The story of Roger O'Dell's custom project begins with a phone call. It was a friend of his complaining about a '36 Ford roadster he'd purchased, based only on photos. When he received the car, it was-surprise!-not anywhere near as nice as it had been described. It was, in his words, "a pile" and he just wanted it gone.
Roger, as it turns out, had been thinking about building a '36 roadster for several years, and accepted his friend's discounted price for the '36. This time, the seller's description was accurate. "It was rusty and repairs had been poorly made," Roger told us. "Welds had been made with large diameter wire and not enough heat, and it was warped all over the place." But if you own as many customs as Roger does, you know that even the roughest "pile" can be turned into a remarkable car. All it takes is three more piles: a pile of vision, a pile of talent, and a pile of money. Before doing anything with the roadster, however, Roger paid a visit to automotive designer Steve Stanford to talk about the project.
Roger's ideas for the '36 came from the elegant-looking customs he'd seen 50 years ago as a kid cruising the Artesia/Bellflower section of Los Angeles-the center of custom car activity. "Every time I went to Bellflower to cruise the boulevard I'd pass Bill DeCarr's shop. For a while, Larry Watson was using part of that shop. I used to dream about the cars I saw there." Roger's hope, decades later, was that his custom would end up as elegant looking as the ones he'd seen at Bill DeCarr's as he cruised past. Stanford transferred Roger's ideas onto paper. From there they were transferred, very accurately, into reality.
This was a two-year build and, in typical style, involved a lot of friends. By the time it was done, it had evolved a far distance from the '36 roadster Roger started with. The whole project came full circle when Roger got the opportunity to work with Larry Watson to determine the paint color. "Larry painted one of his classic lightbulbs for me and related a story that in 1969 he'd painted a '69 Mustang for Lola Falana. He calls the color Opalescent." When he was thinking of a name for the car, Roger didn't have to think long, deciding on "Bill DeCarr Special" in honor of the customizer who'd inspired him way back when.
What had started out as a "pile," ended up in the main building of the '09 Grand National Roadster Show, duking it out for the AMBR trophy. Since then it has been seen at Blackie Gejeian's Fresno Autorama, the West Coast Kustoms show in Santa Maria, and a few local events. "So far it's still mostly a trailer queen," Roger admits. "Before Santa Maria, the longest trip was from my house to the muffler shop and back-loud going, quiet coming home."
So, is it a Roadster?
We see power windows rising to the top, with glass provided by Mike Cox and the Glass House. Does that defy the traditional definition of a roadster? Some people have said so, but Roger says no. "I maintain that the roadster cowl makes it a roadster, not whether it has windows. This is a custom, not a restored car."