Hot rods have been associated with rebels since the beginning of this whole thing. Hot rodders lived outside the conformist conventions of society, and the cars they built and drove reflected that. Nowadays, a lot of hot rodders preserve that defiant tradition with rough and tough-looking traditional cars. But here's a hot rod that expresses its rebellious attitude in a more polite tone of voice.

Phil Blodgett has been showing and driving his '50s-correct '36 cabriolet for only a little more than a year, but he's been thinking about it-or something just like it-since 1958, when he got to drive his grandfather's car. He was 10 years old. When he was 20, Phil opened a body shop in the Seattle area, where he worked on lots of cars for other people. When it was finally time to build the car he'd been thinking about for decades, he only had three requirements for the project: a careful plan, the best parts and components, and modifications that would have been available in 1958. But he didn't want a typical '50s hot rod. He wanted an extraordinary '50s hot rod that was period correct but not what you'd expect, defiant but refined-what Phil calls a "gentleman's hot rod."

He presented his ideas to a local rod builder, Doug Leibrant, who owns Doug's Classic Coach Works in Kingston, Washington, and specializes in '30s-era automobiles. Doug shares Phil's hardcore loyalty to tradition, and helped him round out his vision for the cabriolet. In addition to performing the majority of the hands-on work on the car, Doug introduced Phil to Larry Hove, an avid collector of '36 Fords, who contributed numerous design ideas, along with his knack for locating and procuring rare period parts.

The project started with a pristine original '36, and the sheetmetal was restored to a condition that would please any purist. From the outside, only the old-time Streamlite wheels hint that the stock body has a hot rod heart. On the inside you'll find a leather-finished interior and a slew of unusual and cool custom components, all maintaining the pre-1958 theme. Doug added a '40 dash, with restored original instruments. In the engine compartment, the old Flathead was switched with a hopped-up 1957 Corvette 283 fuelie motor, paired with a '39 Ford three-speed with Zephyr gears and a Columbia two-speed rearend.

Everybody everywhere seems to love Phil's phenomenal '36. In its debut season, this "gentleman's hot rod" scooped up a First Place class trophy at the Seattle Roadster Show, the Goodguys Rodders Rep Pick in Puyallup, King of Hotrod-A-Rama prize in Tacoma, and R&C Top 10 honors in Pleasanton. But as you might guess, owning a trophy trap was never the goal for this guy. Driving the hot rod he's been planning in his head since 1958-that's built in the bona fide style of that era-is what it's all about.