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After 8 decades, this '35 Ford Tudor still looks brand new

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By John Barnhart

Tommy Harper has a family car that has won numerous awards, including national awards in car shows. It even made an appearance in the February, 2014 edition of Automobile Magazine.

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    The 1935 Ford Tudor Sedan Standard is a family car because it’s been in his family since his grandfather, Charles T. Howell, purchased it new in 1935. Tommy Harper got the car in 1957 and found that it came in handy.
    “During my dating years, this car helped me impress the girls,” Harper noted. “It worked so well that one of those girls, Barbara Jean Stephenson, became my wife on Oct. 27, 1964.”
    Harper drove the car until the early ‘70s, including during his years as a student at Virginia Tech. It was then parked in a shed for 30 years, until Harper took it to King’s Restoration in Cloverdale in 2007.
    The  car  was  given a complete, frame-off, restoration and painted its original color, Vineyard Green. Unfaded paint was visible inside the spare tire cover and a computer analysis found a match among the colors available from Ford in 1935. Cloth for the interior was custom woven and custom dyed to match the original. This cloth was used by King’s Auto Upholstery, of Roanoke, to restore the car’s interior.
    “Everything on it is totally original,” Harper said.
    Harper said the Tudor Standard differs from the Tudor Deluxe in a few details. The Deluxe hand two horns, with chrome caps, two tail lights, two sun visors and two windshield wipers. The Standard has one of each. The one windshield wiper, that cleans the driver’s side of the windshield is vacuum powered. Harper said this means it runs very slow when going up a hill and very fast going down. The Deluxe also featured a dashboard mounted ash tray.
    The Tudor Standard had the 1935 version of a defroster. The windshield cranks out. This also let the driver and passengers get extra air on hot summer days.
    The car has mechanical brakes on all four wheels.
    “They don’t have any hydraulic fluid in them, just rods,” Harper said.
    The car has its original engine, an 85 horsepower 231 cubic inch flathead V8. Its aluminum heads require unique three-piece spark plugs. When you change plugs, you leave the base in the head and screw out the porcelain part. Harper said this arrangement was done to avoid striping the threads in the head. These plugs are hard to come by, today. Harper said they have to be special ordered and a complete set of eight plugs costs $450. So, Harper is judicious about driving the car and this is one of the reasons why it travels to car shows in a hauler.
    The distributor consists of two caps and two sets of points, with four wires coming out of each cap to serve one bank of cylinders. One coil sits above the two caps. The distributor, by the way, is one of the few things that’s hard to reach with the hood open.
    The car came with a set of tools that includes a crank and a crank handle. The crank handle doubles as the lug wrench. Crank starting was one of your options for starting the car if your battery died. Harper said this is possible because it’s a low compression engine. The engine also has a unique sound, unlike modern engines, when it runs.
    The Tudor features a locking steering wheel. When the steering wheel is locked, the ignition is also locked.
    To complete the original character of the car, the Tudor Standard has 1935 Virginia license plates with a 1935 tag number. Harper said antique car enthusiasts can use these, registering the number with the Department of Motor Vehicles, which allows them to drive them on the highway, although the annual mileage is limited. It also means they don’t have to be inspected each year.
    The original restoration means Harper’s car scores high in Early Ford competitions. He gets 996 out of a possible 1,000 points as judges look over the car in fine detail. He loses points because there is visible pitting on the frame, but this can’t be helped. The old Tudor was actively driven for a large part of the first 40 years of its life.
    A total of 237,883 Tudor Sedan Standards were produced in 1935, but Harper’s car is now a rarity as only a small number are still running today. Harper’s grandfather would have purchased the Tudor, new, for approximately $695.