How many times have you seen unfinished projects advertised for sale, as time, money, and skill limitations get the better of some would-be builders? Dogged perseverance is often the only way some projects get finished. A case in point is Jack and Tina Lang’s ’50 Ford convertible.
Would you believe that 12 years ago this very car was found in a sand wash on New Mexico’s Navajo Reservation with the doors bent back against the front fenders, and rear quarters that were beyond repair? It subsequently went through several owners, each deciding it was too far gone, until seven years ago Jim Malone of Wild West Street Rods, in Farmington, New Mexico, heard through word of mouth that the car was in Colorado. Jack drove up with Malone to look at it, as having owned several coupes, he’d always wanted a chopped convertible. The car was very, very rough but Malone said it didn’t scare him, so Jack bought the car. Jack jokes; “Jim’s still scared!” Of course looking back, Jack would have searched longer for a better convertible to start the project.
The next two years were spent chasing parts, as many of the roof pieces were missing or broken, along with much of the rest of the car. In fact, its saving grace was that it was a convertible. Any coupe or sedan this bad would have been scrapped. With parts sourced, a three-year build began. A good pair of convertible doors had proved impossible to find, so the top and inner sections of those that came with the car were reused, along with lower doorskins from the sedan doors. Another convertible was found buried in a bank of dirt, and after much hand digging it yielded a few useful parts.
Shoehorning a Ram Jet 502 and 700-R4 into the limited space required much fabrication to the firewall and the front of the floor, as well as modifying the chassis crossmembers; though Jack says if he did it again he wouldn’t use Chevrolet fuel injection as getting the Ram Jet 502 to run properly was a nightmare and local dealers knew nothing about it. In the end, Arizona Speed and Marine solved the engine problems. All this, plus chopping a convertible and having it all work properly, combined to make this one of those projects that fought Malone and Jack all the way. But, of course, it was worth the effort eventually.
Wild West Street Rods was responsible for the build, including the 3 1/2-inch top chop and all the bodywork and final paint. Malone also handled the chassis modifications, including a Total Cost Involved IFS and four-link located 9-inch rearend with air suspension at each corner.
The only jobs outsourced were the transmission, glass, and interior, the later ably tackled by Lupe Sandavol in Highland, California. Sandavol built a custom console before trimming it, the Glide front and scratch-built rear seats, and the door panels in white leather, with matching white cloth for the roof.
We’re sure he won’t mind us mentioning it, but when we caught up with Jack at Goodguys Scottsdale a couple of years ago, the car was so fresh he had plastic wrap on the steering wheel to keep it from getting marked! So, after two years parts chasing and three years building, Malone and Jack had saved a car that was given up on by many others. Looks like perseverance paid off this time too.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Bloomfield, New Mexico
1950 Ford convertible
The ’vert uses the stock Ford frame, though the antiquated front suspension has been replaced with a power rack–equipped Total Cost Involved IFS with polished stainless tubular A-arms and airbags instead of coil springs. A 9-inch Ford rearend is hung on a four-link, again with airbags from RideTech. The 11-inch Chevy disc brakes now reside at each corner, operated from a frame-mounted dual master cylinder.
Under the louvered hood is a 502ci Ram Jet crate engine, complete with the stock fuel injection that caused so much grief. The motor is stock down to the air cleaner, though a polished March serpentine belt system adorns the front, driving a 120-amp alternator and A/C. Sanderson headers feed into a 3-inch Devilbiss Racing fabbed system. Phoenix Transmission in Texas assembled a 700-R4 with a 12-inch 2,400-rpm stall converter, heavy-duty clutches, and sprags that are good for almost 600 hp to sit behind the big-block.
Wheels & Tires
This is a custom so no big ’n’ little combo here, just Diamond Back Classic whitewall radials wrapped around 15-inch steelies from Wheel Vintiques. The fronts are actually 3/4-inch wider than the 4-inch rears, owing to fenderskirt clearance issues.
Body & Paint
After wrapping up the chassis work, Wild West Street Rods’ Jim Malone went to town on the bodywork. In addition to resurrecting and chopping the folding roof, he frenched the ’54 Merc headlights and taillights, shaved the handles, recessed the license plate with a peak design on the trunk lid, sank a pair of antennae, rounded the rear hood corners, tunneled the front turn signals using Harley taillights, added lakes pipes through the front fenders, welded all seams, and punched 144 louvers in the hood. Once the Malone-applied PPG black paint had cured, Briz bumpers were fitted at each end and a ’49 grille added with ’50 end sections.
A modified ’51 dash takes center stage, with Dakota Digital gauges and insert hiding behind a white Lecarra steering wheel and ididit column. Lupe Sandavol trimmed everything in white leather, adding a black Mercedes carpet, trimmed with white. A Vintage Air system ensures occupants keep their cool, while a plethora of Pioneer products keep them entertained, as do the heated seats, electric windows, and remote starting. Custom armrests front and rear work in tandem with the mirror image of the exterior chrome on the interior panels to provide a unique look.