Not only were songs written about the car, most famously by the Beach Boys, but the ’32 Ford became the basis of a cultural phenomenon (hot-rodding) that spawned a movement (the Youth Culture of the 1960s). And that demonstrates the remarkable “staying power” of this car because even in the early Sixties, it was an antique car enjoying a new life as the emblematic hot rod. Who would guess that the popularity of the ’32 Ford Coupe would still be going strong more than five decades later?
How popular is it? Evidence of that is as clear and direct as the value NADA Guides lists for a ’32 Ford Coupe today. The car that sold new for $485 in 1932 now commands a retail price as high as $54,000, which turns the term “retained value” on its head.
From Model T to ’32 Ford Coupe
The story of the 1932 Ford Coupe started in the mid-1920s when uber-industrialist Henry Ford decided that his company would have to replace the Model T, the car that put America on wheels. It was a bold decision because, in 1924, Ford would not only sell its 10 millionth car (in June), but by the time October rolled around, it would sell its 11 millionth, representing an unheard-of sales rate.
Commanding a solid 50% of the American car market, Ford Motor Company was riding high as its Model T “Tin Lizzy” outsold everything else that moved. Yet Henry Ford could see that the competition was gaining ground rapidly as the company’s signature and only car model became more and more antiquated. The contemporary Chevrolet offered a more powerful 4-cylinder engine with a more modern drivetrain and better chassis than Ford’s rapidly aging Model T, and more expensive mid-priced brands like Nash, Dodge, and Buick were selling cars that were even more refined yet within the price range of middle-class Americans.
These facts weren’t lost on the public either. In 1926 Ford’s market share plummeted to just 36%. So, even though it had successfully sold nearly 15 million Model Ts, Ford began to develop a new model.
Since they were starting all over again, Ford decided to call the new car the Model A. As development continued, Henry Ford’s son, Edsel, became the driving force behind the car. He insisted that it have a conventional three-speed, sliding-gear transmission instead of the Model T’s planetary gearset. He pushed for substantially improved engine performance. And he closely directed the chassis and body design to make sure the new car wasn’t just better than the old one but more attractive, too.