This Ultra-Rare Essex Terraplane
Hot Rod|May 2020
Stands Out in a Crowd
Richard Prince

With strong influence from his father, who was the service manager at their local Chevrolet dealer, Dickie Lowder began messing around with cool cars when he was only 14 years old. He started with a 1955 Chevy, and over the decades has built dozens of street rods, hot rods, and race cars. Though steered toward Chevrolet early on, he was equally attracted to Chevy’s perennial cross-town rival, in part because of his long career as service manager at a Ford dealership.

Around 40 years ago, after completing several 1955 Chevys and 1932 Fords, Dickie began looking for a car he lusted after for a long time, but never happened to cross paths with—a solid ’33 or ’34 Ford coupe.

“I got the word out that I wanted a ’33 or ’34 coupe,” he recalls, “and one day in 1980, a guy came into the dealership and told me he had a 1933 Essex Terraplane coupe at his body shop. Without knowing what an Essex Terraplane coupe was, I followed him to his shop in Pageland, South Carolina, to look at it.”

The Terraplane was completely disassembled and piled up in a corner of the shop, making it somewhat difficult to evaluate. Dickie saw enough of the body, however, to envision its potential. “I could see the car’s lines and liked its proportions and the way it flowed. It was complete except for the grill, garnish moldings, and panel between the rear fenders, and the metal was in excellent condition.”

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Dickie made an offer the shop owner accepted: $1,500 cash and a 1936 DeSoto four-door sedan that he’d bought from a friend for $150. “Three truckloads later, I had the Essex home. The first thing my wife, Gayle, said when she saw it was, ‘you’ll never finish that car’. That really lit the fire and motivated me to get it done!”

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