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1951 ESTRATA CUSTOM
This famous, one-of-a-kind custom was built by Preston P ...more
. Hopkins, who wanted a cabriolet that combined European styling with American performance and reliability. Working in collaboration with a master fabricator, Hopkins was said to have incorporated the following parts into his dream car:
1937 La Salle grille, hood shells, and front fenders
1937 Ford rear deck
1935 Ford convertible coupe body panels
1935 Ford frame
1939 Ford mechanical parts (not including engine)
1940 Ford front wheel hubs
Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels
According to period literature, Hopkins reduced the wheelbase 14 inches to enhance maneuverability, dropped the frame 2 ½ inches to achieve a low seating position, and repositioned the engine farther back for better handling. He then welded the floor to the bottom of the frame rails to reduce the center of gravity while retaining sufficient ground clearance.
The dashboard (since removed) was from a 1939 Ford and the front seats were from a Model A. Hopkins fashioned the grille out of two 1937La Salle grille shells and fabricated the front fenders almost entirely by hand to match the contour of the headlights. The hood hinges at the front and the doors, which are equipped with Lincoln push-button latches, were hinged at the rear. The engine (since removed), transmission, and axles are from a 1939 Ford while the clutch and brake system were from a 1935 Ford. Hopkins adapted the steering gear from a Hudson and used GMC truck tie rod ends. To maintain ground clearance, both mufflers were concealed within the front fenders. The car could cruise easily at freeway speeds and cornering was reportedly excellent.
Despite the fact that Hopkins and his fabricator reportedly invested almost 3,000 hours of work into the Estrata, he sold it. It passed through several owners, one of whom almost completely dismantled the car, allowing most of the mechanical components (including the engine) to be lost over time. Fortunately, the frame and virtually all of the custom body panels have survived and appear to be intact. Although they are in poor condition, these special body components are what make this car so distinctive and would be impossible to duplicate from scratch. The period images (from the “Blue Book of Custom Restyling” by Dan Post, 1951) show that the Estrata was an extremely attractive car, which gives it great potential.
This automobile was donated to the Petersen Automotive Museum some years ago and no longer fills a collecting need. The Estrata would make a rewarding restoration project. Its unique styling would draw admiring glances and enable its owner to qualify for entry in virtually any classic, custom, or hot rod show in the world.
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