Model A

Ford Garage

Edsel Ford's Sport Phaeton

Edsel Ford's custom Model A Dual Cowl Sport Phaeton pictured outside the Ford Engineering Laboratory in Dearborn. This body was coach-built by LeBaron for Edsel.

The wheels, radiator shell, and radiator and gas cap are all 1930 style. Aside from those items, virtually everything else visible is custom and unique. Note the LeBaron body builders tag on the lower cowl.

Fast Forward to 2007: The Original is Rediscovered!

In the fall of 2007, Edsel's original dual cowl sport phaeton turned up in the estate of a 90 year old man, and came out of long-term barn storage. At one point, the car had been owned by collector Vernon Jarvis, of Jarvis Oil Company. The car was subsequently bought in 2007 by Phil Hawley, who owned the Route 66 Dream Car Museum near Springfield, Illinois. Phil was the brother-in-law of a colleague of mine.

There is little doubt that the car shown is in fact the remains of Edsel's original car, due to the provenance that came with the car, as well as the very unique front fenders, running boards, cowl construction, door hinges, rear door cut lines, headlamp mounting, etc., to name a few. The LeBaron body floor sill tag is LB-4093.

The car had obviously undergone some major half-hearted modifications and updating (in the 1940's or 1950's?), especially to the dash and front end, as well as engine, transmission, steering, rear suspension, and possibly the entire frame. The original hood, grille, headlights, and gas tank/dash panel had been completely removed and/or modified in the past, but most other significant and unique body and fender features are still intact or clearly indicated.

As found in the Illinois dairy barn, the car was missing it's original front and rear windshield, bumpers, door handles, hood, headlamp mounting, folding top, and the LeBaron cowl tag (seen at the lower rear of the RH cowl panel in the original Ford photo). The mounting provisions for those original parts is still clearly visible in the barn-find car. It is possible that those missing original parts may have found their way into the replica which was later built.

The replica car has the wrong body and fenders, but seems to have the 'right' trim pieces, which are missing from the original car. There are significant differences between the replica and the original especially regarding the doors, hinges, belt line shape, door cut lines, and front fenders.

Note that the original Model A firewall is still basically intact. Steering column, engine, and transmission are all changed to later 1930's Ford V8.

It certainly appears that the basic body and chassis is the original 1930 Edsel Phaeton design from LeBaron, based on the body lines, cowl side vent, unique door hinge style and locations, running board designs, and long sweeping front fenders with unique front treatment. Also note the openings for the missing unique windshield posts.

Obviously the 'updated' 1937-1938 style hood, grill, and front lamps are substantially different compared to the original configuration, as is the instrument panel pictured below.

The car also has an interesting rear suspension with dual fore-aft leaf springs attaching to the axle, and is presumably not part of the original build.

After acquiring the car, Phil began to refresh the car for display. It was basically refurbished to the as-found condition, including the later front end sheet metal, chassis modifications, and flathead engine.

The pic below shows the state of the car at the time of Phil's death in early 2010. Partially refurbished, but still incomplete and missing the critical brightwork. After his death, Phil's family closed the museum, and the properties and cars were publicly auctioned in June 2010.

Unfortunately, the modifications made years ago to the original car did not do justice to Edsel's critical eye for styling and design!

After the Dream Car Museum auction in 2010, Mann's Restoration in Missouri performed a complete restoration to near original condition in 2012. The car was subsequently offered at auction in Scottsdale. The restored original car is now associated with the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan.

A Replica Also Exists

As previously noted, a replica car had been built years before the rediscovery and restoration of the original.

Follow this link on Ford Garage to see the replica Edsel Ford Sport Phaeton built by Paul Martin in Colorado.


December 2004