I’d bet that right out of the gate, most of you are thinking, “what is this thing?” That’s what drove car owner and builder Calvin Elston to focus on such a unique project. The proper make and model for this beautifully crafted rolling work of art is a 1937 Ford Tudor Humpback, a car you don’t see much of anymore. Back in the ‘30s, the automobile was finding its groove in the upper-class mainstream, and manufacturers like Ford had very few models to offer—as well as few customers who could afford them, especially decked-out, fully loaded models. At that time, this ’37 Ford Tudor cost just $850, or $22,044.96 in 2019 dollars. Today that same $850 might get you pieces of a car, but rarely one that even runs.
Calvin took an extremely uncommon car and then went in a direction nobody was expecting, which tells us a lot about who he is. At 69 years young, you might expect him to restore the car to its original configuration, but Calvin isn’t your typical older enthusiast.
At the young age of 11, Calvin turned his father’s lawnmower into a go-kart, and ever since, his need for speed has never quit. Growing up, he worked in local garages to learn as much as possible about automobiles and how they operated; then he went off to college in California. While there, he found his way into working with a local off-road racer, assisting with the engine build and doing some tuning on the vehicle. Eventually, he landed in New England in the early ‘70s, began grinding his own brand of camshafts, and built and raced his ‘68 Camaro in the NHRA. He also has a long background in boat racing, as he has helped numerous boat racers to victory over the years.
When Calvin returned to the East Coast, he made the decision to hone in on improving his skills; with his connections, he was able to help on many Trans Am road racing cars, and eventually became an engine builder at Callaway Engineering, where he worked with Aston Martin’s 32-valve 6-liter Group C engine program in the late ‘80s. Once he was comfortable with his skill level, he started his own business called Elston Exhaust, where he became—in his words—“the Winston Cup world’s best-kept secret.” Elston Exhaust remains in operation today, building headers and exhaust systems for all types of racing and performance vehicles.
This intense focus on refining skills meant that he never had the time to build a project into his vision; when he ran across the ’37 you see here in a Hemmings Classic Car magazine, his mind started producing ideas. Once arriving on site where the car was, he realized that everything was there, down to the original flathead V8. The original owner looked at Calvin as if he was crazy when he bought the car but then gave the engine and chassis back.
Calvin went all out with the Tudor build; he started from scratch with a chassis from Fat Man Fabrication, then built crossmembers for the EcoBoost swap it would later receive. Fat Man Fabrication also supplied the independent front and rear suspension components. RideTech shocks keep the cruiser rolling smoothly while going down the road, and Wilwood brakes are at all four corners.
One of the most interesting and eye-catching things about the Tudor is the turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost Ford engine—the same one you can find in the Focus ST in a front-wheel-drive configuration. Calvin was able to get an ECU upgrade from Ford before they discontinued it, which allows the little four-banger to produce 280 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque, a far cry from the 85 horsepower produced by the original flathead V8 powerplant. To convert the 2.0 engine for rear-wheel-drive use, he had to swap out the original oil pan and oil pump, and use those sourced from the 2.3-liter EcoBoost mounted longitudinally in the current-generation Mustang.
When popping the hood, you notice how beautifully the EcoBoost fits into the factory engine bay. Calvin has designed and fabricated a bunch of pieces for the ’37—one neat feature I like is how he designed the air intake to not only to bring more cool air in but also to vent the boost from the blowoff valve out.
The Mustang’s six-speed 6R80 transmission backs up the EcoBoost, but what makes it even cooler is that the transmission is controlled by its own standalone ECU, which features the factory Select Shift design. Power is sent to a Ford 9-inch rear that’s been narrowed two inches per side to fit the big tires underneath the body. Calvin designed and fabricated the drivetrain mounts along with the intercooler, which fits nicely behind the factory grille.
The whole look of this generation of cars screams classic, but he wanted to put his spin on things. The only thing that Calvin didn’t do himself was the bodywork; he credits Royce King out of Mint Hill, NC for the appearance alterations. King smoothed the running boards, removed the bumpers, and inset the third brake light into the body for a nice clean look. The appearance leads us to believe that paint has been meticulously applied to the car, but that’s not the case as the whole car is wrapped in vinyl. Michael Montermoro of Atlantic Wraps had the pleasure of doing the whole car, covering it in Oracal Vinyl’s two-tone telegrey and gloss dark grey, which flows nicely with the bodylines and gloss black grille. The retro Tudor has LED head- and taillights, and rolls on matte black Enkei YS5 wheels, a shocker to all those “grey hairs” out there.
Once drawn in by the fascinating exterior of the car, after looking inside, all you can do is say “wow” because the interior takes the simple yet classic ‘30s interior and kicks it up—times ten. Calvin modified the beautifully crafted dash to fit the Restomod Air HVAC unit behind it while retaining the full glove compartment and space for the double-DIN stereo head unit.
He says that the hardest part about this whole build was fabricating the floorpan around the chassis, getting the windshield to fit right, and setting up the power windows since they were never an option for vehicles of this vintage. Black leather seats—10-way-adjustable front units plucked from a 3 Series BMW, and an 8 Series bench seat equipped with fold-down cup holders in the back. USB connectivity and 12-volt power are also in place. Grey wool covers the entirety of the interior roof and floor. Donald Honeycutt set the car up with custom door panels, a center console that houses the transmission controls, push-button start, and a slick smartphone mount.
Speaking of electronics, although the original Tudor didn’t come with any, Calvin’s vision has it all. The OBDII support means that the Android-enabled head unit can display all the gauges. And, if you can believe it, he drives the car daily, so it also has GPS, Wi-Fi, and a backup camera system controlled by the Android head unit. Rockford Fosgate speakers driven by Rockford Fosgate amps are custom-mounted throughout the cabin as well. His grandkids also have a place on longer trips in the back seat, as he keeps them entertained with a roof-mounted DVD player. To top it all off, he installed the Digital Guard Dawg RFID keyless entry system from iKey to control turning the car on and off, as well as provide remote-start capability.
So what drove Calvin to put together a build that goes against the grain? He wanted to show the younger crowd that the old guys can still fit in. Being part of that younger crowd myself, it took me just a few seconds to notice how unique this Ford really is, so I’d say he hit his mark there. His first outing to the Goodguys Auto Show, where he turned many heads and had plenty of onlookers asking him questions about the build, make it all worthwhile to him. He can drive it all day long, every day, with his grandkids in the back, enjoying each other and the magnificent machine that Calvin thought up all by himself.
1937 Ford EcoBoost Tudor Humpback
|2.0-liter Ford EcoBoost, turbocharged
|6R80 automatic transmission, equipped with Select Shift
|Restomod HVAC, BMW 3 Series front seats, 8 Series rear seat, USB connectivity, 12-volt power
|Oracal Vinyl, Telegrey and Gloss Dark Grey two-tone
|Fat Man Fabrication with independent front and rear suspension
|Ford 9-inch, narrowed 2 inches per side
|Smoothed running boards, Removed bumpers, Inset third brake light, Push-button start, Remote start, GPS, Wi-Fi, backup camera