Model A

Ford Garage

Gordon Buehrig's Custom Cabriolet

This is a photo of automotive designer Gordon Buehrig's own custom cabriolet or convertible victoria coupe. He designed this car and had it built to his specifications early in his design career at Duesenburg.

Gordon Buehrig became the chief designer at Duesenburg, and later at Auburn and Cord as well. He was the designer of the Model J Duesenburgs and Auburn Speedsters.


Reminiscence from the 1989 Interview with Gordon Buehrig
Automotive Design Oral History, Accession 1673
Benson Ford Research Center, The Henry Ford

The oral history excerpt below is from a series of interviews with Gordon Buehrig by David R. Crippen during the month of July, 1984, in Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan. These interviews were held under the auspices of the Edsel B. Ford Design History Center, Archives & Library Collections, The Edison Institute (now named the Benson Ford Research Center).

...But, anyway, it was always fun to be able to drive a Duesenberg, and I had no idea that I would ever be able to afford one, but I wanted a custom-body car, and when the Model A Ford came out in 1929--well, it was 1930 model that I bought--I visualized redesigning that body and making it into a custom car, so I traded my Buick Roadster in and bought a Ford Victoria (I think that's what they called it--the two passenger convertible).

Before I got delivery of it, I had made a full-size body draft of it--what I wanted to do--and made arrangements with Augie Duesenberg at his race car shop to build the body for me. I drove the car from the dealership out to Augie's place, and first thing we did was take the body off the chassis.

Then, we cut the body back of the body B post, which is the back of the door, and that rumble seat (all that area), we threw that away and kept the body frame sills, and we mounted the body back on the chassis 4 inches aft of its normal location. Then, we built a dummy cowling, or extended cowling, so that the fire wall was moved forward into its normal location in relation to the engine.

Then I had to build a new engine hood which was 4 inches longer than the regular engine hood. Then the back of the body was all new, framed in wood, and paneled in aluminum, and it extended just a little bit beyond the rear axle, and then I had a large trunk on the back, and on the inside I had a single seat facing the center.

The passenger seat was built so it would fold forward so that you could get into that rear, one-passenger, enclosed rumble seat. It was a blind quarter convertible--beautiful thing. I lowered the--cut the windshield down to the top of the upper hinge on the door, and that I think was 31 inches. So, the body was 3 inches lower than the regular Ford.

At that time the Weyman Body Company was going out of business, and I bought some of their hides of leather for $5 a hide, and when Augie was through with it, we moved it across the street to the Duesenberg plant where they allowed me to have it painted and trimmed by the head trimmer and the head painter at Duesenberg. We did have a good paint and trim shop.

So, the quality of the car was equal to the Duesenberg, and I had drove that car almost 100,000 miles, and I finally sold it in Auburn later on when Mr. Ames told me he thought I should drive a company car. I regretted that all my life, and I tried many times to find it.

It was written up in the Ford Times magazine, and about three or four years ago a friend of mine by the name of Bob Ahmanson in California --I made some drawings for him. I had enough information that I could reconstruct a body draft from it, and I originally did this for Bill Harrah.

Bill wanted to build one, and he bought a car, but he never got around to it -never got around to scheduling it through his shop, but Bob Ahmanson did build one. It was written up in a magazine not too long ago as the most beautiful Model A ever built and so forth.

But, I think it's kind of significant in that as far I know this is the first time a designer took a stock car of that sort and modified it and made it into a different type of automobile. There had been a lot of speedsters built, you know, in the old days off of Model T's and so forth, but the process that I used, I think, was probably the first time that had ever been done....


More related information on Ford Garage:

  1. Model A Edsel Ford's Sport Phaeton
  2. Model A Prototype Three Window Coupes
  3. Model A Henry Ford II's 1945 Custom Sportsman
  4. Model A & AA US Body Style Numbers & Body Builders Chart

January 2004