“It’s just a beautiful car, great style; those were good years,” Garrison resident Jack Villetto said when asked what he likes most about the 1939 Ford De Luxe coupe he acquired less than a month ago.

The restoration company Hot Rods and Custom Stuff agrees.

“The 1939 Ford … represents what may be considered the pinnacle of ‘art deco’ design applied to the automobile … characterized by its symmetry, elegance, glamor, functionality and modernity,” the California-based car experts wrote on their website.

Friendship was also a factor in Villetto’s recent acquisition.

“A good friend of mine in Hopewell [Junction] gave it to me,” he said. That’s a good friend indeed, not to mention a good price.

Other than receiving a new layer of glossy black paint courtesy of its previous owner, everything on the car is original, Villetto said, including the corduroy-fabric, single-bench seat. He is only the third owner; the odometer reads just 20,000 miles.

The Specs

Manufactured: Dearborn, Michigan
Production years: 1937-1940
Model: Two-door coupe
Coupe production: 37,326 units
Coupe convertible: 10,422 units
Engine: 221-cubic-inch V8
Horsepower: 90
Transmission: Three-speed floor manual shifter
Cost: $790  ($17,482 in 2023)
Top Speed: 120 mph

The car has standard  features for the 1930s, such as a push-button starter, crank windows and a front windshield that tilts outward to improve ventilation. Another standard feature apparently made it a popular choice for bootleggers back in the day: two large luggage compartments — the trunk and an additional space accessed by lifting the back of the seat.

Front and rear bumperettes, AM radio, fender skirts, fog lamps and a locking gas cap were other options available back then but not included on Villetto’s car.

A 221-cubic-inch, straight eight-cylinder engine provides about 90 horsepower. Equipped with a three-speed manual floor shifter, the coupe could reach 120 miles an hour out of the factory.

“When you go 50 miles an hour in it, you know you’re doing 50; I wouldn’t take it over that!” Villetto said. “It’s nice to drive but they don’t stop very well, and they float a bit.”

Asked about gas mileage he said only: “Not good; it has a tiny single carburetor.”

Gas was 10 cents a gallon in 1939 ($2.20 in 2023).

The Ford Motor Co. considered its De Luxe line, which also included a two-door convertible coupe, sedan and station wagon, to be a bridge between basic models such as the Standard and the more luxurious Lincoln and Lincoln-Zephyr.

An advertisement in 1939 described the De Luxe coupe as “a convenient modern car that carries three comfortably. Especially desirable for business and professional use.”

It was also a crossover year technologically for Ford, marking the end of floor shifters, though the company brought that feature back in the 1955 Thunderbird. The convertible version of the ’39 De Luxe was also the last to feature a rumble seat.

Ford introduced hydraulic brakes in 1939, a feature both Chrysler and General Motors had added years prior. By 1940, bulb and reflector lamps had given way to sealed-beam headlights.

Villetto, who also owns a 1939 Ford Standard, said he would not change anything about his De Luxe. “I love it,” he said, adding that he has no plans to enter it in car shows.

Behind The Story

Type: Opinion

Opinion: Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the author/producer’s interpretation of facts and data.

Turton, who has been a reporter for The Current since its founding in 2010, moved to Philipstown from his native Ontario in 1998. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of expertise: Cold Spring government, features

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