Filed under: Early V8
I’ve always heard tales about Argentina and rare Ford stuff. A few years ago, there were all kinds of rumors floating around about a warehouse that was discovered housing crates of NOS Ardun heads. Before that, it was a rumor about 1000 replacement flathead blocks located in a similar fashion. And then, of course, there were all of the weird foreign variations of trucks that Ford Argentina put on the market. To be honest, I never put much stock in any of it and I certainly didn’t spend much time researching the relationship between Argentina and Ford. That is, until a few years ago…
The 1938 Ford roadster pick up pictured in this post was purchased by Revhead (a member of the H.A.M.B.) who lives just up the road in Dallas. It features a passenger car front-end (deluxe), passenger car fenders and modified running boards, and what looks to be a factory produced bed of some sort. The top appears crude, but it was actually fabricated quite keenly and features some cast parts. In fact, the more the details unfold the more they begin to tell the tale of a production line – limited or not.
Dig deeper and the clues start to point to Argentina. The battery and most of the electrical components are Argentinian (is that a word?), it’s right hand drive, and the little truck sports a number of aftermarket add-ons typical of the region. I’m sold… This car was produced by a factory in Argentina. But, how? Why? When?
Those questions weren’t easy to answer, but I got out some books, made some phone calls, and connected the dots as best as I could. Based off about four hours of research, this is what I came up with:
In and around 1913, Ford opened up a subsidiary titled Ford Motor Argentina. The idea was that Ford could box up all of the parts needed to build a Model T, send them to Argentina, and then assemble the cars there. The shipment was called a “Complete Knock Down Kit” and came with just about everything imaginable. Amazingly, this little setup proved to be very efficient and profitable. It wasn’t long before the La Boca, Argentina factory was not only expanding in an effort to complete more “kits”, but they were also beginning to manufacture their own parts – including some sheet metal stamping.
Things rolled right along and progressed wonderfully down south until Word War II. It was then that the shit hit the fan for Ford Argentina. Ford stopped production of passenger cars in America to focus on war machines, but Argentina wasn’t so much in the war. They still needed and wanted to produce cars. In 1939, Ford closed the production side of the Argentina factory and basically said, “Look man… We have Nazis to kill. We don’t have the time to be sending you any more kits or helping you figure out this production line stuff. You can use what is left in your parts inventory to build cars, but once that’s gone you are done. Comprende? Ohh… And don’t tell Henry we said anything about Nazis.”
So there ya have it. Ford Argentina had a sizable inventory of random Ford parts from various years and was left with the task of creating sellable stock. It was almost like a Johnny Cash song – a fender here, and running board there, a frame over here, etc… Although the exact “models” that were available is unclear, some of the Ford dealerships in Argentina were able to stay open well into 1941. That adds up to more than 2 years of “Frankenstein” produced vehicles. Who the hell knows what all came out of that factory?
Well, we know one of them… A 1938 Ford Roadster Pick Up. All the evidence points to George’s car being produced sometime between 1939 and 1941 with parts simply left over from previous production runs. It’s nearly impossible to figure or research the number of ’38 RPUs made as Ford Argentina was terrible about keeping records. However, it’s a safe bet that this one is a rare bird if not a 1 of 1. And I figured the Ford Barn would dig it.