If this 1936 Ford coupe looks familiar, it should, and not just because of its obvious Westergard influence, or its similarity to the Calori or Jon Fisher coupes. It's because you've seen this car on the pages of Rod & Custom before-at the bare metal stage. Subscribers even saw it on the cover. This time, however, it's finished, it has racked up some mileage under its tires, and the teething problems have been ironed out. At least owner John Mearns would like to think they have.
We're not sure he could stand pulling it apart even one more time. "Everyone [who's worked on it] hates this car," he told us. "It seems cursed! The 'rebuilt' 265 Chevy engine originally fitted lasted 2,000 miles, then only 800 miles after the second rebuild." Of course swapping it out meant stripping all the front sheetmetal from the now-finished and painted coupe. "That's when I replaced it with a fresh 327 from Taylor Engines and I haven't had any trouble since. The trans has been rebuilt too since it's been on the road, and the power steering rack had to be replaced." John hastened to add that none of the problems were in any way the fault of anyone who worked on the car, but were down to parts he supplied. He also didn't mention the first roof chop, which very nearly saw the project stop before it got underway.
We won't repeat what we wrote about the car in that bare metal feature back in June 2008, but after John had the roof chopped, badly, by an un-named shop, he could barely look at the coupe for over six months. Then he struck up a conversation with Jeb Scolman, of Jeb's Metal & Speed, at the airport terminal on the return leg of a trip to the Mooneyes show in Yokohama in 2006, during which Scolman agreed to come over and look at the coupe. With John keen to get the project back on track, Scolman, with his usual calm and calculated demeanor, said, "Let's fix the chop. If we can do that we'll do the rest."
Of course you know "the rest" as the coupe stayed with Scolman until it went to the paint shop. It was the first full build Scolman undertook when he branched out on his own under the Jeb's Metal & Speed moniker.
With John taking on the role of designer/architect and Scolman tasked with executing the ideas that formulated from their discussions, the goal was to build a car that was at a glance a late '40s or early '50s Westergard-style car, but one that was not a dead copy of anyone else's car out there. That's not easy because there is a pretty narrow design path to follow or you run the risk of having it look too modern or not fit the genre. "We used styling cues from the Calori coupe, Jon Fisher's car, and some others we saw along the way, whose owners are unknown to us."
Inspiration also came at shows. For instance, John and Scolman were walking the rows of cars at the Lone Star Roundup when they spied an old Ford '36 three-window coupe that had '34 Chevy hood sides with its nose protruding from the cars around it. The long horizontal twin louvers on the hood sides immediately grabbed their attention and the decision was made right then to do the same. John sourced a complete hood on their return from Texas, and in a twist of fate, it turned out to be from a Master DeLuxe, which has three rows of louvers and still had the stainless trim intact. Until that point, John was unaware of this trim option, as the hood he'd seen in Austin had been from a standard coupe. Of course, those trim pieces suit the style of the '36 perfectly!
All of which brings us to where we left off two-and-a-half years ago, when the coupe was on its way to the paint shop. Bob Cole, of Long Beach, California, prepped the extensively modified sheetmetal before laying on the Glasurit Bordeaux Red, a hue from Volkswagen's 1948 color charts. This understated color perfectly follows John's self-imposed design cue of "nothing flashy, with no single detail standing out," and works well with the minimal chrome on the car. Incidentally, those are '41 Ford bumpers, with the rear coming from a woodie, as John liked the dip in the center, to which was added a '49 Chevy license surround. Even this was reworked, being narrowed 4 inches and with an inch removed from its depth.
Pete Engle of Westminster Auto Upholstery got the nod to tackle the interior, as he "completely got the concept we were going for," according to John. He heavily modified the foam in the Wise Guys split bench seat to make it appear vintage, then used leather and wool and German square weave carpet to produce a period-looking interior. John had bought a '48 Chevy steering wheel at the last WCK Paso Robles show with the intention of repainting it, but that steering wheel ended up deciding the palette of colors they'd use in the coupe, with the fabric matched to the wheel.
Now that its appearance in the Showcase of Customs at the Long Beach Motorama is done, John promises there will be no more pampering, and he'll drive the car everywhere. He uses it some weeks to drive to and from work, though its longest trip so far was from Austin to Phoenix on the return trip from the Lone Star Roundup two years ago. "I knew we had major engine issues before the trip so I trailered it to Austin, but I also knew I would be swapping the engine on our return so I figured I would drive it to its death. That is exactly what happened; we lost all oil pressure in 105-degree heat and rolled off the road and onto the trailer." Those issues are long gone now, and the fully sorted coupe is proving to be a reliable driver. We might just wait awhile before road tripping with you though John, just to be sure ...
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Costa Mesa, California
1936 Ford Coupe
Though John Mearns bought a complete, driveable, restored car as a basis for the project, he sold the original chassis and running gear and had Jeb Scolman mount the body on a Total Cost Involved frame, complete with independent front suspension and a Flaming River matched component steering system with variable pressure pump and power rack. Pete & Jakes coilovers suspend the coupe all round, with a four-link at the rear.
Replacing the twice-rebuilt 265 small-block is a Taylor Engines-built 327, based on a stock displacement '64 block. LimeWorks undertook the installation, which meant pulling and realigning the painted frontend sheetmetal. The triple Strombergs were replaced at the same time with a 600-cfm Edelbrock four-barrel for reliability, on a black powdercoated Edelbrock intake. The carburetor is partially hidden under a Scolman-modified $10 eBay air cleaner that's believed to be from a Dodge or Plymouth. Stock '55 Chevy exhaust manifolds were smoothed and Jet Hot coated black. Scolman modified the valve covers by cutting out the tops and welding in those of '50s Lincoln covers, just because the script looked cool. We promised not to mention that he had to do this twice as the first time the lettering was upside down once the covers were fitted! We lied. The 700-R4 trans was rebuilt when the engine came out the last time for peace of mind, while the 9-inch rearend is the only part of the drivetrain that hasn't been touched since the car hit the road!
Wheels & Tires
General Tire 195/75R16 radials from the Whitewall Candy Store have replaced the whitewalls that were on the car during its build, as John wasn't happy with their ride characteristics, though the 16x5.50 Wheel Vintiques '40 Ford-style steelies remain. In our previous article we mentioned John was undecided on hubcap choice; the car still wears the flipper 'caps it had in that 2008 shoot.
Body & Paint
Scolman re-chopped the roof, making an amazing job of fixing the botched attempt he was presented with, as well as adding the '34 Chevy hood side sections, fabricating the grille surround for the '40 LaSalle grille, forming fenderskirts, fitting '37 Lincoln Zephyr taillights and '36 Packard Jr. headlights, and shaving the decklid and door handles. These now operate via solenoids, with remote terminals added for backup. Bob Cole laid on the '48 VW Bordeaux Red, a description which belies the amount of work that went into such a straight finish!
Westminster Auto Upholstery used leather and wool to upholster the car, modifying the foam on the Wise Guys split bench seat, and adding '35 Ford hood side spears as dividers between the different materials on the door panels. The '50 Chevy armrests were added, as well as vintage aircraft-style seat belts from Retro Rods. The '48 Chevy steering wheel dictated the interior colors, and was attached to a modified (Scolman again) '41 Lincoln column, with a custom metal-spun bell between the wheel and shaft. A '40 Ford dash was modified to allow the stock windshield crank to be retained.