Some hot rodders think all the great old barn finds don't exist anymore. Not us. We've been hearing (and publishing) a lot of stories lately about vintage tin that has been holed up behind closed doors for years only to be eventually discovered and rescued. Here's one more.
It's hard to imagine somebody not wanting a '36 Ford coupe, but that's how this story begins. Way back in 1957, an ambitious hot rodder installed a dual-quad NASCAR Y-block under the hood of the otherwise bone-stock five-window. With no modifications to a drivetrain originally built to handle an 85hp Flathead, it wasn't long before an engine built to win NASCAR races started chewing up transmissions like they were potato chips (16 in one summer, we were told). The coupe's frustrated owner rolled his car into a Chicago-area warehouse and walked away. For 45 years.
Jim Evans heard the story from Tim O'Connell at O'Connell Specialties, a rod shop in Plainfield, Illinois, near Chicago. Tim found out about the off-the-radar coupe in 2002 and bought it just to get it back in circulation. Based on Tim's description, Jim decided to buy the car sight unseen. He hooked up a battery, added some gasoline, filed the points, and the NASCAR Y-block started right up. When he got around to stripping the original paint, he discovered dent-free, rust-free sheetmetal. With such perfect raw material for the project, Jim decided to keep outward modifications low-key, "integrating all of the small details and changes into the car and still making it look like it could be a car from a '36 Ford sales brochure," as he put it.
The NASCAR engine that ate all those transmissions was sold to help finance the project, and replaced with a more streetable 312ci Thunderbird engine. The oval track personality is retained in the form of a NASCAR air cleaner, modified by Jim to cover the single four-barrel carburetor. The body was lowered over the '36 'rails for an improved profile, but the lines were kept stock, with a few minor changes. Even the redone interior reflects the preserved history of the '36, with the type of modifications the first owner might have made in the 1950s.
The buildup took 22 non-consecutive months, spread out over five years, and with assistance from Nick Kraly, Tim O'Connell, and a few other folks. The coupe was completed in time for Jim to drive it to some national events in 2007, where it got far more attention than Jim expected. "I thought it would be a 'walk-by' car," he told us.
There was no way we could walk by the long-lost '36. And, since we heard its story, we can't drive by an old warehouse, barn, or garage without wondering if there's some neglected old-time iron behind those doors-something like this coupe-waiting to be hauled out, built up, and set loose.