When there were far fewer people around, far fewer laws and regulations, when the legal speed limit was 75 mph, when gas was cheap, when driving was a pleasure, if you owned a hot machine you could point the grill down an empty road and go!

Eddie Duhon’s ‘39 Ford

I saw Eddie Duhon’s 1939 Ford four door convertible at one of the first legal drag races in Eugene, Oregon in the summer of 1951. It had black paint, with areas of gray primer, and the top was loose and flapped in the wind. It probably did not have hub caps. The back bumper was missing, and the car had to be pushed in reverse. The grill was missing, as was the hood, and that big flathead was revealed to the world. It had Evans heads and triple manifold, even a magneto--serious stuff in the early 'Fifties. I was terribly excited to be at a real drag race, and much that happened is still vivid in my mind nearly 60 years later. I remember that the car was pushed backward by another car, and the engine caught, roared to life; smoke rose from the engine and Eddie Duhon, looking like a dashing film star with wavy hair and a thin black mustache, revved it, put it in gear and drove to the line. There was that flapping canvas top, engine noise, and as the flag was dropped there was the sound of spinning tires and smoke as the big car left the line and quickly covered the quarter. That year Duhon took first place in the sedan class.

I next saw the '39 a few months later, in March, 1952, when the Ramblers, Duhon's club, and the Road Angels, my club, put on a car show to promote the newly-formed Columbia Timing Association (CTA). Duhon amazed everyone when he drove in a totally rebuilt '39. In a few months he'd built a new engine, had Cliff White build a new padded top and a red and white rolled and pleated interior, painted the car black, did a lot of chrome plating, put on new bumpers and a Packard grill. It was no surprise when the car won the Sweepstakes trophy. What is surprising is that the car was never in another car show nor in a magazine.

In 1958 Duhon was driving to California and the '39 was involved in a serious accident; the entire front end was demolished and there was frame damage. For the next 35 years the car sat. Much of that time it was owned by Ray Foster, and we can thank him for saving the car. But the guy who really saved it was Sam Parker, who had known Duhon in the 1950s and had helped him put an Olds engine in the car in 1958. Sam had tried to buy the car for years, and, on the chance that he might someday get it, had bought things that would be needed to restore it, things like a Packard grill, a 1950 Ford Crestliner steering wheel, yards of old style canvas for the top, etc. Sam, and his son, Bryan, did a ground. up restoration, taking pains to make the car identical to the way it had appeared in 1952. When it was done, Eddie Duhon came to Oregon to look at the car he had not seen for nearly 40 years and he gave the job his approval.
Copyright 2008, Albert Drake and Flat Out Press.
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