Restoring a 1934 Ford 3-Window Coupe

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Darrell Massart wasn’t quite sure what to do with the car he had just bought. In fact, the more he looked at it, the worse it seemed to appear. “It looked a lot different in the pictures,” the owner of Massart’s Auto Body in Brussels, Wisc., says of his first visit to see the 1934 Ford 3-window coupe. “I thought it looked like it was painted with a roller.”

Despite the Ford’s unimpressive condition, Massart decided to buy the vehicle, transporting it from New Jersey to Wisconsin. He originally planned to touch up only a few things here and there, but once he dove into his new project, “everything came apart.” After a several-month restoration, however, Massart transformed the nearly forgotten-about Ford into a gleaming, award-winning show car.

A NEW PASSION

Massart’s family has been working on cars for many years. “It’s in my blood,” he says. His preference for restoring them, however, didn’t happen until recently. Though Massart opened his body shop in 1977, for the past 28 years, racing cars was his favorite pastime. He thrived on the adrenaline rush of competing with several other cars on a dirt track, but after nearly three decades, he decided to switch gears and pursue a different hobby.

Massart found the ’34 Ford on a hot rod Web site in 2007, admiring its yellow color. After beginning the restoration process with his son, he soon realized it was going to be a huge undertaking. Massart remembers thinking it would have been easier to spend a little more money to buy a car that didn’t need as much work done on it. Father and son stuck with the project, though, and the car slowly came to life. The two spent long hours on Friday evenings and weekends working on the Ford. They’d even work on it during holidays. “I don’t think my wife was happy about that,” Massart recalls.

As the months passed by, Massart stopped keeping track of how long they’d spent on the Ford. “We started to stop counting after 1,200 or 1,300 hours.”

PROJECT IN PROGRESS

Part of the car’s restoration involved taking out the entire interior for repairs, removing dirt and dust. “We stripped everything off—the motor and the body,” Massart says. “We took it all out and cleaned it up. We color keyed the motor and tram to match the rest of the car.” They also put in new gaskets and added different chrome and valve covers to create a nostalgic feel to the car.

Working on the Ford’s body lines was the most challenging—and literally caused things to go up in flames. “I left a mat in the car. When we were cutting and getting stuff to line up with the door gaps, the sparks [from] grinding away on the hinges started that on fire,” Massart says. “It lit the interior on fire, and it lit me on fire.” Though unharmed, he says the situation was “just a mess.”

STEALING THE SHOW

Despite the fire incident, Massart continued on with the project. “After so many months and hours of working on it, you can stand back and look at the accomplishment,” he says. “You knew it was coming together rather than coming apart.”

And come together it did. The once forlorn looking Ford now attracts waves of attention. “[I’ve gotten] a lot of praise and compliments. Even driving it down the road, people have their hands hanging out the window and thumbs up,” he says.

The Ford has also won Best of Paint and second place for Best of Show at car shows. “We placed at every show we were at,” Massart says. Car shows are another first for the former race car driver. “[They’re] a lot more laid back than racing. You go to a car show, look around and sit down. There’s no adrenaline rush like racing 20 some other cars on a dirt track.” So, does he enjoy the new change of pace? “Now I do,” Massart laughs.


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