This article on Luke Katsanis's Ford coupe was originally published in issue 14 of Street Machine's Hot Rod magazine, 2014
THERE isn’t too much we can talk about in regards to the history of this car as it’s sketchy at best. The current owner, Luke Katsanis of John’s Rod & Custom bought the car from Chris Ito, a well known designer who penned the stunning NewMad, a modern take on a ’55 Chevy Nomad. He’s not too sure on the history of the car or when it was channelled, but he does say that he was the first person to register it since the early 50s and that it was a Texas car for most of its life.
When it came into Chris’s possession it was flat black and looking a little worse for wear, so a coat of Hot Rod Flatz Old Gold and some Wimbledon White on the firewall got it looking a lot more respectable. Some custom pinstriping in gold, copper and white on the front fenders and boot lid add some eye candy and a apart from a few speed part stickers on the firewall, Luke hasn’t really changed anything at all.
The unmistakeable lines of a ’40 Ford are still there, they’ve just got a little more attitude. Big and little rubber and a reversed eye and lowered spring up front give it just enough hot rod rake
“It looks like the car has either had an early Olds or Hemi in it at one stage because the crossmember has all been blown out where the starter usually sits. They just got the torch out and went, ‘Yep, we’ll clearance this.’ In the 50s and 60s, you got it done and didn’t worry about how it looked,” says Luke.
Being a hot rodder, Luke couldn't just leave it as is, so he made a few subtle changes: “It had a cross-ram on it originally, but Chris ended up keeping that and threw a four-barrel on it to keep it running. We put the six-carbs on it and we changed the steering wheel to a Limeworks ’40 wheel. We had to change the cam because the one that was in it wiped a lobe off, we had one of the Duntov cams on the shelf, so we slipped that in.”
A pair of seats out of an AP5 Valiant wagon were chucked in and the standard factory trim matches the simple tuck and roll door panels. As you can see from the photos, the interior isn’t quite complete, but Luke does have all the garnish moulds and trim pieces to finish it off but that doesn’t stop him enjoying the car.
The 283 features a Duntov 097 solid cam and original Corvette finned covers. The sextet of Stromberg 97s breathe through an Edelbrock C67 intake, and if you look for the leaking carbs, you’ll know which ones are connected
Luke admits he hasn’t done a hell of a lot to the car, not that he needed to, but when it came up for sale he jumped at the chance to get it: “My old man [the late John ‘Chopper’ Katsanis] liked it when he first saw it six or seven years ago. I had just bought a ’40 coupe from the US and Dad said: ‘If the floor’s a little bit rusty we’ll channel it and do this and do that,’ and when the car came in it was a really mint original car. A couple of months after he passed away the gold one came up for sale and we ended up getting it. That was around December 2011.”
With the unchopped body channelled five inches over the frame but with the fenders left in the stock location, the coupe has quite a unique look to it. With the running boards removed and the bottoms of the fenders trimmed to match the lower edge of the body, it’s a clean and aggressive look. With the hood removed to show off the six-carb engine, it’s all hot rod, but using Simon Major’s patented BYE (Blur Your Eyes) process, you could quite easily imagine this car with a reverse rake, sectioned hood and darker paint job as a late-40s style, taildragger custom.
The interior has been done in a style we like to call unfinished. Luke swapped the steering wheel for a Limeworks ’40 wheel and added a couple of bucket seats out of a Valiant that match the basic tuck and roll on the doors
I’m not saying that’s what someone should do, but it shows the versatility of the ’40 Ford and how, with a few styling changes, you can completely change the look and feel of the car.
Either way, it looks like Luke might be moving this one on, so by the time you read this, there might be a new custodian for this amazing survivor of an era long gone. Let’s hope he keeps the flame burning for traditional rods and customs just as the Katsanis family has been doing for so many years.
1940 FORD COUPE
Type: 283 Chev
Inlet: Edelbrock C67
Carb: Six Stromberg 97s
Heads: Power Pak
Cam: Duntov 097 Solid
Pistons: Flat top
Radiator: 60s GM radiator, electric fan
Exhaust: Patriot fenderwell headers
Ignition: Mallory Unilite
Diff: ’40 Ford banjo, 4.44 gears, open drive
Front end: Reversed eye and lowered spring
Steering: Vega steering box
Brakes: ’40 Ford hydraulic drums
Rims: Chrome smoothies 15x5 (f), 15x6 (r)
Rubber: BF Goodrich Silvertown 6.70-15 (f), Remington L78-15 (r)
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Street Machine is the bible of Aussie modified auto culture, celebrating wild muscle cars, customs and hot rods – and the incredible humans who create them.
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