A Shoebox Deep in the Heart of Texas

Wes Coleman’s ’49 Ford Shoebox

America’s fascination with aviation during World War II would bring about a paradigm shift in automotive styling that would produce some of the most iconic designs in history. Bold styling cues inspired by fighter planes such as the P51 Mustang and P40 Warhawk quickly found their way onto design boards and eventually onto the assembly lines of Detroit.

No where were these brazen new styling cues more evident than on the redesigned 1949 Ford. Known throughout the kustom kulture as the “shoebox” Ford, the 49 – 51’s were an instant favorite with early customizers and have remained arguably the most popular kustom since.

49 Ford, 49 Ford Coupe, shoebox ford

The popularity of the shoebox Ford would eventually reach Wes Coleman of Arlington, TX in 2003. Always a fan of classics and custom cars, a meeting with his now good friend and fellow Lucky 13 car club member, John Bumpus (“Bump” to his friends), would solidify Wes’s next project – a custom ’49 Ford.  Soon after, Wes located an original owner ’49 Ford Tudor Sedan with minimal rust that would serve as a canvas for the project.

Chopped 49 Ford, 1949 Ford Coupe, 49 ford

Bump introduced Wes to renowned customizer and member of the legendary Beatniks Car Club, Frank Palmer, to layout a plan for the shoebox. With a sketch in mind Palmer set-out to work his magic on the body of the shoebox. He took a “little” off the top and chopped the roofline down. The front was nosed and the rear decked. Of course no custom can have door handles so they were shaved. However, it’s the minor details though that followed that showcase Palmer’s reputation as a legendary customizer and set Wes’s shoebox apart from the others.

car photography, 49 ford, 49 ford custom

The headlights were frenched in using 51 Ford headlight rings and the bumper was moved lower on the front end and pushed back to fit more flush with the body. A variation to the standard frenched taillights added another subtle yet graceful accent to the rear of the ’49. Bump’s suggested using gapped-out lenses so that they fit flush with the housing; and if you can take your eyes off of Devon long enough in the picture below I think you’ll agree with Bump’s suggestion.

hot rod pinup, 1949 Ford Coupe, shoe box ford

With the bodywork complete Wes dropped his transformed ’49 off at Everman Auto Body where Corbit whipped up a custom blend of PPG Majestic purple for the exterior. The same base color was used for the dash but with a heavy spray of metalflake. Once the paint dried, Frank Palmer exercised his talents once again and treated the dash and decklid to an impressive dose of striping.

49 ford, 1949 ford coupe, 49 coupe

Inside Wes’s 49, Gordon Burke handled interior duties by upgrading the factory split bench and rear seats with white and purple tuck and roll. Then, front door panels and rear interior panels were wrapped in the same white naugahyde with purple paneling and the trim pieces received the same purple treatment as the exterior.

chopped 49 ford, 1949 ford custom, Ford 49

The rear of Wes’s ’49 is brought to pavement via an Air Ride Technologies kit installed by Wes and his good friends Tanner Leaser and Jack Brewer. The group cut a 6″ notch and installed a triangulated 4-link with Air Ride’s “Shockwave” bag/shock combo. The modified rear was completely paneled in and then Wes dropped in a ’65 Mustang tank.  Drop spindles lower the front and the lowered front bumper enhances the shoebox’s stance. The lowered suspension leaves no gaps in the wheel wells which are filled with BFG 670-15 wide whites on chrome O.E.s with paint matched centers and chrome spider caps.

49 ford flathead, offy flathead, 1949 ford shoe box

Keeping it original under the hood Wes retained the 239 Flathead V-8 although far from stock. An Offy aluminum intake with dual 2-bbls rests atop aluminum Offy heads, and a camshaft from Clay Smith adds additional kick. An automatic C4 tranny and 8″ Ford rearend transfer the power to the wheels.

49 Ford, custom longboard

Wes finances his love of custom cars through his first and long time passion of downhill longboarding. As the owner of Bombsquad Longboarding, Wes’s dedication to the sport has allowed him to escape the cubicle prisons of corporate America. It took nearly 4 and 1/2 years to build the shoebox you see in the photos here, and to quote Wes, “Lots of blood, sweat , and beers, and a bunch of late nights” went into the build. And when something is built not bought, it makes it that much harder to turn loose of; something Wes is quick to point out he has no plans of ever doing. He is also quick to thank everyone who helped along the way, his dad, Frank Palmer, Bump and Crash as well as the rest of the members of the Lucky 13 Car Club, Jack Brewer, Tanner Leaser and of course his wife for allowing him to pursue the things he loves.

original 1949 Ford, 1949 ford coupe

On a personal note, it was great to be involved in getting one of the most popular customs from my hometown the national recognition it certainly deserves. This shoebox becomes an instant centerpiece at any show I’ve ever seen it and Wes always takes the time to entertain questions or comments about his car.  The picture above is Wes’s 49 shoebox before the customization began. The finished product is a testament to patience, perseverance and the benefits of good friends.

Photos by Trent Sherrill

Model: Devon Harris

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