Love at first sight

Moorhead man bought ‘38 Ford Sedan when he was a teen


By Lisa Ridder


John and Jackie Cox with their 1938 Ford Sedan. John has had the car side 1960. Photo by Lisa Ridder

It was the spring of 1960, John Cox’s senior year at Oakes High School in Oakes, N.D. It seemed like any other day. John, who lived in nearby Glover, was wandering around town when he happened to stop at the local Ford dealership in town. Little did he know he would find a car that would be with him the rest of his life.


“I was looking at the new Ford Falcon,” he said. “I didn’t have money for a new car, but was looking anyway.”


Then something unexpected happened.


“A 1938 Ford Sedan was traded in for a new Ford Falcon,” he said. “It was a two-door Deluxe Sedan, 85 hp V8 engine. It was made in America by hard working Americans.”


The sedan immediately caught his eye. The car had been brought in by a local woman, she and her husband had purchased it when it was new in 1938. After the husband died in 1943, the widowed wife left the car parked in the garage, never driving it until she decided to trade it in towards a new vehicle in 1960, John said.


“I looked at it and told the salesman I would like to buy it,” said John. “(The salesman) said, ‘you’re not 21 -- one of your parents will need to sign the purchase order.’ He agreed to hold it until the next day.”


John went home and talked to his dad.


“He said, ‘Yes, I’ll sign,’” said John. “I was 18 when he helped me get the car. He signed it over to me when I was 21.”


The original owners drove the car during WWII, when many items were rationed during the war years.


“In the trunk, I found new rod/main bearings, new piston rings, head and oil pan gaskets,” he said. “They purchased these items when they bought the car, just in case they would need them,” he said. John had not looked in the trunk when he purchased it so he had no idea all of these items were in there.


Since the engine had not been started for many years, the piston rings had lost their tension and needed to be replaced.


Most everything inside the 1938 Ford Sedan is original. The purple ribbon is from the Oakes Centennial Parade in 1986. John drove the car in the parade. Photo by Lisa Ridder

“We had the parts though,” he said. “Dad said, ‘I’ll show and tell you how to do it, but you do the works.’ That began my introduction to Auto Mechanics and from that experience I have been able to maintain/repair all other vehicles I have owned since.”


John has owned the ‘38 Ford Sedan for 61 years.


“Everything is pretty much original,” he said. “I added hydraulic brakes and sealed beam headlights, but that’s pretty much it.”


The interior of the car is pretty much all original.


“Look at how tight the doors still are,” he beamed.


The car had been driven 12,000 miles when John purchased it. He drove it during his four years at North Dakota State University (NDSU) in the 1960s, where he studied business and was a member of the TKE Fraternity. John met his wife, Jackie at a dance in the Newman Club at NDSU.


“I drove the car while I courted my wife,” he said. “It was our second car during the first years of our marriage. Today, the odometer reads 68,000 miles and it’s always been kept in the garage.”


John’s first car was another American made car, a DeSoto. He got it when he was a sophomore in high school. “My second car was a Chrysler,” he said. “Living outside of Oakes, a car was a necessity for getting around.”


John is a welder by trade and even taught welding at NDSCS in Wahpeton, North Dakota, for 28 years. He was also instrumental is helping launch welding program at NDSCS-Fargo. He credits his father with his career and interest in welding.


“My dad was a blacksmith, welder and machinist,” he said. “From the time I was old enough to be in the shop, I was working with my dad and learning from him.”


John and Jackie lived for a short time in Minneapolis, before moving back to the area. They lived in Fargo for 30 years, before moving to their current Moorhead home about three years ago. They also winter in Arizona.


John is retired now and enjoys working on his car. He loves to fix things.


John Cox and his parents the late Howard and Lucille Cox. Contributed photo

“If I can fix it myself, I do,” he said.


John credit’s his dad, Howard, with many of the things he has learned in life.


“He was a good person. He was honest, kind, hard-working and patient,” he said. John fought back tears as he went on to talk about his dad. “He made it real easy for me to learn from him. We were not only father and son, but really good friends. He was very helpful. We had a good home life. They were really good people, good parents.”


Today, John and Jackie take the ‘38 to an occasional car show or a cruise around town.


“I haven’t had much of a chance to get the ‘38 out this year” he said. “We were a little later in getting back from wintering in Arizona and we have had a lot going on ever since.”


Father’s Day is coming this month. John’s dad is now deceased, but no matter how John spends Father’s Day, his thoughts will always be on his dad.


“He taught me a lot,” he said.

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