NORMAN — Juan Villareal first saw the 1940 Ford 2-door Deluxe at an All Transportation Swap Meet.
“My dad had a couple of cars like this,” Villareal said.
He asked the owner what he had to have for it. A deal was consummated on the spot with cash and title exchanging hands the same day. The Norman resident actually heard the car’s cam before seeing it and instantly recognized the distinctive sound. When Villareal turned around, he saw a 72-year-old automobile that had recently been completely refurbished. It’s painted an unusual vibrant blue and has lipstick-red leather interior.
“The interior has won a couple ‘best of shows’ since I bought it,” Villareal said. After acquiring the car he’s added new running boards and chromed much of the engine that’s a 350 Chevrolet V-8. Sheet metal is about all that remains of the car first assembled before America entered WWII. And the original Made in the USA fenders and hood are solid. Current after-market replacement parts are available, but nowhere near as heavy and substantial as this old steel. The body lines are unmistakably from another era. An elderly motorist blew kisses to Villareal to get him to pull over so he could check out the attractive car from his youth.
The Ford’s transmission is automatic. The front end is from a Mustang and the rear end also is modern Ford. There are disc brakes in front and it has air conditioning.
“Except for idling a little rough, it’s a good running little car,” Villareal said.
The fact that it’s cobbled together with components from different manufacturers is a source of appeal for him.
“The mechanical part intrigues me on a car like this,” he said. “It’s not like a new one that you buy that’s all ready to go. This is a Ford with a Chevy engine, so that’s interesting right there. Nothing on this car came with it originally, it’s piecemeal.”
One feature of the car is definitely from back in the day. It’s an orange and black “Okla-1940 164 t 171” license plate issued by the Sooner State.
“A guy came up to me at a car show in Del City and told me he had something I needed,” Villareal said. “It was this plate and he sold it to me for 50 bucks which was a deal because some of those go for $200.”
It’s a great addition to the old beauty’s provenance, centered right under the distinctive split rear windows.
The 1940 Ford is such a fine ride that he’s had to defend against his wife’s assertions that it should be her primary transportation.
“She says ‘That’s my little car,’” he said with a chuckle. “But I tell her no it’s not.”
There’s no shortage of rolling stock around the Villareal ranch. A Cartier edition Lincoln Continental, new Chevrolet Impala and Fred Roush Performance customized Ford Mustang were parked nearby. Retired from the USAF, Villareal is a former aircraft mechanic who has spent his entire life maintaining vehicles. The spacious shop and oversized garage on his property is clean as an operating room.
After the Air Force, where he pulled two tours in Vietnam, Villareal earned three higher education degrees, including a masters. He employed those in the Oklahoma City public school district.
“I was an assistant principal and athletic director for 17 years,” he said. “I retired again four years ago.”
Now he’s gone back to working on cars, a passion that began at age 13. That’s when Villareal was one of 500 residents in the unincorporated community of Tivoli, Texas, in Refugio County near the mouth of the Guadalupe River and Gulf Coast.
“My dad Reuben Villareal was quite a car guy,” he said. “Dad had more than one Mercury and old pick-ups out there in back. He was in cahoots with a cop there in town and any car abandoned by the side of the road after three days he’d call dad to come get it.”
If the owner showed up and paid for storage, the car would be returned, otherwise after 90 days it became Villareal’s property.
“My first vehicle was a 1931 Ford Model A pick up,” he said. “I found the body underneath a tree, made a deal with the farmer and bought it.”
At the end of a year’s work the young man had a running truck. He got his first ticket at age 14 for not having an inspection sticker on the vehicle. The police officer generously ignored the violation of not having a driver’s license.
“I drove it to school,” Villareal said. “And there were a lot of drive-in moments in that Model A, we’d drive 20 miles to the drive-in movies in Port Lavaca.”
Villareal graduated from high school in 1962. He recounted a list of 1940 and 1950s cars owned and driven fast that went on for a country mile.
“We did a lot of racing out in the country,” Villareal said. “Even the girls would get involved. There was one named Charlotte Blaylock who would run her mom’s Studebaker against my ’57 Ford and she could wheel that old car.”
Those days are long gone but Villareal is demonstrably just as enthusiastic about cars now.
“You’re never too old for this stuff,” he said. “It gets in your blood.”
Have you seen a cool vehicle around town? Writer Doug Hill’s always on the lookout for future Dig My Ride columns. Email him at Hillreviews@hotmail.com.
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