the car was completed, Edsel used it for a time before it was sold to a mechanic in Indianapolis, then to, as RM Sotheby’s says, “a young GM designer who wrecked it”. As so often happens, the car’s trail among aficionados went cold. A Connecticut body man had the car for 50 years—unaware of its history—before it was found by its consigner and current owner, who restored it back to its original specifications.
The second Speedster is now owned by the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan, and the third? The third is still missing. If you’re not able to make this car’s estimate of between $1.2–1.4 million U.S., you’d better start asking neighbors if they have any treasures in their garage…
Never before offered for public sale, it’s surely the most “tasteful” early factory hot rod we’ve seen—just don’t forget a rain jacket for when you’re cruising on a cloudy day.
– The first of three one-off speedsters built for Edsel Ford
– Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance award winner
~85 horsepower, 221 cu. in. Ford flathead V-8 engine with a Stromberg 81 two-barrel carburetor, solid front axle with semi-elliptic leaf spring, solid rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf spring, and four-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 106 in.
Chassis no.: 18-14449
Auction house: RM Sotheby’s
Estimate: $1.2–1.4 million Usd.
Price realized: TBD; auction on March 12