Ron Cherry: Memorable ’40 Ford Coupe
June 1, 2018
Early childhood memories have a strong influence on a person's development. For Dominic Truchetta, he has a fond memory of his grandfather's '40 Ford coupe hot rod.
"He used to take it street racing on Santa Teresa Blvd. in San Jose and I went along," he said. "I had to get out of the car along side the road and watch, but it was fun. I will always remember that."
Dominic's love of cars started early.
"I've always been a gearhead," he said. "I can remember building Monster Machines models when I was about six. Then I built mini-bikes with lawn mower engines and made my own frames. I didn't have much money, so I had to learn to weld to do it. I bought my first Harley when I was 15, a panhead. When I was 16, I bought my first car, a '69 Z28 Camaro. I kept it for about 10 years."
Over the years, he owned many cars, doing his own restoring.
"I like to take a piece of junk and make it nice," he said.
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One of those was a '70 Pontiac Firebird Formula 400. At a car show, when he won a trophy for it, the presenter asked Dominic how long he had been working on it.
"I told him it took four years to build it," he said. "He said, 'You didn't build it, you just replaced parts.' It hurt my feelings at the time, but I now understand. When you have to engineer everything when you build a street rod, it's a lot different."
Bit by the build bug
A little over 20 years ago, Dominic decided to build a '40 Ford street rod from the ground up.
"I found a body shell in Hollister," he said. "It was being used as a chicken coop."
Since it was a coupe, that was apropos.
"It had the original 1940 license plates and the guy asked me if I wanted them," he said with a laugh. "I said, 'Oh, heck yes!'"
For starters, he bought a custom-made frame from the famed rod builder Roy Brizio and had Morgan and Son Racing overhaul a '69 Corvette 350 cubic inch engine with dual quads so that it pumped out 450 horsepower at the crank. Then he set to work to assemble his hot rod.
A donor Camaro provided the Turbo 400 auto trans. For front suspension, he opted for a Mustang II-type with rack and pinion steering, power disc brakes and coil-over shocks. In the rear, he mounted a 9 inch Ford rearend on leaf springs. The wheels are a one-off design by Budnik.
Inside, Dominic mounted the tilt steering column from his donor Camaro, using a Budnik steering wheel that matched the car's wheels. Syd Chavers did the interior, covering the bench seat in leather. Behind it they mounted an ice chest with a drain that ran under the car.
"You could throw a six pack of beer in it, but I never have," he said. "I mainly use it as another glove box."
For gauges, he went for VDO's and for sounds, he installed a 1000 watt stereo with six speakers. Air conditioning and power windows added comfort and convenience.
While the guts of the coupe are anything but stock, the body is. The only modification to it was putting louvers in the hood.
"I did that for cooling the engine," Dominic said. "It works, too."
But he didn't shave any chrome, french any lights or do any of those changes that are now common on street rods.
"I wanted a timeless '60s hot rod look," he said. "That's the theme of the car."
When it came to paint, he again went with a top professional: Lucky 7 Customs in Antioch.
"I paint for a hobby, but I couldn't paint it the way it's been done," he said.
That reflects Dominic's philosophy of building a car.
"It's about the money and how picky you are," he said. "I'm very picky. A lot of things cost more than I expected. I'd save up the money to do it right."
It took about five years to do the car, which he jokingly refers to as "still a work in progress."
Since getting the Ford on the road, Dominic has put about 40,000 miles on the clock, mainly to local car shows where it has won many awards.
"I built it to go long distances, like car shows in New York and I was going to go on the Hot Rod Power Tour. It can run 70 or 80 MPH all day," he said. "But I've got so much money in the paint and body and I felt it would beat the car up, so I never went."
However, he doesn't regret not making the long runs.
"I enjoy building a car and taking it to shows more than driving it," he said. "Once it's done, I usually get bored and sell it."
Not so with this Ford. It has a tie to his grandfather, the man who gave him his love of hot cars.
"It's a tribute to him. It's like his '40 Ford, but a bit more polished," Dominic said. "When I die, that car will go to my grandkids."
He's building memories with them in this car. From grandfather to grandchild, the baton has been and will be passed.
Ron Cherry's books, including the Morg Mahoney detective series, are available on Kindle and in print copy at Amazon. His new book, "The St. Nicholas Murders," is a Christmas mystery that takes place in a small town in the Sierra Foothills that is remarkably similar to Nevada City and is now out in paperback and Kindle on Amazon. Check out his website at http://www.rlcherry.com.