Museum Classic: 1932 Ford Model 18 Convertible Sedan – To Live Outside The Law, You Must Be Honest

There’s a letter on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn that allegedly originated from the pen of popular gangster Clyde Barrow.  This letter compliments Mr. Ford on the superior performance of the Ford V8 when compared to other vehicles he managed to procure through whatever means a guy like that procures a vehicle.  Since Barrow’s day, the stock 1932 Ford has fundamentally disappeared, replaced by a cornucopia of hot rods that have taken on a life of their own.  That this one survived those heady days of gangsters and Beach Boys songs makes me like it all the more.

On a recent visit to Gilmore Car Museum (which has to be among the best car museums in America, by the way), I saw this recently donated 1932 Ford Convertible Sedan, a bodystyle that found a mere 842 buyers (with the V8 – only 41 with the four).

I love cars like this.  Many times on these pages, I’ve discussed my sweet spot for vehicle condition.  It’s a complicated variant of an X and Y (and probably Z) graph.

On my graph, older cars deserve more allowances for wear.  They’ve made it a long way; therefore, they have the right to show a few more blemishes than say, something that’s only 50 years old.

Additionally, the more utilitarian a car is, the more wear it’s allowed.  My ’65 Dart, for example, is far more timeworn than my other cars, but it’s a bare-bones station wagon.  It’s worked hard, and I’ll accept far more imperfections.  They are a sign of character.

If I were to buy a truck from the 1960s, I’d much prefer that it was freckled like this ’32 Ford.  In fact, I see this Ford as a working car; all Fords were working cars back then.  Roads were often precarious, even at this late date.  Any car that could survive stock car racing in the 1940s and ’50s, then the hot rod era, then the over-restoration era, deserves to tell its tale with pride.

With that being said, I think it’s important to preserve this Ford in its current state in perpetuity.  It’s right on the border of being too rough to be cool.  Currently, it’s perfect, but if I were to own something like this and drive it regularly, and store it in my non-climate-controlled situations, it would slowly degrade even further.  It might take a decade or two, but it’s not going to heal itself.

That’s why I’m glad it was donated to the Gilmore, which has been growing for years and has as good a chance of any car museum to survive the coming decades of waning interest in antique automobiles.  The barn setting and quiet rural backdrop are perfect for a car like this ’32.  The staff will keep it running and driving around the grounds, but also make sure it stays as it is.

If this were an animate object, it might feel as if it’s been a fugitive from the law that has finally found asylum after 91 years.

After all, it must be one of the last remaining 1932 Ford Convertible Sedans in any condition.  Unlike those auction cars with their clearcoated swagger, this Ford exhibits a handshake honesty that is missing from a lot of old cars, including many at the Gilmore.  That it is currently the centerpiece of this particular barn says a lot about how people feel about a car like that.