For most people, a car is a means for getting from point A to point B. It’s a utilitarian tool that we look to for reliability, comfort and convenience. For some people though, a car can be a passion; the canvas to create a work of art or a platform for engineering excellence.
When Tom Bauld purchased his 1940 Ford Coupe, he knew he had the platform for something that would serve much more than the utilitarian purpose of reliable transportation. This was clay waiting to be molded.
Bauld’s interest in cars goes back to his teen years. His first project car might have been a Chevy, but that wasn’t in the cards.
“I was like any other teenager boy in the 1950s,” Bauld says. “I loved cars and had lived near my Uncle Ray Kirkpatrick, who had a 1928 Chevy coupe with a rumble seat, which was my spot when he, my Aunt Joan and I went for a drive. Ray sold it when I was 14 and I really had wanted to buy it, but I didn’t know it was for sale until it disappeared.”
In 1958, when Bauld was 15, he saw an ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer for a 1940 Ford and he bought it for $125.
“I’ve owned the car for 57 years. After having it for two years, two other buddies and I went in together and bought a 1939 Plymouth four-door sedan that eventually became mine alone. I sold it in about a year because the cost to fix it in order to pass the Pennsylvania state inspection was too much for my meager budget. The next owner needed it as a parts car for a restoration in process. That was the only other old car I’ve owned,” Bauld says.
Street Rod Metamorphosis
The evolving design of the classic Ford started in 1970. Bauld, and his wife Diane, began with the power plant and the interior. He installed a 1948 Mercury flathead engine while his wife reupholstered the interior in a black and white naugahyde, using the original bench seat, door panels and package shelf.
“Over the years, as the car was disassembled and little-worked-on because we became a Scouting family and were very active, I was indecisive about whether to restore the car to nearly original or to transform it into a hot rod,” Bauld says.
“I finally made the decision that it would be more fun and unique if I made it into a street rod. I arranged with my best friend’s uncle, Dick Noonan of Noonan Racing, to have him do the renovation in Oxford Michigan, about 75 miles from my home in Milan,” he says.
The redesign and ground up restoration started with acid dipping the old Ford’s body and removing every trace of rust, paint and rubber, according to Bauld. The process revealed many necessary repairs to the floor, the door hinges and the body panel below the trunk.
“The frame was modified to install a Heidt’s front end with rack and pinion steering and disk brakes. Two parallel leaf springs replaced the single cross body rear spring,” Bauld says.
“Dick and I collaborated on the body design with my priority to make it look really smooth and flow well. We eliminated the vent side windows, the bumpers and the separator for the two windshield pieces, added rear fender skirts, relocated the gas filler to the trunk, removed the door handles, rain gutters and the trunk handle,” Bauld adds.
He points out that a special feature of the car is the rear folding jump seats that technically transformed the business coupe into an opera coupe. They came from a 1995 Ford Ranger pickup truck, requiring a lot of design and metalworking skill to make them fit.
“The dash instrument cluster is from Dakota Digital and has blue LED digital gauges. Fuel level is indicated as percent full. Steering is through an ididit [brand] tilt column painted to match the exterior,” Bauld says.
The exterior received a striking color scheme that gets it noticed.
“The car is painted in 2010 Chevy Camaro Synergy Green,” Bauld explains. “I saw a unique and beautiful green Camaro going the opposite way on a freeway about six years ago, and after stopping at three Chevy dealers, I was able to find the paint code. That green and similar colors are starting to appear on more and more cars.”
A big benefit to Bauld’s project was that Dick Noonan had so many contacts in the car business. This resulted from years of building race cars and performing many restorations. When a specialist was needed for the interior renovation or new wiring, Noonan had many resources on which to call.
“Dick was totally committed to using only the best quality components, which saves in the long run. For instance, the AC uses aircraft quality connectors and tubing,” Bauld points out.
The car’s current power plant is a circa-1985 305 Chevy engine that was rebuilt in 2014. The interior was redone in 2015 and the car received its current paint scheme that year also.
Completion and Recognition
After 2,000 hours of work, the car, nicknamed the Celtic Cruiser, was finally finished in October of 2015. Bauld says that in his capacity as designer and project manager, the project did not call on too many of his biomed skills because much of that kind of work was done by others.
With the finished product, the Baulds hit the show circuit. Their first outing was a local show.
“The first show that we entered was the Milan Car Fest, sponsored by the Backstreet Cruizers, where we won the best in class for 1934-1948 cars. That was indeed a surprise, but the experiences we had in the Detroit Autorama were very special,” Bauld says.
The Detroit Autorama is held every year at Detroit’s Cobo Center, a giant 623,000-square-foot convention center. When Bauld exhibited his car there in February of 2016, the show featured nearly 1,000 cars.
“Near the end of the show, entrants were invited to a large auditorium with many awards on the stage. After the naming of the top award, the Ridler (Award) given to the best car which had never been shown before, they began announcing the individual class awards,” Bauld recalls.
“My wife kept saying, let’s leave, we’re not going to win anything, but I insisted on staying to see who won and soon after, they announced our names and we proudly accepted second-prize in the Semi-Modified Hot Rod Coupes class. The whole experience at Autorama was enjoyable and intense with hundreds of interesting conversations with car owners and spectators,” he adds. “We continue to be amazed at the warm compliments the car generates at events.”
Bauld has also driven his Ford street rod to, and entered, the Bristol Days Car Show in Bristol, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia in October of 2016 and the Toledo Street Rods show in Ohio in August of 2016.
On the Job
Bauld has been a biomedical engineer for 43 years, mostly managing biomedical departments in hospitals. In his current position, he works as a biomedical engineer for the Veterans Administration’s National Center for Patient Safety in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“It’s the best job I’ve ever had because I get to apply biomedical engineering and human factors engineering skills of incident investigation and device evaluations to work every day to reduce the risks of injury and illness of our veterans being treated in the VA healthcare system and to improve the purchasing of products that the VA uses,” he says.
The mean green Celtic Cruiser has been transformed into automotive art and has provided one biomed with many years of leisure time enjoyment.
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