The sublime metalwork of Jeb Scolman (www.jebsmetalandspeed.com) is no stranger to the pages of Rod & Custom of late. Indeed it was Scolman who was responsible for the coachwork on John Mearns' '36 three-window, showcased on the preceding pages. In fact our coverage of that car when it was in bare metal was directly responsible for Bill Maio sending this '39 convertible to Scolman's shop in Long Beach, California. Bill pored over that article and realized he'd found the artist who could transform the 'vert into the car he envisioned it could be.
We first saw the '39 "finished" at the Grand National Roadster Show in January 2010, where it bookended Scolman's booth with his own, ultra-desirable, very early style '32 three-window, and couldn't help but be impressed by the panel fit and the subtle mods he'd made, especially as there was no paint or primer to hide the work. And it didn't need it, as it's flawless. But it wasn't always so.
Only a couple of years ago this car was a turquoise and flamed street rod, rolling on 15x8 and 14x6 slot mag wheels and riding a lot higher than it does now!
Then Bill purchased it ... "I've owned and built several hot rods since the early '70s," Bill says. "Having completed a '38 Chevy coupe that I drove the tires off, I started and eventually sold several projects for one reason or another, and after more than 20 years the time had come to just buy a finished car! I'd always wanted a 1939 Ford Deluxe convertible, and after looking at many disappointing examples, one was located in California. I made the big mistake of agreeing to buy it after seeing a few photos. Being hot to buy a car, a deal was struck and some sort of off-blue, with flames, '39 convertible was mine.
"Upon flying to California I finally saw my purchase, and my jaw dropped in dismay at what I'd bought. I decided it'd have to go or some modifications would have to be done." The car was left in California, and several attempts were made to have the car altered, but Bill admits it was an uphill struggle. "Then, eureka! I received the June '08 issue of Rod & Custom in the mail and on the cover (the cover of our subscriber issue that is, as this was one of our "double cover" months -Kev) was a bare-metal '36 three-window coupe, with a chop, LaSalle grille, skirts, and flippers. I was in love. After reading the article and looking very intently at the photos, I was able to see the handiwork of its creator. Liking what I saw, I contacted Jeb Scolman, and after several phone conversations the project was turned over to him." Initially Scolman was to only chop the top by 1 1/2 to 2 inches, but after those phone calls, was contracted to rework the whole car.
"After it was torn down it was decided that everything but the body and drivetrain would have to go (actually, I think Scolman's exact words were, almost only half joking, "Keep the radiator cap and throw away the rest!" -Kev). Wanting to do a mid-'50s mild custom, Scolman took on the task and did everything how I wanted it done. It was as if he was in my head. What amazed me even more than his talent as an expert metalman was his knowledge of the era and how savvy he is of how cars should look if they're intended to be from that period."
From above, the 'vert does indeed have the appearance of a mid-'50s mild custom, but underneath it's a little more modern. Wanting the car to sit low, but with decent suspension travel, and without resorting to air suspension, Scolman ordered a chassis from Total Cost Involved, complete with Mustang II-style IFS, but without any rear suspension. He fabricated his own four-link, which enabled him to achieve the desired ride height, retain travel, and importantly not raise the floor by a ridiculous amount. He had to replace the floors anyway, as they had already been repaired with overlapped panels, but the new floorpan is only 2 inches higher than stock.
Once on its new, solid foundation, the metalwork could begin, the result of which you see before you. Of course it'll eventually be covered by paint, in this case a deep gloss black, and like John Mearns' coupe that preceded it. While it'll be a shame to cover that coachwork, paint will transform this ragtop to the next level. Let's hope we can catch it before it heads off to Bill's New York home!
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Katonah, New York
1939 Ford DeLuxe Convertible
Though the '39 showed up at Jeb Scolman's still on its original frame, complete with a Mustang II front (from an actual Mustang!) welded in place, and an 8-inch rearend on parallel leaves, it now rests on a new Total Cost Involved chassis, with that company's aftermarket Mustang II-style IFS, manual rack-and-pinion, and 11-inch disc brakes. The 8-inch from the original build was retained, hung on a four-link of Scolman's design, and Pete & Jakes coilovers. A Corvette master cylinder actuates the stock Ford drums and those front discs.
As well as the rearend, the GM 350 H.O. crate motor and 700-R4 trans were retained from the 'vert's previous incarnation. A trio of Rochester 2Gs now feed the fuel through an Offenhauser Tri-power inlet, flanked by early Chevrolet script valve covers, while Nixon "spark arrestor" air cleaners provide some vintage flash. Stainless ram horn exhaust manifolds do their job while looking cool. One of Scolman's custom column shifters takes care of gear selection in the overdrive trans, which was deemed healthy enough to drop straight back in. This was a driving car before work commenced after all.
Wheels & Tires
Wheel Vintiques 16x4.50 steelies are used at each corner, with matching 5.50x16 Firestone bias-ply rubber. Original Hollywood Flipper hubcaps fill the area inside the whitewall up front, the rear wheels hidden by the custom-crafted skirts.
Body & Paint
Deep gloss black paint will eventually cover the convertible, though it'll receive a few more custom touches before that happens. For now, it's been decked, had the door handles shaved, flush skirts fabricated, '47 Ford bumpers added, the firewall filled, and some moldings eliminated. Now, '39 Zephyr taillights grace the rear fenders, the driver side one flipping up to reveal the gas filler. Scolman also chopped the top by 1 3/4 inches, retaining the working convertible top, and pancaking the roof bows at the same time for a leaner profile.
The cockpit could best be described as sparse right now, though it has received a '40 Ford dash and a new steering column by Scolman, complete with a custom shifter assembly and topped by a very cool '54 Hudson steering wheel. The bare skeleton of a Glide split bench seat is in place, with little to show that the interior will eventually be trimmed in black with white piping and a black roof. The hand-fabricated floorpan, by Scolman, neatly covers the rear four-link, while remaining low enough to allow a rear seat to be fitted, should Bill desire.