17 Years of Restoration Work up in Smoke- The Story of a ’40 Ford Fire


Fire destroys his restored ’40 Ford Convertible — Eastwood tools help him start over

It sounds like a “good news, bad news” joke. The bad news: your garage just burned down. Worse news: the 1940 Ford convertible you’ve restored over 17 years was in it.

And the good news? You’ve got the skills and tools to suck it up and start all over again.

Here’s the remarkable story of Bob Magee, dedicated auto restorer and long-time Eastwood customer — and his rebuilt (and re-rebuilt) 1940 Ford.

“I’ve been involved in auto restoration for almost 50 years. I owned my own collision shop for 18 years. I sold it and began teaching at Bergen County Technical High School in Teterboro, New Jersey. I teach automotive engineering design, custom painting, airbrush, 3-D computer design, mechanical drawing, and more. I encourage kids into the auto repair industry.

All from scratch

About 18 years ago, I purchased a 1940 Ford convertible that required a lot of work. I started by buying a Fatman Fab frame and customizing it. I then rebuilt a 1973, 350 engine.

Over 17 years, piece by piece by piece, I did it all by hand. It had air ride suspension; electric windows; Corvette fuel injectors; a 700R4 transmission, with the rear cut down to make it all fit. The only things I couldn’t make from scratch were the axles.

99.9% done when lightning struck

Three years ago, everything was 99.9% done. It was sitting on my lift in my garage when lighting struck and burned everything up.

The most frustrating part was the insurance company refused to pay for anything in my garage that was automotive. I learned I had to have separate coverage on anything not covered by my homeowner insurance. ‘The big print giveth and the fine print taketh away.’ That’s what I’ve found.

Got coverage?

My advice for other old car restorers is to make sure whatever you’re building is insured. Insurance companies don’t always tell you everything. I asked questions and now I have an extra $20,000 covering parts for my Ford. It costs me only $67 a year. You have to ask questions to get the correct coverage. They’re not going to tell you. And your homeowner insurance isn’t going to pay what’s not insured!

The insurance company gave me salvage value and wanted to take the vehicle. I said ‘You ain’t taking this vehicle! Where are you going to find a ’40 Ford convertible?’ For the last three years I’ve been redoing my project car. I’m pulling the whole thing apart. I’m starting over, redoing it all after 17 years.

He’s rebuilding everything from scratch

The Ford was burned pretty badly. I took a big 16” 60-grit grinding disk and ground all the paint off and re-primed it. The tires were even burned. I decided to put blackwalls on it with baby moons. I’m in the process of tearing the frame all apart, especially everything that’s burned. I have everything you can think of in this frame and I’m doing it all over again. All the chrome is tarnished and has to be stripped and re-chromed. I’m currently working on getting everything re-chromed. It’s all a lot of work but I’m very dedicated and I want to get it done.

Eastwood’s a great company to do business with

I buy a lot of stuff from Eastwood. I bought their metal bending brake, buffing wheels, you name it. I love their products, they’re great.

Eastwood’s Buff Motor has dual buffing pads and dual speeds. It works great. I made my own stand and now I’m buffing all the parts that got burned. I was trying to do it with a little hand drill and that didn’t work. Their buffing compounds work great, too.

I can buy auto restoration supplies at a lot of places, but Eastwood has products you don’t find elsewhere. I’m on Eastwood’s email list and they email me specials – they always have something on sale and they’re always quality products. It’s a great company with quality tools, and they’re great to do business with too!”

— Bob Magee, New Jersey

Do YOU have an Eastwood auto restoration story to tell? Please email us — our blog visitors want to know!

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