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The Difference Between 1933 and 1934 Fords

Tags: Tech, Hot Rod, Street

For more than half of my life, my coupe lived in the attic of my dad’s shop. It was a future project car from Hebron, Nebraska, when it was sold to my dad in 1982 (the year I was born), along with a ’34 sedan body. When it was time, there wasn’t much discussion as to which car my dad and I would build together. It was always going to be the ’33. He pointed at it when I was a kid and said we’d build it together someday. It was a defining moment for my ten-year-old self; imprinting forever in my brain a definition for beauty, with its classy design, subtle lines, and quiet splendor. I fell even more in love when I saw a ’33 grille for the first time. Picture an old cartoon character rolling up his tongue after his jaw dropped to the floor. When I turned 21, we lowered the body from the attic to begin work.

The coupe was only a body with the dash and window moldings. No grille, no emblems, no fenders or headlights, and only a rough frame. My dad referred to as a ’33, which is what I happily accepted.

During the build, folks around me consistently called it a ’34, which made me wonder that maybe we had it wrong. Maybe it was a ’34. Over the years, my gushing love for the Model 40 has tuned my eye to spot the subtle differences between the two years. I’m more convinced now that my coupe is truly a ’33. Here I’ll list the differences with photographic examples, using my sister’s 1934 Tudor Sedan for the comparison.

Sweeping changes were made to the 1933 models from the popular 1932 cars. Henry Ford worked to improve the engine, while his son Edsel styled the body and interior. The Model 40 was Ford’s first two-year V8 series. It came in eight basic body styles with either a 4-cylinder or for around $50 more, a V8 engine. It debuted rather late in the year, on February 9, 1933. Due to slow sales for various reasons and “feeling he could build no better car for the present,” Ford made only minor changes to the Model 40 in 1934.

There are at least 65 differences between 1933 and 1934 Fords. With the ’33 being introduced so late in the year, there seemed to be running changes through the production years. Many of the anomalies have much to do with the month of manufacture. Especially true during the 1933 production year, which evolved several times within the year itself. And now 85 years later, factor in that many cars incorporate a mix of '33 and '34 parts due to being repaired over the years, which was allowed by the interchangeability of parts. The serial number on the frame is the most reliable way to tell them apart.

Here are a few of the subtle differences at a glance:

Grille • 33’s - lean design which curved inward, the bars had a graceful curve forward at the bottom • 34’s - deep and flat with a wider reveal and fewer vertical straight bars

V8 Emblem • 33’s - V8 shape • 34’s - V8 encompassed by triangular shape

Radiator Cap The radiator caps differ towards the front, where they meet the grille shell molding.

Radiator Dog The first Greyhounds were produced by STANT for Ford Motor Company and had a free-standing tail, but they were very easily broken. They were stainless steel and anatomically correct with embossed ribs. The part number 40-18385 was marked on the inside of the bottom of the cap.

Don Sommers reproduced a Greyhound with a free-standing tail in the early '70s. Sommers’ version had machine cut ribs. Other popular Greyhound caps were made by Franklin Die Casting Company in Chicago, but their tail was not free-standing.

Just like the plain radiator caps, the front of the cap itself differed based on which grille it nestled against.

Headlights • 33’s – about 1.5” longer and more rounded at the rear • 34's – more bullet shaped

Hood • 33’s – curved louvers on the hood sides • 34’s – straight louvers on the hood sides • 33’s – one centered hood handle, with a metal hook for the hood lock mechanism to connect to down low on the firewall • 34’s – two hood handles • 33’s – hood top curved down a few inches to meet the top of the grill • 34’s – hood top was flat at the front

• 33’s – hood includes a small radius on the leading edge of the hood sides and top • 34’s – Ford removed the radius because the radiator cap raked across the radius and scratched the paint • 34’s – top of cowl includes notches (indented on the cowl lip) to hold the hood sides upright while open

Fender • 33’s – have longer inner fender well curves than the ‘34 • 33’s – have non-skirted front fenders • 34’s – the inner fender panels were stamped smoother

Cowl Vent • 33’s – no bug screen • 34’s – includes bug screen

Dash • 33’s – gauge insert can be removed as a cluster • 34’s – dash has a molded shape, so the gauges are removed one at a time • 33’s – instrument panel was painted grey in early ‘33, and maroon in late ‘33 • 34’s – instrument panel was painted a mahogany color

Doors • 33’s and early 34’s had door handles towards the front of the door • Later 34’s had a remote inside handle located at the center of the window opening and worked the latch via a linkage • 33’s – had oval metal hand pulls • late 33-34’s had pull straps • early 34’s had pull-to-grip window molding, then later changed to no pull at all

Windows • 33’s – window garnishes were straight at the bottom • 34’s – window garnishes had an angled shape • 34’s – door glass will vent straight backward one inch when fully raised, called “smoker’s glass.” It utilized a cam and follower on the regulator

Original Paint • 33’s – twin body pinstripes • 34’s – triple body pinstripes • 33’s – black fenders regardless of body color • 34’s – black fenders as an option

Original Engine • 33’s – 75 hp V8 engine • 34’s – 85 hp V8 engine • 34’s offered a fresh air heater as an accessory

One of my favorite animations was produced by Ford Motor Company to show off the Model 40.

They call it a ’33, but based on the grille, hood sides and V8 emblem, the Tudor sedan they build is a 1934. It’s a neat short and shows the internal components to the V8 engine in an artistic way.

(Research Reference: Sorensen, Lorin, The Classy Ford V8. Osceola, WI: Silverado Publishing Company, 1982.)

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