- Offered from the Richard L. Burdick Collection
- Ford’s iconic open-top woodie; one of only 2,250 built
- Features the Columbia overdrive axle
While all Ford woodies are popular, the most revered of all are certainly the Sportsman convertibles. The Sportsman was reportedly inspired by a Model A that Henry Ford II had built up with a wood body created by chief designer E.T. “Bob” Gregorie, for use at his Long Island home. In the early part of 1945, Gregorie and his lead illustrator, Ross Cousins, worked up drawings for a wood-bodied 1946 convertible. A prototype was built at Iron Mountain by taking the skin off an early production convertible and fitting wood in its place. Using standard convertible parts to the extent possible simplified manufacture and helped restrain costs.
Sportsman seats were upholstered in genuine leather facings in tan or red, with French stitching. The front floor mats had color-keyed carpet inserts, and power windows were standard. Announced in September, the first Sportsman was completed in December 1945 and presented to actress Ella Raines at Christmas. In all, 3,629 were built over three years, including 205 Mercurys for 1946 only.
From January 1947, all cars were designated ’47s, Model 79A, and were given serial numbers accordingly. There was, however, no change in the cars’ appearance. In April, Ford rolled out new “spring models.” Keeping the same 79A model nomenclature, they had new round parking lamps below the headlights and a new hood medallion. The hub cap design, too, was changed, as were the bumper guards. Gone were the red accents. Early experience with the Sportsman had shown that the crosspiece on the trunk lid, mounted high, where the lid was almost horizontal, collected water, to its detriment. For 1947 the crosspiece was lowered somewhat and beveled on its upper edge, to better shed moisture.
This Sportsman dates from July of that year, according to its body number. It has all the “spring updates,” as well as the revised trunk lid. In the pretty color Maize Yellow, a very light hue, almost beige, it looks stunning without being ostentatious. The upholstery is red leather. The engine compartment and undercarriage are very clean and correctly appointed. Features include the standard power windows and top, an electric clock, radio with cowl-mounted antenna, fresh-air heater, a windshield-post spotlight, fog lights, bumper end extensions, and rear fender skirts. The car is also equipped with the optional Columbia overdrive rear axle, an asset for driving on today’s highways.
Ford built just 2,250 second-series Sportsman convertibles for 1947. This car is among the best of those fortunate survivors.