Six Decade Deluxe – Les Haight Has Owned – and Dreamed About – This 1940 Ford Tudor Since 1965
During his freshman year at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, Les Haight learned about a 1940 Ford Tudor Deluxe for sale at a Chevrolet dealer in nearby Stanley, Wisconsin. It had a 59A Flathead under the hood and thanks to an inside tip from the dealer’s nephew, Les drove it back to his dorm for $50. Mind you, this was in 1965.
Even at this early age, Les was already a hot rodder at heart and though the ’40 was serving as his daily driver, he quickly formed a plan to build the car into a bonified hot rod someday. The 1940 Ford Tudor served him well for three years of school driving chores then became a secondary set of wheels for a few years. In 1972, Les was teaching high school auto shop and did a quick ‘restoration’ that included bodywork, paint, glass, brakes, and an engine rebuild. The car officially became a summer cruiser and was taken to shows for over a decade before other cars and interests took precedence. Alas, it was parked in a spare garage – for 28 years!
Fast forward to 2015 when Les decided it was time to unleash plans from those early college days and finally build the ’40 into the hot rod he envisioned. He dragged the car out of storage and back to his garage and completely gutted the vehicle. After studying his collection of old car magazines from the ‘50s and ‘60s, he was ready to get started.
After an early life of Wisconsin winters, Les knew the original chassis was going to be rough to work with, so he located a rust-free chassis that drag racer Al Bergler had prepped for an OE Mustang II front suspension and parallel leaf rear springs. Later additions were 2-inch drop spindles and a Flaming River manual rack. He also scored a ’57 Thunderbird rearend and had his friend Steve Christopherson (of the Bonneville record holding team Fox, Doll and Christopherson) rebuild it with a highway-friendly 3.10:1 gear set. The 9-inch is capped with drum brakes from an F100 pickup.
Though the Flathead had served the car well, it was high time for a little more power and Les found a slightly used Chevy ZZZ 350c.i. crate engine, one of the originals that were offered back in 1989. He enlisted Tom Doll (again of Fox, Doll and Christopherson) to go through the engine and aluminum heads. A ’69 vintage Z28 intake was installed along with an Edelbrock AVS carb and MSD Ready-to-Run distributor for a bit more spark. Hedman headers were used and Ernie Miyamoto of MotoFab fashioned the custom ceramic-coated 2.5-inch exhaust with Porter steel-pack mufflers. Thanks to the low gears and tall tires, a TH350 trans was enlisted for shifting duties.
When it came time for paint, Les had only one color in mind: black. He had another friend, Dennis Bollaert, work the factory sheet metal and add one common custom touch from back in the day: shaving the deck lid of its emblems and license plate mount. The PPG Deltron paint was applied and finished to a perfect sheen before the factory stainless trim was re-installed.
To realize his goal of a vintage hot rod, the interior was going to be key, and what better way than to finish the factory seats than in white rolls and pleats with black piping. Mario’s Auto Upholstery got it spot on along with snow white door panels and headliner with black loop carpet. Behind the scenes, Les installed an American Autowire harness and Vintage Air to keep things cool and a stock-styled gauge cluster from Dakota Digital.
Another important part of the project that troubled Les for a bit was the overall rake in the stance. In the end, he nailed it with a set of 15×6- and 15×7-inch steel wheels and Diamondback Classic 185/60s up front paired with 235/75 wide whites in the rear. The blood red wheels and ’56 Olds 88 hubcaps are icing on the cake.
The Deluxe was finished in 2018 and Les scored a ’40 Fords Forever award from Goodguys when he debuted the car at their spring event. Four years later, he caught the eyes of the Gazette staff and earned their coveted pick at the 2022 FiTech Spring Nationals! It may have taken over 50 years to build his vision of a hot rodded Tudor, but it sure was worth the wait – and how many other two-owner ’40 Fords are out there?
Photos by John Jackson