It's hard to think of another inanimate object that has the ability to create the lasting friendships and express an individual's sense of being the way an automobile does. But then again, it's hard to think of something as personal and exciting as a hot rod as an "inanimate object." Once you've spent countless hours in the garage crafting a special vehicle and been there for the first flick of the key when the engine inhaled and then roared to life, you can no longer feel the collection of steel, rubber, vinyl, and glass is made up of the same soulless materials that make up your household appliances or similar mundane machinery.

For friends Rich Muraoka and Ken Harris, the bonds between their cars were made long before they met, or you could even say long before they were even born. While their current rides first came from the Ford factory in 1936 as nearly identical five-window coupes, they would come together much later in life to be rebuilt in a very similar fashion. One car paved the way while the other followed the refinements as the builders honed the changes on the second coupe with tips learned while modifying the first.

The Blue '36
When it was time for a new project, Rich found the humble beginnings of his '36 Ford coupe resting peacefully in a Southern California barn. It looked like something he and his friend Joe Limones could build, so they dragged it home to Gilroy to begin the transformation. Working around a tight budget, Rich got things started by rebuilding the original chassis with a Heidt's Mustang II kit with a pair of disc brakes actuated by a Camaro master cylinder and pedal assembly. Under the rear, a pair of parallel leaf springs mounts an 8-inch Ford rearend.

Powering Rich's '36 is a deep-breathing 383ci Chevy small-block topped with a Weber manifold wearing four downdraft Weber carburetors. Mounted directly behind the mighty Mouse is a T5 manual trans. A recent addition to Rich's always evolving ride is the set of open headers exiting out of the engine compartment. Rich says the pipes work great and so far haven't caused any problems burning valves due to a lack of back pressure and a full exhaust system.


Rich Muraoka
Gilroy, California
1936 Ford Coupe

Rich wanted a healthy mill to power his '36 so Gilroy Machine put together a 383ci Chevy small-block using Engle crank and rods with JE pistons and COMP Cams bumpstick. On the topside, a pair of camel-hump heads sits under a Weber intake attached to a quartet of Weber carburetors, and pieces from Edelbrock and Mooneyes dress up the engine. A custom set of headers not only makes a visual statement, but as the sole form of an outlet for spent exhaust gasses, it makes a strong audio statement as well. Sitting behind the mill is a T5 manual trans pirated from an IROC Camaro.

Starting with the original 'rails found under his coupe, Rich upgraded them for serious street duty with a Heidt's MII IFS under the nose and a pair of parallel leafs securing a Ford 8-inch rearend under the tail. A recent upgrade installed by Rich is a full Air Ride Technologies system.

Wheels & Tires
A set of 15x5- and 15x7-inch steelies wears a special set of owner-made caps and is wrapped in a set of 165R15 and 215R15 wide whites.

Body & Paint
Jumping right in with both feet, Rich took care of one of the most difficult tasks by successfully removing 3 inches from the roof height. After the top was chopped it was also filled with an insert from a '41 Dodge sedan. All things unnecessary, such as door and truck handles, and even the hood, were left off before Rich sprayed on the PPG basecoat of Honda Blue on the '36's curvaceous panels.

Inside Rich's coupe is a well-planned interior sketched up by his friend Victor Wilson and stitched up by Rivero in silver vinyl over a pair of Honda bucket seats. The molded dash carries a set of white-faced gauges to keep track of the vitals and a Chevy van column is topped by a LeCarra steering wheel.