Edsel Ford returned from Europe in 1932 enthused about adding a “continental-type” car to the Ford line.
Inspired by sporty Bugattis, Jaguars, Lancias, and Alfa Romeos, Edsel and designer E. T. “Bob” Gregorie agreed to take a pragmatic approach: a “long, low, and rakish” car that fit on a standard Ford chassis.
Although that was a challenge on the 1932 Model 18’s short 106-inch wheelbase, Gregorie cleverly designed a jaunty, full-fendered, boat-tailed speedster that visually stretched the roadster’s appearance. The body panels were hand-hammered from sheet aluminum. In one of Ford Motor Company’s oral history recordings, Gregorie credited the Lincoln Plant Manager named “Robbie” Robinson for much of the work on the Speedster. And what a smart-looking car it was!
Due to cutbacks at Ford Motor Company during the Great Depression, the resulting 1932 boattail speedster never made it into production, but it did bode well for their future collaboration on continental cars. Edsel sold this first car to Indianapolis mechanic Elmer Benzin, who resold it to a young GM designer who wrecked it. For decades, it was widely believed the Speedster was scrapped, but it somehow found its way to a body man in Connecticut, who owned it for half a century and did not know of its history.
After he passed away, it was painstakingly restored it to look exactly the way it did when it was built, complete with four individual custom flowing fenders and leather inserts. At the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in 2013 it won—quite fittingly—the coveted E.T. “Bob” Gregorie Award for Design Excellence from Moray Callum, Vice-President, Design, for Ford Motor Company, presented by Edsel Ford II.
Edsel and Bob Gregorie collaborated on two other “Continental” Speedsters in 1934 and again in 1935. This car and the second Speedster are now owned by the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan.