Tom Medley And His Fire-Ravaged 1940 Ford Coupe
The Dalai Lama once said “There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ No matter what sort of difficulties, or how painful the experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.” This statement couldn’t be more true for Tom Medley. Many of you who are reading this already know who Tom is; but for those who don’t, here’s a quick run-down of his achievements.
Tom Medley was one of the original staff members of Hot Rod Magazine. He became Publisher and Editor of Rod & Custom magazine. With the help of Tex Smith; the pair started the first Rod & Custom Street Rod Nationals in Peoria in 1970. The NSRA (National Street Rod Association) was actually founded from this show due to their diligence and hard work. Tom had become a well-respected member of the automotive world and is highly regarded by many.
Unfortunately, on October 13th of last year, Tom’s world was about to change for the worse. On the morning of the 13th, 91 year old Tom was getting ready to take his beautiful ’40 Ford Coupe out for a drive. After attempting to start the car, it backfired and knocked Tom to the ground and quickly set the car on fire. Within a few brief moments the Burbank firefighters were on the scene; but ultimately it was too little too late. The coupe, as well as the rest of Tom’s garage, was destroyed in the fire.
This was a horrible tragedy that happened to one of the nicest car guys in the world. Much like the Dalai Lama said, Randy Clark of Hot Rods & Custom Stuff and other friends and family of Tom Medley took on this horrible tragedy and turned it into a mission of strength and hope.
Not very many places could even begin to fathom restoring a completely burnt car, but Randy and his crew knew exactly what had to be done. Once in the shop, the entire car was disassembled down to the bare burnt frame and twisted shell of what was once a ’40 coupe. Every single part that was removed was bagged and tagged in hopes of being restored for future use on the car. After the body was removed, it was promptly media-blasted to clean up any rust and burnt paint. Shortly after blasting, the body underwent some severe metal work.
Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.
When a garage catches on fire, things get hot, really hot and this fire was no exception and the thin sheet-metal of the car was twisted and warped immensely. It took metalworkers with years of experience to precisely heat and quickly cool the metal, which created a shrinking effect and re-formed the body as close to original as possible. After the body was finally shaped back to life and the body and frame were both media-blasted, the rebuilding began.
One of the first components put on the car were front suspension components that were generously donated by the good folks at TCI Engineering. The new suspension even converted the old and tired front drums to high quality disc brakes. After going over the ZZ1 Chevrolet 350 crate motor with a fine-tooth comb, a new carburetor and water pump were installed; which came courtesy of Edelbrock and Gearstar Performance Transmissions was nice enough to donate a fresh 700R4 transmission and new torque converter to mate up to the newly rebuilt 350.
When the engine and transmission were lined up, it was time for the coupe’s body to be massaged and worked over by some of the best body guys out there. A couple coats of D90 epoxy primer were laid down and followed up by a quick coat of body filler to fill out the tiny low spots that couldn’t be fixed by other means and the end result was a body that’s as straight as an arrow. Another coat of primer later and it was time to hit the spray booth. The question that hung over everyone’s head was “what color is the car going to be painted?”
Well, as it turns out, Tom had a can of paint from the first time the car was painted, so it was color matched and re-sprayed the beautiful red to give it the original look that Tom was so found of. Finally, several days went into cutting, curing, sanding, and clearing the body and assembly finally began. After finalizing some of the little finishing details, the entire car was buttoned up and ready to rock and roll.
Carefully loading the coupe onto a trailer, it was taken to the 2012 LA Roadster Show to surprise Tom with the finished product. As soon as he laid eyes on his restored coupe, Tom’s eyes lit up with joy but also swelled with tears as the bitter sweet debut was really a touching moment for all.
He couldn’t be more thankful for the folks at Hot Rods and Custom Stuff, TCI Engineering, and everyone else who donated time, parts, or both for his amazing coupe rebuild. But it wasn’t finished yet. A visit from Tommy “Itchy” Otis was in order to lay down some amazing pin-striping all over the car, including some tedious detailed pin-stripes on each and every louver on the hood.
The vintage resto was now officially complete. From all of us here at Rod Authority a heartfelt thanks goes out to everyone who donated to help Tom’s car get restored, thank you for keeping a legend from losing his pride and joy.