There's a lot to be said for starting a project with the best example of your chosen vehicle you can lay your hands on, but often it's a case of making do with what you can find-and spending at least some time restoring or repairing before the fun can begin. Of course, that's not true in every case, but it often happens when dealing with cars that are uncommon to begin with. Take the '36 Ford three-window, for example; we've seen unbelievable examples that actually started as five-windows-the Cole Foster-built Kirk Hammett coupe, for instance-or sedans, such as the Norwegian example on page 58.
This puts John Mearns in decidedly rare company, as he not only found a three-window, but a cherry one to boot-a freshly restored, body-off example with new paint, tires, and interior. Found on the Internet (where else, these days?), it belonged to a retired car dealer who'd bought a bunch of cars at an estate auction in order to buy one particular car in the batch. With only a few low-res photos of the coupe to go on, John's gut feeling paid off, and it was indeed as good as the seller had assured him. I'm not sure I'd want to view a car for the first time as it was being unloaded outside my house, though!
"It was a pretty nice, freshly restored car," according to John. "I knew I would need to modify the frame to get the rear down low and really did not want to cut up such a nice frame, so I found a Total Cost Involved chassis from a stalled '36 project and sold the stock frame and running gear. I have one of these under my '36 cabriolet and really like it."
Despite John's best efforts to preserve everything, bar the sheetmetal, a few people still gave him a hard time for cutting up a survivor car, but, as he said, "I was not able to find another in good enough shape or that was not priced through the roof." And, seeing as we're talking about the roof, that was where the project ran into difficulty and could very easily have seen it scrapped. The body was entrusted to a shop that chopped it so badly all John could do once it was home was stare at it for eight months with a sinking feeling in his stomach. Then, he met Jeb Scolman, of Jeb's Metal and Speed in Long Beach, and the '36 was back on track. "Luckily, we had another inch to spare," John quipped, resulting in a final slice of somewhere between 3-1/2 and 4 inches. In fact, when answering the question on our tech sheet that asks what he'd do differently if he started over, John simply wrote, "Take it straight to Jeb Scolman."
With the roof how John had originally envisioned, Jeb continued working his metal magic, handforming a grille surround to accept a '40 LaSalle grille, grafting '34 Chevy Master Deluxe hood sides into the Ford side panels, and forming matching sections in the custom fender skirts, as well as adding '37 Lincoln Zephyr taillights and '36 Packard headlights, modifying the hood, shaving the handles, and incorporating '41 Ford bumpers (the rear from a woodie).
Jeb also substantially modified the floorpan since the new chassis was kicked up 5 inches in the rear (remember, John wanting to drop the rear end), with a custom four-bar and Panhard rod replacing the parallel leaf springs to locate the 9-inch axle. Moving forward, there's a 700-R4 trans, with its overdrive destined to see plenty of use since John plans to drive the coupe-a lot-while a three twos-fed '56 vintage 265 Chevy small-block keeps up the traditional appearance when it comes to visible parts.
Of course, the coupe is unfinished, so we can't tell you about the paint or interior, although it's in the paint shop as this is being written for a dark-maroon coating, with John planning to debut it at the West Coast Kustoms' Santa Maria event-you know, the one replacing Paso. With childhood memories of pictures of the Westergard '36 coupe, and recent inspiration from Choppers CC member Jon Fisher's coupe, we think you can see where this fine three-window is heading. I have a feeling we'll be revisiting John, Jeb, and this coupe very soon.