THE CAR AND ITS OWNERS
1940 Ford Deluxe opera coupe owned by Connie and John Delillo
WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING
While more than 20,000 of these fluid and stylish Ford coupes (also known as “business coupes”) hit the road in 1940, so many were hot-rodded or otherwise modified for stock car and dirt track racing that it’s rare to see one in its original form. Yet even in stock guise, these cars had plenty of “get-up-and-go” for the era, with their “flathead” V-8 engines producing 85 to 95 horsepower for a sticker price well under $1,000. The Deluxe model differentiated itself with a grille featuring horizontal slats that extended into the front fenders (versus the vertical slats of the standard coupe in a design carried over from 1939).
By the 1950s and ‘60s, many a Long Island kid had been introduced to these cars through popular plastic model kits that allowed them to create multiple versions. “For me,” says John Delillo, “the body style makes it very desirable. The telltale sign of the year is the taillights. At one of the car shows, a blind man was asked what kind of car it is. He felt his way to the taillights and said, ‘It’s a ’40 Ford.’ It is the only car with ‘sergeant stripes” (chevron-shaped) taillights.”
HOW LONG THEY’VE OWNED IT
WHERE THEY FOUND IT
“A very old friend of mine had it and was looking to sell it,” Delillo says. “I always liked the body style, but did not plan on buying it. When I told my wife Connie about it, she called him and bought it as a surprise retirement gift for me.”
“It was restored when it was purchased by my friend,” he says. “The good thing about having a car like this is that, even though it is hard to find a complete car, there are lots of parts available.” Delillo notes that his coupe features a steering wheel lock and that 1940 marked the first year for Ford sealed-beam headlights. And the rumble seat era was no more, as Ford replaced it with a trunk and installed two jump seats in the rear passenger compartment (hence the “opera coupe” designation). Delillo says that he also has an original owner’s manual.
TIPS FOR OWNERS
“It is a very expensive hobby if you don’t learn to do a lot of things yourself,” he cautions, “but once a car is complete, you will get a lot enjoyment and satisfaction.”
“It depends on the car,” he says. “I feel this car is worth $26,000 to $30,000.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
“I belong to the antique car club of Brooklyn,” Delillo says. “We meet a lot of nice people.”