Hand-Built, One-of-One '37 Ford Custom Roadster Looks Like a Legit Proto Cobra (2024)

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Photo: Barnfinds.com User: Collin M

We love real odd-ball old cars around here. Stuff that you can find in maybe a handful of places across the world or sometimes even just a single place on the planet. So when we came across this fully custom 1937 Ford that looked awfully like timeless classic sports cars that came afterward, we knew we had to do a little investigating.

On first impressions, it's hard not to look at this custom roadster chilling in a shed in Joshua, Texas, and not think it's some long-lost Shelby Cobra prototype. That low-sprung sports car silhouette, prominent bug-eye headlight arrangement, and stark lack of a folding roof are items that instantly scream Cobra. However, a staggering 25 years separate this one-off custom racer and the launch of the AC Cobra, the basis of Shelby's halo vehicle.

Any resemblance is probably purely circ*mstantial. The real story of how this '37 Ford received such a unique body shell dates back to a Texas airplane mechanic who spent his off-time turning wrenches on custom race cars instead of aircraft. There is no telling the specific details of the frame or when exactly this car was put together after changing hands no less than twice after the original builder and owner sold it.

But from the looks of things, the underpinnings appear related to the bespoke 1937 Ford model, itself a refresh of the Model 48 dating to early 1935.With a wide variety of body styles optimized for different civil and commercial applications, Fords today often shared much the same underpinnings, whether they were coupes, drop-tops, woodie station wagons, or pickup trucks.

With a striking similarity to drop-top Jaguars, Aston Martins, and other various British sports cars poking around in the late 40s and early 50s, it's safe to assume the person who built this body shell had a very similar idea in mind. As it happens, these boxy, plucky little sports cars would prove foundational to 1950s and 60s sports cars like the AC Ace and AC Cobra that Carrol Shelby would turn into a superstar.


Photo: Barnfinds.com User: Collin M

To drive the point home about the parallels between this custom hot rod and what the Shelby Cobra eventually became, this, too, sports a thumping-great V8 under the hood. Not the same as the 289 and 427-cubic-inch motors of Cobra, of course. Rather, it's their distant V8 cousins, the venerable Ford flathead series, and it appears to be the bigger 221-cubic-inch variety, no less.

With Weiand heads and twin carburetors, this was one seriously quick car for the period.The gearstick and linkages for its non-synchronized three-speed manual gearbox are still present, and it's clear this was once the archetypal driver's car.From what little information is available, it appears that the second owner of this custom Ford intended to strip the paint and re-apply a higher-quality paint job themselves before dropping the project at some point after the original paint was stripped.

Since then, the elements haven't been very kind to the fragile metal bodywork to which someone once dedicated their heart and soul. Gone are the original floorboards, as are the seats and any interior trim, and the flathead V8 is downright seized. In short, there's not much that remains of what this custom racer used to be.

Apart from a rust-addled rolling chassis and a V8 in desperate need of a complete rebuild, there's not much going on here. It would take a restoration shop of especially strong fortitude to restore each aspect of this old Ford without messing up even once. Keep in mind, there's no duplicate on the planet for any of the custom bodywork that one man once forged by hand.


Photo: Barnfinds.com User: Collin M

Only the fiberglass hood and trunk lid have been spared from decades of rust. It also dates the build year of this racer to some point after 1949, the year the first automotive-grade fiberglass body panel was manufactured. It goes without saying that it would take a herculean effort by some of the most highly skilled craftspeople in the trade to make this old Ford racer shine again. But just imagine the potential upsides if someone out there could do the job.

Imagining this one-of-one racer fully restored and decked out in a wicked paint job that should've been applied 50 years ago gives a sense of satisfaction that hopefully translates into the drive to make it a reality. Just imagine parking it next to a genuine first-gen Shelby Cobra with a 260-cubic-inch V8 next to it. Now, that's the kind of poetic justice that can only come from classic sports cars.

If you're the proprietor of the kind of eccentric restoration shop capable of fulfilling the prophecy of the guy who built this Ford racer, you'll only need to fork out $4,500 before the buyer's fee on Barnfinds.com for the privilege. Don't let us down, please.

Hand-Built, One-of-One '37 Ford Custom Roadster Looks Like a Legit Proto Cobra (2024)

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