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This Flamed ’40 Ford Gets a New Lease on Life

This Flamed ’40 Ford Gets a New Lease on Life



Gary Nehring's ‘40 Ford goes back a long way. All through high school, he had dreamed of owning a hot rod. When he turned 30, his dream was about to come true with this '40 Ford. Today, the coupe is preserved pretty much unchanged; it looks just like that day in 1978 when Gary finished his project. 

The car came to Gary already chopped. In 1959, it was cut sown 4-1/2 inches, then stored in a garage that Ken Gartman owned in Fond du Lac, Wis, where it stayed in a half-finished state until 1977, when Nehring bought it from Ken. The deal was that Gary had to let Ken finish the car for him.

Over the next two years, Gartman painted the car Cinnamon, a 1975 Ford pickup color, and finished it with the flames and a lacquer coating. Then one night he called Nehring and said he was moving to California and insisted that Gary pick up the car. The car didn’t run at that time and it didn’t have an interior in it, but Ken had held up his end of the deal. The outside was finished.  It was up to Gary to make '40 go.

The car’s 1948 Mercury V-8 started life as a 239.4-cid 100-hp flathead, but Nehring had it built with a stroker kit to add cubes. Porting and relieving the block for better breathing helped the horsepower, as did a full race cam and dual Stromberg 97 carburetors A ’39 Ford gearbox was bolted up behind the power plant and all-leather interior was pirated from a ‘70s Toyota Celica. The car’s suspension is basically the stock ’40 Ford layout with a dropped front axle.

The Ford has real ‘50s flipper bar rear hubcaps. Gary has more originals hanging in the barn for the front, but right now the front wheels wear reproduction flipper caps.  It has a chrome grille and hood tip and belt line moldings, bright bumpers, chrome Appleton spotlights and a “banjo” steering wheel.

Nehring is retired now, but before that, he owned and operated The Ford Barn full time and eventually sold it. Now that he’s retired, the ’40 Ford coupe has come out of mothballs. Many people remember seeing the car at the Street Rod Nats in Minnesota, the Iola Old Car Show and other events where The Ford Barn used to vend. They are all happy the car is back in circulation.

Time can change a rodder’s impressions. Gary says he remembers the car driving better years ago. “Maybe it needs an alignment,” he said. “Or maybe the new cars have just spoiled me.” 

The Appleton spotlights are a perfect touch on a car that cruised the streets of Appleton, Wis., years ago.

Even though it was sprayed 30 years ago with lacquer,. The finish on the car looks very good.


When the car was built, Gary ditched the factory Sergeant stripe taillights for cleaner looking units.


Traditional rodders give Gary flack over the leather Toyota seats, but they’re comfy and they’ve been there for about 35 years.


While the rear flipper caps are genie items, reproduction disc are used up front-at least for the time being. Gary has originals socked away.