Jarl de Boer was born in Holland almost 80 years ago. He and his family spent World War II in the "underground," then immigrated to the United States in 1946.
After graduating from UC Berkeley, he had a chance to work for Chevron but turned it down because it would have meant moving his family every three years or so.
"In 1961, I opened up a shop in Walnut Creek, where at first I did mechanical repair and then later restoration work," de Boer said. "I worked on 'orphan' cars, cars without a local dealer for service." Along the way, he became an expert on MGs and small Italian cars.
He estimates he has owned between 600 and 700 cars in his lifetime and still has about 25 waiting to be restored by his talented hands. However, of all the cars he has owned, only about 20 have been American cars. Though he has been partial to European vehicles, there was one unique American car that the Walnut Creek man always wanted, even as a youth -- a 1937 Ford convertible.
Sixty-five years later -- about a year ago -- he finally got his dream car.
"This 1937 Ford Deluxe four-door convertible was in a museum that had closed down somewhere in Georgia," he said. It had been completely restored and de Boer, an expert in the field, would rate it as slightly less than a perfect show car. He paid about $40,000 for the vehicle, which he believes was a bargain.
The car is completely stock except hydraulic brakes replaced original mechanical brakes. The exterior color is a rich burgundy with a matching leather interior. The three-speed manual transmission is a floor shifter. Sitting on a 112-inch wheel base, this convertible was Ford's most expensive model in 1937 and included an AM radio, a clock on the glove box door, roll-down side windows, dual chrome outside mirrors, whitewall tires, road lamps and chrome wheel trim rings.
The convertible top has three positions; up, down or landau-style, where the top covers only the back seat and leaves the front seat exposed to the weather. The manually operated top takes about 15 minutes to raise or lower. This 1937 Ford has a Philco floor heater, which the owner believes was an aftermarket option.
When new, the price for that Ford was $859 or about $14,100 in today's dollars. Ford also offered the four-door Phaeton convertible, which looks the same except it had side curtains instead of roll down windows and cost $110 less.
The 1937 Ford was a major step forward in styling for the manufacturer. The horizontal slat grille has a slight backward slant for a more aerodynamic look and it was the first year Ford placed headlights in the fenders. The front styling, including the grille and in-fender teardrop shaped headlights, showed the family resemblance to Ford Motor Co.'s well accepted and pricey 1936 Lincoln Zephyr.
Inside, the car has a "banjo" steering wheel with three series of four spokes holding the exterior of the wheel from the hub. The hub has the horn button and the turn light switch, both of which remain stationary when the steering wheel is turned. It has a push-button starter, and the ignition is an on/off lever that is locked by turning a key, which also locks the steering wheel in place.
It has been reported that initially the 1937 Ford did not sell too well as the country was in the midst of depression. Ford made 4,378 Deluxe All Weather 4-door convertibles, and it is estimated there are only about 200 of them left in the hands of collectors.
"It's an excellent driver," de Boer said. "It will go over the Ygnacio Valley hill (in Walnut Creek) in third gear and never miss a beat."
The Ford has a 221-cubic-inch flat-head V8 engine rated at 85 horsepower. Evidently, Ford was quite proud of its V8 engine, as I counted 10 different locations on the car displaying the V8 logo -- including the station indicator on the radio dial. Chevrolet and Plymouth didn't have V8 engines until 1955.
Jarl de Boer isn't alone in his appreciation of Ford cars, and their famous V8 engines. The car line was popular with all classes of people from Public Enemy Number One to Public Family Number One. Clyde Barrow of Bonnie and Clyde fame and infamous gangster John Dillinger allegedly wrote to Henry Ford praising the V8 performance in helping them escape from crime scenes.
On the other end of the social scale, Franklin Delano Roosevelt bought a 1937 Ford Deluxe All Weather 4-door convertible with hand controls to drive when visiting the Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia.
Have an interesting vehicle? Contact David Krumboltz at MOBopoly@yahoo.com.