The transformation this classic Ford went through is more radical than you’d think

Call it a restomod, call it a hot rod, this 1939 Ford Convertible is certainly a head-turner that packs a variety of cutting-edge mechanical solutions including an independent rear suspension and a huge, meaty engine crammed under that classic "alligator" hood.

You can tell this no longer is a stock ’39 Ford as it rolls on new, chromed wheels hugged by low-profile tires that completely change the stance of the vehicle and then there’s the lower-than-usual windshield. In short, this is a modified car that covers all the bases.

The sand paint job really stands out

We'd Like to Nominate this 1939 Ford Ragtop Restomod as the Car of the Year
- image 922230

For Ford Motor Company historians, 1939 is an important year for reasons that almost completely elude the actual lineup of Ford models available that year. That’s because 1939 is the year when Ford introduced the Mercury brand to fill the gap between the Ford lineup of vehicles and the up-market Lincoln-Zephyr family.

The first Mercury platform was longer than that of any Ford, including the De Luxe models, standing at 116 inches and the design was all-new as well.
We'd Like to Nominate this 1939 Ford Ragtop Restomod as the Car of the Year
- image 922232

However, the Mercury quartet of models relied on Ford’s pre-existing 3.6-liter Flathead V-8 to save costs.

Going back to Ford, 1939 was the first year that the Blue Oval finally budged and offered its cars with hydraulic brakes, something Chevy and Plymouth had been doing for a few years already. What is more, the frontal area of the radiator was increased to improve cooling and the grille on the outside was restyled with the De Luxe models featuring vertical chromed slats as opposed to horizontal ones on the standard models.

This particular ’39 two-door convertible example boasts the De Luxe grille but, according to the guys at RestoMods, it was originally powered by the 60 horsepower version of the Flathead V-8, namely 2.2-liter mill offered on standard models. The De Luxe ones came with the bigger 3.6-liter V-8 that was conservatively rated at 85 horsepower and, new for ’39, boasted with larger bearings and a heavier crankshaft that now drove the engine fan. Torque-tube drive and transverse leaf springs were the norm on these De Luxe models that were actually more popular amongst FoMoCo costumers in 1939 - probably because the tepid 60-horsepower base engine was connected to a three-speed floorshift transmission.

The two-door convertible set you back under $800 when new and was more expensive than the most popular Ford of that year, the De Luxe two-door sedan of which over 144,000 were made despite the advent of the Second World War.
We'd Like to Nominate this 1939 Ford Ragtop Restomod as the Car of the Year
- image 922235

For the record, $800 in 1939 is the same as $14,684 today. To put it into perspective, the 2019 MY Ford Fiesta, the last year for Ford’s popular hatchback, started at $15,235. 1939 too marked the last time you could get your Ford with some interesting things such as the cool-looking rumble seat that was only available on the two-door convertible.

The convertible (or ragtop) example you see here lived most of its life in stock form, that is until it was purchased from a retired shop teacher and sent to Hot Rods and Custom Stuff of Escondido where it became the ’Rumblin Rag’. The rumble comes courtesy of a 525 horsepower RamJet 502 (8.2-liter) V-8 mated to a GM 4L80-E transmission. It breathes through a modified exhaust system featuring electronic exhaust cutouts.

We'd Like to Nominate this 1939 Ford Ragtop Restomod as the Car of the Year
- image 922237

The engine is so big that the firewall had to be cut which means your knees almost hit the back of the powerhouse that helps this Ford light up its rear tires with ease. Talking about that, the chassis has also been upgraded to keep up with all the oomph and there’s an all-independent suspension setup in the back for better maneuverability.

In the stylistic department, the changes are also plentiful and they go far beyond those chromed alloys. The windshield, for instance, lost two inches off the top and was angled back an inch. Inside, there’s a custom leather interior with retro A/C and, in case you forget what you’re driving, all you gotta do is pop the hood and check the chromed head covers stamped with the car’s name: ’39 Rumble Rag.

Michael Fira
Associate Editor and Motorsport Expert - fira@topspeed.com
Mihai Fira started out writing about long-distance racing like the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. As the years went by, his area of interest grew wider and wider and he ever branched beyond the usual confines of an automotive writer. However, his heart is still close to anything car-related and he's most at home retelling the story of some long-since-forgotten moment from the history of auto racing. He'll also take time to explain why the cars of the '60s and '70s are more fascinating than anything on the road today.  Read More
About the author
What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: