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The Stainless Steel Revolution
Anytime a car can be known simply by the type of metal it is made of, it has got to be something very, very special. The Stainless Steel Ford is that type of car. This legendary Ford Tudor Deluxe is the brain child of the Allegheny Ludlum Steel Company and automotive industry icon, Ford Motor Company.
The history of the Allegheny Ludlum Steel Company traces back to 1854, in the ore fields of New Jersey and the Pompton Furnace. The Pompton Furnace was a legendary ironworks that is said to have supplied seven thousand cannonballs to General Henry Knox during the Revolutionary War. (How many cars could have been made out of all that iron?) That was nearly two hundred years prior to the founding of Allegheny Steel. It would be many more years before anyone would dream of producing a super metal that would be stronger and tougher than all other metals that had come before it.
Harry Bearly of Sheffield, England is credited with the invention of stainless steel in 1912. Two companies, Allegheny Steel of Pittsburgh and Ludlum Steel of Watervliet, New York, led the commercialization of the new rust-less metal in the United States. In 1938, they merged to form Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corporation (Allegheny, 2013).
The innovative and rather gutsy company must have prided themselves on tackling major projects. In 1927, Allegheny Steel was chosen for New York’s Chrysler Building, and the next year it was specified for the Empire State Building. In 1929, Ford began using Allegheny Steel for the bright trim parts of the Model A (Allegheny, 2013).
A Rolling Billboard For Stainless
The leaders of Allegheny Ludlum were always finding new ways to promote the durable nature and rust-resistance of their stainless “super metal”. In 1935, the steel company approached Ford with the idea of making a car out of stainless steel. This idea was not entirely foreign to Mr. Ford. He had experimented with making a stainless steel Model A in the late 1920s. Three of the cars had been made for $2000 apiece; that’s roughly four times the cost of a normal Model A. Needless to say, they didn’t get past the “concept” stage. Ford kept one and gave the other two away to steel companies for promotional tools. Today, all of them have been destroyed or have gone missing.
That interesting piece of history explains why ‘ol Henry was receptive of the idea of building the stainless steel cars for Allegheny Ludlum. Unfortunately for Ford, making the body panels ruined their dies, tooling, and presses. The Ford production line was built to work with standard carbon steel, rather than high-chromium stainless, which is stronger and less flexible. To even produce the cars, some changes had to be made to the stamping dies. Welding various pieces together with the gas-welding technology of the day also posed a challenge (Hemmings, 2010).
After the cars rolled off the line, one was shipped to each of Allegheny Ludlum’s district offices; New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago and St. Louis. These cars were not trailer toys that were hauled from location to location. They were road warriors that drove over 20,000 miles a year. These unique cars were rolling billboards for the company and incentives for the Allegheny Ludlum sales personnel. The top seller in each district earned free use of the car for a year. When they were finally “retired” in 1946, all of the cars had over 200,000 miles.
History in the Making
Today, the locations of the St. Louis and Cleveland cars are not known, the Detroit car is on display at a museum in Cleveland, Ohio, and the New York and Philadelphia cars were returned to Allegheny Ludlum headquarters (Hemmings, 2013). “But wait, there’s one more!” you say. Yes, you are right. The Chicago car – the only privately owned and fully restored of the six cars, is now known simply as the Stainless Steel Ford.
How or when the Stainless Steel Ford became privately owned is up for debate. Some say it was gifted to a dentist who lived in the area as a “thank you” gift. As the story goes, he was one of the first to popularize the use of stainless steel dental tools. Others say Allegheny Ludlum simply sold the car to a private party. Either way, the most remarkable chapter of the Stainless Steel Ford’s life began in Scottsdale, Arizona when it rolled into the garage of world renowned car restoration expert, Lon Kruger.
New Life, New Look
Krueger and well known Scottsdale collector, Leo Gephardt, were partners in the car at the time. Krueger is now retired and only works on personal projects such as this one. Like the car itself, Krueger said the restoration of the Stainless Steel Ford was a one-of-a-kind project.
He began with a car that was in rough but complete shape. The toe board, trunk and lower inner doors were all made of standard steel and had some minor rust. To kick off the restoration, Krueger separated the chassis from the body. The car utilizes the standard 221/85 HP flathead mated to a 3-speed manual and working Columbia overdrive. The chassis was treated to a complete restoration; every piece of it was rebuilt from stock parts, but the body was a whole different animal. Krueger had worked with stainless steel before, but only on trim pieces. An entire body built out of stainless was a new challenge for the experienced restorer.
The crowning achievement of the whole restoration is the meticulously polished body. It’s captivatingly shiny. The cars were originally raw, unpolished stainless steel (no paint needed for these beauties). They looked soft and metallic with a natural metal sheen that was neither dull nor blindingly bright. Today, the car is a mirror on wheels that reflects the envious expression of whoever happens to be drooling over it at the time. It has been driven just eighteen miles since the restoration was complete in 2010.
The car’s beautiful finish was a major labor of love. Lon spent over one thousand hours sanding and polishing the body. He began with 80-grade paper and worked his way up to a finer 1000-grade. A final buffing was the crowning touch. To put that into perspective for you, a thousand hours works out to be a little over eighty-three twelve hour work days. Can you imagine meeting a man with such patience? There is a reason why he is known as one of the best restorers in the world.
Stainless in Sioux Falls
How the Stainless Steel Ford came to call Sioux Falls, South Dakota home is an interesting story. It reveals the passion one of our Sioux Falls locals has for 1936 Fords. Joe Floyd, a retired engineer and businessman, has been collecting cars for nearly a decade and a half. Why did he choose the 1936 Ford as his muse? It all started innocently enough when his wife asked him a simple question.
“My wife and I were talking about what I was going to do when I retired. I said that I needed to find a hobby, otherwise I was going to get bored,” laughed Floyd. “She said, ‘You like cars don’t you? Why don’t you find one to fix up and drive?’ I liked that idea, and she asked what kind of cars I wanted to work on. I have always liked the ’36 Fords, so that’s what I told her. A couple of weeks later, she bought me my first ’36.”
Since that time, Floyd’s passion (and collection) has expanded from one car to many. As a collector, he says his goals have nearly been met. Ford released fourteen basic production models in 1936. This year the fourteenth model is being restored and will find its home in Floyd’s spacious and well organized shop next to its thirteen siblings.
When asked what else is left, he smiled knowingly and said, “We’ve found the fourteen basic production models. But don’t forget about the one-of-a-kind ’36 Fords.”
This explains the Stainless Steel Ford’s new South Dakota license plates. Floyd had known of the car for many years. As an avid car collector, he kept tabs on where it was and who owned it. When the time came to see if it was for sale, he contacted Lon Kruger and they struck a deal. Friends, if there was a one-of-a-kind 1936 Ford to own, the Stainless Steel Ford is it. Have you seen the Indiana Jones movies? Well this car is the Holy Grail of ’36 Fords. It won two trophies at the Early V8 Club Auburn 2009 event, First Place at the 2009 Hershey AACA event, and was nominated for the 2009 AACA Car of the Year.
Winterfest of Wheels 2014
It is very likely that no one will ever invest the time and capital to bring another stainless steel Ford back to the mint condition of this car. This February, you have the opportunity to see this legend in person at the annual Winterfest of Wheels car show at the Sioux Falls Convention Center. The 6th Annual Winterfest of Wheels event is scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday February 7, 8, and 9, 2014 at the Sioux Falls Convention Center. This premier event has been a mid-winter oasis for people to gather and view a unique assortment of cars, trucks and bikes.
As if the Stainless Steel Ford wouldn’t be enough to entice you, there will also be a 1936 Auburn, (there were only 500 produced in ‘35 and ‘36), a limited edition 1968 Z28 Smokey Yunick Camaro, and a 1967 Corvette Stingray that is one of three of its kind. Those three along with the only red ‘70 Hemi Charger are coming from Bob Marvin’s private collection out of Warroad, MN. There is also going to be a special collection of vintage Harley-Davidson motorcycles brought in for this show by J & L Harley-Davidson and Dell Hofer of Fargo, ND. The key components to the success of this show are recruiting the best cars from around the country, having entertainment for everyone in the family and mixing it up with great vendors & sponsors.
Speaking of entertainment, this year’s celebrity will be the stunning Peyton List. Peyton plays Emma Ross, a bubbly teenager eager to reorder the world as she sees fit. She is the only biological child to a high-profile celebrity couple, in the Disney Channel comedy series “Jessie.”
Peyton List was handpicked for Red Pages™ U.S. Hot 100 list™ which predicts the up and coming talent in the world of film, TV, music, fashion, sport, literature and politics. Viewers will also recognize List as Holly Hills in “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules & “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days.” Additional feature film credits include Disney’sTM “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” opposite Nicolas Cage, “Remember Me,” with Robert Pattinson and Chris Cooper and “27 Dresses,” opposite Katherine Heigl. Peyton also starred opposite her twin brother, Spencer List in the indie thriller “Bereavement.” She will be at the show from 1 -4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb 8th. To meet her personally and get photo and autograph opportunities, there will be a $5 charge which includes receiving an 8” x 10” photo of her.
This year’s theme is based on “Classic Used Cars”. It features memorabilia from Marv Spomer’s Museum in Worthington, Minnesota. The event will also feature local celebrities along with several childhood cancer survivors (HEROES). Again this year, there will be an expanded “Ditch Your Man” room for those interested in shopping, along with a “Little Cruiser’s Garage” for shopping for those not able to reach the pedal yet. There will be a coloring contest, zoo animals, other youth entertainment and a model car contest. A “Man Cave” will feature swap meet type items. Many automotive related vendors from parts manufacturers to builders and performance engine vendors will have displays.
As it has been from the events inception, all profits from the Winterfest of Wheels show go to the Cure Kids Cancer charity. To maximize the amount of money donated to the charity, all of the committee member’s work is strictly volunteer. “Cancer in children is a tragedy for the entire family and helping the families affected by this terrible disease is very satisfying,” says Karen, one of the show volunteers. Last year we were able to donate $23,174.00 and we would like to see those numbers grow every year. Tickets for the show are available at the door or receive a discount by buying them at J&L Harley-Davidson or Big Sioux Powersports. Meet your friends for a great time and enjoy the fellowship of other enthusiasts while raising money for a great cause. Hours for the show are Friday 5pm – 10pm, Saturday 10am to 9pm and Sunday 10am to 4pm. Admission is $9 with kids 12 and under being free when accompanied by an adult. There are also weekend passes available for $15 so you can come and go when you like. Save the date and make plans to attend!
Thanks to this year’s sponsors which include: J&L Harley-Davidson, Dakota Digital, Straightlines Custom Restorations, Apex Performance & Fabrication, and Sanford Health.
You can view updates on the website www.WinterfestOfWheels.com or follow us on Twitter @wintrfestwheels. Like us on Facebook- Winterfest of Wheels. TMM
ATIMetals.com (2013). “Corporate History.” Retrieved from http://www.atimetals.com/businesses/ units/ludlum/about/Pages/corporatehistory.aspx.
Koch, Jeff (2010). Hemmings.com. “Stainless Sensation.” Retrieved from http://www.hemmings.com/hcc/stories/2010/11/01/hmn_feature4.html.
PomptonLakesGov.com. “The Pompton Furnace.” Retrieved from http://www.pomptonlakesgov.com/Cit-e-Access/webpage.cfm?TID=36&TPID=5048.