Bill Rafter's 1938 Ford Deluxe Club Cabriolet
(from Volume 19, Issue 229)

For Bill Rafter, being a “car guy” started when he was still just a kid. He grew up in a racing family, watching his dad build stock cars in the family garage in North Towanda, New York. His dad’s brother, uncle Bill Rafter, was a successful stock car driver from western New York in the #22. He drove dirt and modified cars, winning many races, and currently lives in Sanborn, New York.

Bill’s love for street driven hot rods also started at an early age. One of his first cars was a 1923 Ford T-Bucket with a 413 Chrysler in it. He also built a ‘36 Chevy Coupe that he put a Nova sub-frame on, before that became popular back in the day. Some of the other cars Bill has built over the years include a 1934 Ford 5-Window with a ‘53 Mercury motor, a ‘34 Chevy 5-Window that he restored to all original, a ‘41 Plymouth Sedan with a small block Chevy, a ‘33 Ford 2-Door Sedan, and a ‘32 Ford full fendered roadster with a Wescott body that he still owns. Bill started the roadster in 1980 and finished it in 1983 while working full time for General Motors in his hometown of Lockport, New York.

The car featured here is Bill’s current pride and joy, a 1938 Ford Deluxe Club Cabriolet. He purchased it about 3 years ago from a good friend, Charlie Hines. Charlie owned the car for about 12 years, and purchased it at an event in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Over the years Bill kept looking at the car thinking, “Man, I would love to own this one”. When Bill heard that Charlie was going to sell it, he jumped on it. At the time Bill was driving a nice 1939 Ford Coupe hot rod, but he quickly sold it in order to purchase Charlie’s ‘38 Ford. It came home to Bill’s garage on the same day that the ‘39 was shipped to Georgia.

As an original 1938 Ford Deluxe Club Cabriolet, only 6,080 of this model were made. It has a trunk and a larger top than the ‘38 convertible coupe, which is slightly more rare and has a rumble seat. Power now comes from a 454 cubic inch big block Chevy motor with dual four-barrel carbs, a Turbo 350 automatic transmission, and a 10-bolt Chevy rear end. The car was built with a removable sub-frame from the firewall forward, and features a hand made independent front suspension done up in polished stainless steel. Underneath you’ll also find a stainless exhaust system, as well as a stainless gas tank. Other items include a 2-1/2 inch chopped top, air conditioning and heat, power steering, power windows, remote door poppers, and a power trunk.

Former owner Charlie Hines gets the credit for making the car look as beautiful as it does. He changed the wheels and tires to the current Billet Specialties units (17 inches up front, and 18 inches out back) to give it a perfect stance, and had the interior redone by Schreck’s Rod & Custom Upholstery in DeLand. Charlie also had most of the car repainted Vermillion Red, as it was hit on the front end shortly after he had purchased it by a car that ran a red light. The accident caused considerable damage to the front end, and it took time to find the original parts and have it put back together, but now you would never know it was ever wrecked.

In addition to attending car shows and local cruise-ins, Bill drove the car to the NSRA Southeast Nationals in Tampa last year with his buddy George Hanner, and said it was a blast. It has plenty of power, goes down the road straight, and handles great. Bill loves convertibles, and the top is normally down on his baby. Naturally, the car draws lot of attention, and receives loads of compliments.

Bill told us that his biggest motivator was his dad, who passed away three years ago. He loved cars as much as Bill does, and always enjoyed going to the local shows. Bill inherited his dad’s 1939 Ford Deluxe Coupe. The car is all original, and was his baby that he was very proud of.

Bill’s next project is to build an old school hot rod using a flathead motor that he recently had rebuilt by Joe at S.O.B. (Shop Out Back) Racing Engines in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. The flathead currently sits in Bill’s garage on a custom built stand that Bill designed and built, and he enjoys cranking it up when his buddies stop over for a beer. CN