Sold for $247,500
- 239.4-cid, 100-hp L-head V-8 engine
- Three-speed manual transmission with Columbia overdrive
- Thought to be the last Ford Sportsman built
- Well-equipped, even by Sportsman standards
- One of only 28 produced in 1948
It is remarkable enough to encounter what is almost certainly the last Ford Sportsman built. To learn that it was originally a Christmas present and that its third owner had to purchase it twice is quite astounding.
Elbert Marston of San Diego, California, purchased the car from Pearson Ford in December 1947, and gave it to his wife, Georgia, on Christmas Day. For 20 years, Mrs. Marston, a teacher in the San Diego public schools, drove it to work every day. It was driven across country twice, and had two tops and a new radiator during her ownership. Twice the hydraulic system that operates the top and windows was repaired.
The car was well-equipped, even by Sportsman standards. In addition to a radio and heater, it was delivered with a front grille guard, windshield-post spotlight and outside left-hand mirror. The mirror is unusual, as it has a straight arm rather than the more common “swan’s neck” type. During Mrs. Marston’s ownership, it had a plastic rear window in place of the original glass type, installed when the top was replaced. The only true 1948 Sportsman convertibles, just 28 with 89A chassis numbers, were built during October 1947. This car has the highest body number of that run. Unlike other Sportsman body numbers, it has an “NN” prefix, the significance of which is not known. It has all the features of the later Sportsman models, including the revised trunk lid that sheds water better than the earlier design. Interestingly, the Sportsman was the only ‘48 model to retain the early coincidental ignition switch and steering wheel lock.
During the night of November 3, 1983, the Sportsman was stolen from Mrs. Marston’s garage. Since it was already a celebrity car, and Mrs. Marston was well-known in several clubs, the theft was well-publicized within the collector community. The car hovered below the radar of the law and enthusiast network for several years. Eventually, it was offered to early Ford collector Bob Everts of Campe Verde, Arizona, one-time owner of another woodie in this sale. Everts purchased the car, but, when he went to register it, the chassis number came up as stolen. In order to legitimize the sale, he purchased the car again, this time from Mrs. Marston. He later sold it to W.T. “Ty” Froemke of Fontana, California, who performed a painstaking body-off restoration in 1988.
Froemke completely rebuilt the engine, boring it out 30 thousandths and turning the crankshaft. The pistons, rods, crankshaft and flywheel were balanced and the engine reassembled to factory specifications.
Collector Curt Heaton, of Corona Del Mar, California, bought the last Sportsman in May of 1988. Heaton kept it for 11 years, driving it about 10,000 miles and adding a Columbia two-speed axle for freeway travel. During that time he did no further work on it except the installation of new tires, a testament to the quality of restoration. In 1999 he sold it to Raymond C. Derby, of Cambria, California, from whom Nick Alexander purchased it in January 2006.
The last Sportsman remains gorgeous, as repainted in the original color Maize Yellow. The paint has no flaws and exhibits a deep shine. All body contours are correct. As for the wood body, it appears the wood workers at Iron Mountain decided to make the last Sportsman body something special. It contains large amounts of some of the most exquisite Birdseye Maple to come out of Henry’s forest and over 60 years has acquired the rich patina of the finest antique furniture. It is truly a stunning automobile.
The seats are upholstered in red leather, all in good condition, and the front is furnished with lap belts for two. The floor has black rubber mats in front, and maroon carpet in the rear. The tan canvas top, with correct glass rear window, looks new, and is lined in tan. The dashboard woodgrain looks original, and exhibits a few scratches. The instruments and dashboard plastic are both good, as is the steering wheel, and the car has a radio, heater and working electric clock.
The luggage compartment is detailed in correct gray cardboard with a black rubber floor mat, and is furnished with a top boot. The 59AB engine is correctly outfitted and painted blue, but has seen many road miles since last detailed. The chassis and underbody are painted black, and show only modest road dirt. The car is fitted with Firestone 6.50-16 blackwall tires, installed in 2006, and there is a matching spare.
It is driven regularly and enjoyed and is stated to run and drive well. The odometer currently shows just over 82,000 miles, and the Columbia overdrive makes it feasible to effortlessly add many more. The car is registered with California year-of-manufacture plates 2A8311, which go with the car.
Fewer than 3,500 Ford Sportsman convertibles were built in two full years of production. Just 28 of those were 1948 models, survivors of which are few. This particular Sportsman, with its documented fascinating history, is absolutely singular. It represents and opportunity that will not soon be repeated.