The 1940 Ford is said to have been one of the most influential cars of its era.

America was just coming out of the decade-long Great Depression of the 1930s, and the industry was making some awesome changes, including the development of automatic transmissions, air conditioning and more powerful engines.

Some of the most imaginative changes came from the Ford designers, and the 1940 Ford is frequently cited as an excellent example of art deco styling. Of course, at this time, no one knew of the upcoming attack on Pearl Harbor, and many an American GI has been written about as dreaming of owning a 1940 Ford after World War II.

During this time, Ford made a lot of two-door coupes, convertibles, two- and four-door sedans and station wagons, but all their different models had the same styling and only used Ford’s famous 221-cubic-inch, 85-horsepower V8 engine. In 1940, Ford introduced “Finger-Tip Shift” which was the steering column-mounted shift in their cars. Ford was a couple of years behind the competition with this feature that made seating three on the front bench seat more comfortable.

In 1938, Ford started producing a two-model series, the base or standard model and an upgraded De Luxe Ford. The difference was not engine size or other mechanical upgrades but just styling and interiors.

The De Luxe 1940 Ford had a different grille, chrome headlight bezels, two taillights, interior arm rests and a nicer interior. The idea was to make a fancier Ford that would help bridge the gap between Ford and Lincoln (Lincoln’s Mercury was introduced in 1939).

The 1940 Ford sat on a 112-inch wheelbase with transverse leaf springs in the front and rear. Hydraulic brakes were standard for the second year. The Bakelite dashboard was significantly changed with a modern-looking horizontal speedometer and gauges with two ashtrays at each end of the dash.

The De Luxe models each had a 30-hour clock built into the glove box door. Sealed-beam headlights were introduced with the 1940 models, as were front vent windows. That allowed the discontinuation of the popular crank-out windshield.

Also unique was the radio antenna mounted at the center of the windshield through the rooftop. It could be raised or lowered manually using a small attached interior bead.

After some modifications like a stronger rear suspension and souped-up engines, the 1940 Ford was popular for the exciting life of moonshiners. The coupe’s trunk could carry 130 gallons of moonshine while racing through mountains to big cities while hopefully staying ahead of persistent revenuers.

This issue’s featured vehicle is a 1940 Ford standard two-door sedan. Rick Vallelorsa, of San Ramon, has owned this classic since August. It was actually built and restored by Ray Brown, a former Bay Area resident who moved to Bend, Oregon, after retirement.

  • A 1940 Ford Standard two-door sedan owned by Rick Vallelorsa...

    A 1940 Ford Standard two-door sedan owned by Rick Vallelorsa of San Ramon. (David Krumboltz for the Bay Area News Group)

  • The dashboard of a 1940 Ford Standard two-door sedan owned...

    The dashboard of a 1940 Ford Standard two-door sedan owned by Rick Vallelorsa of San Ramon. (David Krumboltz for the Bay Area News Group)

  • A 1940 Ford Standard two-door sedan owned by Rick Vallelorsa...

    A 1940 Ford Standard two-door sedan owned by Rick Vallelorsa of San Ramon. (David Krumboltz for the Bay Area News Group)

  • A 1940 Ford Standard two-door sedan with a Chevy 350...

    A 1940 Ford Standard two-door sedan with a Chevy 350 c.i., V8 engine, and matching Chevy automatic transmission, owned by Rick Vallelorsa of San Ramon. (David Krumboltz for the Bay Area News Group)

  • The interior of a 1940 Ford Standard two-door sedan owned...

    The interior of a 1940 Ford Standard two-door sedan owned by Rick Vallelorsa of San Ramon. (David Krumboltz for the Bay Area News Group)

  • The dashboard of a 1940 Ford Standard two-door sedan owned...

    The dashboard of a 1940 Ford Standard two-door sedan owned by Rick Vallelorsa of San Ramon. (David Krumboltz for the Bay Area News Group)

Brown had restored about 30 cars during his lifetime, and this one was his favorite. Unfortunately, he passed away, and his wife wanted to sell this car.

“She and one of her friends drove that car from Bend, Oregon, to the Good Guys Show in Pleasanton,” Vallelorsa said. “I learned it was for sale at the show.”

Like a pet owner who has to get rid of a beloved dog or cat, the widow wanted this car to “go to a good home.”

That meant that she didn’t want to sell it to someone who would flip it for a quick profit. Vallelorsa made that promise, and the sale was made.

It definitely looks better than when it had just come off the assembly line, plus it has a Chevy 350-cubic-inch, V8 engine, with a matching Chevy automatic transmission, Ford Mustang II front end, power steering, cruise control, disc brakes, air conditioning and a gorgeous leather interior. Vallelorsa says he always had a strong interest in 1940 Fords.

“I built models of them as a kid, and somehow I feel that Ray Brown built that car for me.”

Vallelorsa has bought and sold many collector cars in the past but has no plans to ever sell his 1940 Ford.

“It’s one of those cars that I think I’ll never tire of.”

Have an interesting vehicle? Email Dave at [email protected]. To read more of his columns or see more photos of this and other issues’ vehicles, visit mercurynews.com/author/david-krumboltz.