Lots of guys finally get their dream cars, the ones they lusted after when they were young but couldn’t afford. Of course, Barrett-Jackson makes those dreams come true whenever it holds an auction, as it’s doing next week for its 41st year in Scottsdale.
Many times, that special collector car (or truck) is eventually discovered – the right model, the right year, the right color – all ready to go at auction or up for private sale. Sure, it might need work, but it’s basically there.
Then there are guys like Steve Ramsey who knew exactly what he wanted since he was a boy, but also knew that he’d have to build it himself. That certain something was in his mind’s eye ever since he could remember, Ramsey said.
“It was a car that I would doodle in elementary school,” he said. “It was that many years ago that I’ve been thinking about it.”
Ramsey spotted his dream car in Baltimore, he recalled – a luscious black 1940 Ford custom coupe – but there wasn’t much he could do about it; he was only 12 years old. Spin the clock forward a few decades, and Ramsey finally has achieved his dream, in spades.
Not only was he able to build the 1940 Ford coupe that he always desired, he’s been able to drive it, enjoy it and win a trunk-full of awards with it. Now he’s offering it for sale at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction. (Lot #1246).
“I just kind of did it by memory, no expense spared,” Ramsey said of the build he accomplished in an equestrian barn on his Maryland farm. “We’ve driven it everywhere, won every award you could ever win with it.”
So the dream has come full circle, and now it’s time to move on, he said. “It’s time to create something else. Besides, it’s always great to sell a car in its prime, when there’s nothing wrong with it.”
The ‘40 Ford is one of four special collector cars that Ramsey is bringing to Barrett-Jackson. One of them is also a car he restored himself in his horse barn, a very desirable 1965 Chevrolet Corvette roadster with fuel injection (Lot #1251.2). The Corvette’s restoration has full photo documentation, Ramsey said, and is a winner of the NCRS Top Flight award, a necessity these days for getting full value from your restored Corvette.
Another favorite that’s being auctioned is Ramsey’s custom 1954 Mercury Monterey Custom Woody (Lot #1239.2), a sharp-looking wagon powered by a 6-Liter GM V8.
Ramsey is also bringing a friend’s car to Barrett-Jackson, and it’s quite a piece: a gorgeously restored 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk hardtop (Lot #1240.2) with a supercharged V8. Ramsey believes this car might have served as the model for the Danbury Mint’s identical die-cast model.
But of all of them, the ‘40 Ford is the car to watch, Ramsey concedes. This very special coupe with its 502cid Ram Jet engine is very fast – yet easily drivable—by anyone. The car was built for having fun, he added, and he has used it for its intended purpose every chance he’s had.
“This car was built particularly for me to cruise,” Ramsey said. “It’s so cruise friendly, that’s what makes it so special. Besides looking perfect, the way it drives is what makes it pop in my mind.”
Because the car has been driven extensively, all the bugs have been worked out, he added, but despite being on the road, it still stands as near perfect as ever.
The 1940 model was the classic year for the stylish generation of Fords that began with the 1937 model. The flat-topped hood, chevron grille and chromed headlight surrounds established the ‘40 Ford coupes, convertibles and pickups as favorites among hot rodders ever since the hobby began in the late 1940s.
So it’s no small wonder that a young Steve Ramsey in rural Maryland was so enamored with his ‘40 Ford dream car.
For many old timers, the ‘40 Ford Hot Rod was a vestige of the Appalachian Mountain moonshine days when bootleggers would “soup up” their Fords to outrun the federal agents on treacherous mountain roads. This, of course, led to the birth of stock-car racing, and even today, NASCAR champs relate to the hell drivers of another era when they speak about their sport.
“They may not be runnin’ ‘em like they used to, but to many Appalachian inhabitants, a ‘40 Ford with a souped-up engine and a distinct rake is the definition of a Hot Rod,” according to the September 2008 issue of Hot Rod magazine.
Ramsey built his coupe with an eye on authenticity, lowered and shaved with the same aggressive look favored by the old-school rodders. Even so, its upgraded GM engine with Hilborn fuel injection is a thoroughly modern update. And the build quality is impeccable, he said.
“We probably spent $20,000 in material to paint it,” Ramsey said. “Body side molding was cut from billet. It has an Atkins interior. There are just so many subtle custom touches that I’d have to point them out.”
The car has been an award winner since it hit the bricks, he added, and was featured in a story and photo spread in Street Rodder about two years ago. Matter of fact, it recently won an award from the magazine and is going to be featured again, which Ramsey hopes will come out just before the Barrett-Jackson sale.
Ramsey said he was so busy playing around with his ‘40 Ford that he never put too many miles on his ‘65 Corvette that’s also being sold at Barrett-Jackson. “So the car has never clocked up too many miles since its frame-off restoration to the highest standards,” he said.
This is a special one too, restored to original with its factory fuel injection that helps produce 375 horsepower from its 327cid V8. The 1965 model year also saw a major upgrade for Corvettes: disc brakes on all four wheels so that it stops as good as it goes.
“The custom Mercury Woody wagon is also very special,” Ramsey said. A car that was customized before he bought it with all the work done to the highest standards. It took six years to build the Vermilion Red custom, which includes such additions as a GM Vortec 6-Liter crate engine, automatic transmission, Fat Man suspension and 4-Control air ride.
“That car is over the top,” he said. “What a cool beach car it would be.”
Wagons of all kinds have been gaining popularity among collectors, and the ‘54 is a classic year for Mercury, so Ramsey’s car has a lot going for it. The 1954 models were the final year of a three-year generation in which Ford designers made the effort to separate it from Lincoln and present it as a more distinctive model. The near-luxury Monterey models were built on a slightly longer wheelbase and with a longer body than their Ford brethren, and Monterey wagons are rare today among collector cars.
The wagon customizers also showed some real creativity when they built the Mercury, Ramsey added. “The wood is all simulated. It looks real but it’s done with paint.
“In the tailgate, it has simulated rot, like some worms have been in the wood,” he added. “When you first look at it, you think, ‘Hey, it’s got some rot.’ But then you see it’s simulated. It’s super cool.”
His buddy’s Studebaker is exceptionally well restored, looking like it just rolled off the showroom floor. There’s no hard evidence that the car was used as the template for the 1/24-scale Danbury Mint die-cast model aside from rumor, Ramsey said, but it most certainly is identical to the miniature version. That particular Danbury model is well known as one of the company’s best offerings.
The Studebaker is also rare, he said, because it has the factory supercharged 289 V8 that provides 275 horsepower. This is the 30th 1957 Golden Hawk built, and painted in the appropriate color of Harvest Gold with white coves in the tailfins. The entire Hawk series was an update of the 1953 Skyliner styled by the famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy.
Only 878 of the luxurious Golden Hawks were sold in the 1958 model year, with most of the coupes being sold in the less expensive Silver Hawk version during that recessionary time. The Golden Hawk was discontinued after 1958 with the Silver Hawks carrying on until 1960, when they became simply Studebaker Hawks.
Studebaker, an Indiana company that went out of business in 1966, continues to have a loyal cadre of enthusiastic collectors, especially where the Hawk models are concerned. These coupes from the forward-looking company were the first of their kind from a major American automaker, with low-slung European styling and sporty interiors, and they presaged the Ford Mustangs and Chevrolet Camaros that followed a decade later.
Ramsey’s diverse group typifies the offerings at Barrett-Jackson auctions, where well-restored Corvettes, street- rods, customs and such unusual items as the Golden Hawk are mainstays with tremendous crowd appeal.