9-10 June 2012
1947 Ford Super Deluxe Sportsman Convertible
To be auctioned on Sunday, June 10, 2012
Sold for $253,000
- Chassis no. 799A-1691621
- Body no. 2149
The period following World War II gave rise to one of the more interesting phenomena in the automotive world: the wood-bodied passenger cars. Woodies, of course, were initially station wagons and essentially utilitarian vehicles, sometimes part of the maker’s commercial line. By the late 1930s, however, wood had acquired cachet, and even upscale manufacturers like Packard and Chrysler were cataloging station wagons, although Ford retained the undisputed lead in the market.
The Chrysler Corporation arrived on the scene in 1941, with a novel barrel-back Town & Country sedan-wagon, produced in the Royal line and in 1942 as a Windsor. After the war, the Chrysler Corporation picked up where it left off, planning a flight of five woodie styles for 1946, but in the end, only a Windsor sedan and New Yorker convertible were put on sale. Nash, meanwhile, put wood appliqué on an Ambassador sedan and sold it as the Suburban from 1946 to 1948, while Chevrolet offered a dealer-installed Country Club wood kit for 1946–1948 models. The Ford Motor Company, not to be left out, introduced a wood-bodied convertible of its own, the Sportsman, sold as a 1946 Ford or Mercury.
The genesis of the Sportsman is fascinating. Henry Ford II noticed a Model A chassis sitting in a corner of the Ford design studio. It had been there since the 1930s, an artifact about which the elder Henry Ford loved to reminisce. Young Henry asked chief designer E.T. “Bob” Gregorie to work up a body for it, so he could drive to the beach at his Long Island home.
Gregorie sketched up a wood-bodied convertible, with two doors, red leather interior, and a khaki top over a Model A frame. It had a forward-sloped tail with a Continental spare, which dropped down, tailgate style, and a stylish curved coupe pillar similar to that of the 1928–1929 Model A closed cars. After the Fords had used the Model A for a summer on Long Island, it was given to Gregorie, who kept it and took it to Florida after his retirement.
That Model A convertible had a profound effect on the postwar Ford product line. Inspired by the jaunty little car, in the early part of 1945, Gregorie and his lead illustrator, Ross Cousins, worked up drawings for a wood-bodied 1946 convertible. A prototype was built at the Iron Mountain body plant in Michigan by taking the skin off an early production convertible and fitting wood in its place. Using standard convertible parts to the furthest extent possible simplified the manufacturing process and helped restrain costs.
Because the wood framing was necessarily larger than equivalent steel, the back end ended up a bit bulkier and the convertible fenders wouldn’t work. Instead, rear fenders and taillights from the 1941 Sedan Delivery were used. Sportsman seats were upholstered in genuine leather facings in tan or red, with French stitching. The front floor mats had color-keyed carpet inserts, and power windows were standard. Announced in September, the first Sportsman was completed in December 1945 and presented to actress Ella Raines at Christmas.
The Sportsman became part of the Ford Super Deluxe line; at $1,982, it was about $500 more expensive than a standard convertible. The Mercury Sportsman appeared in April 1946, selling for $2,209, about the same margin over a regular Mercury convertible.
This “Spring 1947” Sportsman, an example of the mid-year styling change on all Fords, was built that May. It was previously part of the renowned Nick Alexander woodie collection in California, unquestionably one of the finest woodie collections in the country, where it was treated to meticulous care and restoration work by Mr. Alexander’s specialized team. Following its acquisition by the Dingman Collection, the car was brought to The Woody Works, in Meredith, New Hampshire, to be restored with the intention of presenting the car precisely as it would have been the day it was completed and sold new.
All frame wood in the body was carefully removed, stripped, sanded, and repaired where necessary. Stains were bleached out and all components were sealed, varnished, and buffed. The panels were refinished, buffed, and the complete body was re-assembled. The result is awe-inspiring, the wood rightfully taking pride of place in the car’s image.
The rest of the car serves as an apt backdrop. Its maroon paint shows no surface flaws and exhibits a deep shine. The body contours are excellent and the doors shut well, while the black canvas top is new and excellent. The running board rubber is new, all the brightwork is excellent, and the glass, all correct script panes, shows no flaws.
The seats are newly upholstered in red leather, of which the rear portion has a tan carpet floor mat; the front has black rubber mats with correct carpeted inserts, all of which look new. The dashboard has nicely restored maple wood grain. Instruments and the steering wheel are restored as well, and the top is lined with tan canvas. The correct glass rear window can be unsnapped and lowered for better ventilation. A radio and a working electric clock are fitted as well.
The luggage compartment is nicely detailed with grey cardboard liner and a black rubber floor mat. There is a top boot in the trunk, in a matching canvas bag. The compartment lid, sometimes troublesome on the Sportsman because of its weight, works well, since the folding supports are properly adjusted and easily hold it open.
The engine compartment and 59AB engine are clean and appropriately detailed. The chassis and underbody are painted gloss black and are clean and well detailed. The car rides on B.F. Goodrich 6.50x16 whitewall tires, and there is a matching spare in the trunk.
Previously owned by Claude Taylor of Asheville, North Carolina, it received AACA awards at the Southeastern Division National Meet in Huntsville, Alabama in 1980. While in the Alexander Collection it earned a coveted Dearborn Award from the Early Ford V-8 Club, judged at 988 points in 2004 at Hood River, Oregon.
It runs and drives well: its Columbia two-speed axle making highway travel effortless. A superb example of the second flight of 1947 Fords, it is the epitome of the legendary Ford Sportsman, presented in exceptional condition.
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