The best hot rods, to our way of thinking, are not the ones that have been so radically reworked that the car's identity is camouflaged under layers of alterations. The best are the ones that have been mildly modified in such a way as to accentuate the soul of the car.
Pete Scialabba gets it. His red '40 Ford pickup from a few years back was a primo example of how to build an outstanding rod. With this '46 Ford ragtop, Pete repeats his success.
When Pete first planned this project, he knew he needed to start with a good, original car. After searching unsuccessfully in the San Francisco Bay area, he got wind of a car in Los Angeles, "So I grabbed a friend, got some cash, and off to Southern California we went."
The L.A. owner had purchased the completely original car years before from an elderly lady in Beverly Hills. He'd seen it parked in her driveway and asked if she'd consider selling it. "Oh no," she told him. "I still drive it every day." The lady had worked in Hollywood as the secretary of movie star Carole Lombard. When Ford restarted passenger car production after World War II, the studio she worked for helped her purchase her new car. About a year after their initial meeting, the lady called the man, explaining that parts had become too hard to find and the car was too difficult to maintain, so she had decided to sell it. The second owner paid $600 for the pristine convertible, drove it for a couple of years, then put it in the garage. When Pete brought it home, it only had 81,000 miles on the odometer.
As you can see, Pete kept most of the car's stock styling characteristics, including the parking lights, door handles, and side trim, in order to let a few low-key modifications-along with some A-level bodywork and paint-do the talking. The same goes for the interior, where the factory instruments and stock dash were maintained to keep the general factory appearance of the '46. Even the up-to-date ZZ4 small-block under the hood was built with an eye toward nostalgia.
"I didn't get the car for $600, or even close to that amount," Pete informed us. Even so, he drove away happy. When we saw him at the '03 Goodguys West Coast Nats in Pleasanton, he was still driving and still happy. It's easy to see why.
Pete ScialabbaSan Jose, California'46 Ford Convertible
Drivetrain: The 350ci ZZ4 Chevy engine was modified for the '46 by Marty Sakamoto. The 10:1 small-block is fired by a Chevy HEI ignition and fed by a single Holley through an Edelbrock intake, topped in style by a vintage Cadillac air cleaner, painted to dress up the engine compartment. Sanderson headers and Flowmaster mufflers do the exhaust duties. The column-shifted 700-R4 automatic features a 2,000-rpm-stall converter and trans cooler from TPI.
Chassis: The convertible rolls on the original Ford rails, modified with C-notches for additional clearance and a prouder stance, and muscled up with a transmission crossmember from Weedetr. Fat Fendered Street Rod Shop provided the Mustang II frontend package, with Heidt's 2-inch drop front spindles added, along with KYB front shocks. The rear suspension includes shocks and springs from Posies. The Ford 9-inch features 3.55:1 gears and a Posi. Brakes are 11-inch Ford discs in front with drums in the back.
Wheels & Tires: The black, red, and white paint scheme is complemented by the look of the painted solid steel wheels with chrome caps. The 15-inch rims are 8 1/2 inches wide in back and 6 inches wide up front and are shod with P225/70R15 and P185/70R15 Coker whitewall radials.