When building a custom, a certain sense of style is required. When building an early custom, even more so, given the less-is-more credo that almost always works best when dealing with ’30s and ’40s body styles. Indianapolis resident Kevin Anderson clearly gets it, if his “Goldtop” Buick Riviera and ’50 Merc are anything to judge by. This 1936 Ford custom, is his latest, its earlier body style having two things in common with his other customs, namely a roof chop and that sense of style.
“I’m a frustrated car designer,” Kevin told us, “and a custom guy.” Owning what he refers to as his idea of “the three definitive customs”, the ’36 is, in his words, “a modern interpretation of an old-style custom. They were never this low back then, and they didn’t have A/C (the system in the coupe is mounted under the package tray, so nothing is visible under the dash, the cool air emanating from ’55-56 Cadillac rear fender scoops mounted in the C-pillars).” Neither did they have IFS, disc brakes, or a triangulated four-link, but such modern underpinnings mean the ’36 can be driven, and in comfort. Period correctness has its place, but so do modern amenities.
Inspiration can come from many places, but we can’t think of many better than the two Kevin cited; the So Cal Plating ’35 Ford phaeton and Robert Williams’ “A Devil With A Hammer And Hell With A Torch” artwork, the poster of which is displayed prominently in Kevin’s garage. The Westergard-style ’36 at the bottom left of that poster is a look many ’36 custom builders aim for, and while Kevin retained the stock grille, you can clearly see the influence in his car.
Originally from San Diego, California, the coupe was bought “with a phenomenal amount of work already done, including the top chop and custom chassis” but still in need of some finishing, and of course its new owner’s personal touches once it arrived in Indianapolis. Many consider a ’36 to have almost perfect lines from the factory, but that’s not to say those lines can’t be improved with a little tweaking. Take the decklid for example; the rear of the car is all swoopy lines and graceful curves, yet the factory decklid is a square shape at odds with the lines surrounding it. Gary and Dylan Brown at Brown’s Metal Mods in Indy reshaped the decklid and its surround, giving it a curved lower edge matching that of the rear panel. Even subtler is the replacement of the stock headlights with smaller Guide lights mounted lower down on the stock stanchions, and the reworked rain gutters. The use of a ’42 Mercury front and ’40 Ford rear bumper, the latter with a ’49 Chevy license guard, further cleans up the lines.
With a pair of gloss-finished customs already in his garage, Kevin could easily have completed the trio by painting the ’36 in a similar manner, but opted for a flat clear over metallic blue pearl, a finish his wife refers to as “looking like a blue velvet dress”, as he felt it gives the appearance that the coupe “could be legitimate, as if it had been found in a barn”. The flat clear mutes the metallic, allowing the pearl to come out, despite the lack of shine. There’s a common misconception that suede-painted cars are unfinished, which definitely isn’t the case here, a fact borne out by the car receiving the Best Custom Award in the basement at the Detroit Autorama, Coolest Custom at the Relix Riot show in Michigan, and making it into the top five for Goodguys Kustom of the Year, amongst other awards. Our only question is what will Kevin do next now that he has his “three definitive customs”?
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Custom 1936 Ford Coupe
Hiding under the low body is a custom-built frame with a C-notch in the rear and a custom IFS up front, with custom lower A-arms, Mustang II steering rack—from an actual Mustang II no less—and disc brakes. That rack connects to a late-model tilt steering column. Airbags set the ride height.
It may not look like it immediately, but disguised as a Cadillac engine is a good ol’ 350ci small-block Chevy, with painted valve covers, air cleaner, intake, and alternator. Using a TH350 behind that engine is something that’s becoming increasingly rare in this age of overdrive transmissions. Completing the drivetrain is a late-model Ford rearend mounted on a triangulated four-link.
Body & Paint
Starting from the top, the roof has been chopped 4 inches and the insert hole filled, while all badges, handles, and trim have been removed. The rain gutters and eyebrows over the rear quarter windows were reworked. The decklid was modified to include a curved lower edge, and the hood emblem has been removed since these pictures were shot. Guide headlights were mounted lower than the stockers, with aftermarket motorcycle lights mounted on the rear bumper. New hinges and bear claw door latches were fitted, the running board covers removed, and flush-fit custom fender skirts installed, tapering toward the rear. A new firewall suitable to clear the small-block and new floors were welded in. A custom brass molding, painted body color, runs along the lower edge of the running boards, mirroring the body lines at the beltline. Manuel Cisneros at San Diego Rod & Custom started the project, getting it to the driving stage, before Kevin took ownership, with Brown’s Metal Mods in Indianapolis handling much of the above work. Lawrence Worl at Greene’s Automotive (Zionsville, IN) and Custom Metal Finishing (Hagerstown, IN) also contributed to the project. Finally, PPG blue metallic pearl was shot with a flat clearcoat.
Wheels & Tires
A quartet of Ford 15-inch steelies wear Firestone wide whites and Cadillac sombrero covers, about as classic a look for an early custom as you can get.
The ’50s-style tuck ’n’ roll that was in the coupe when purchased is now gone; Gibbs Auto Upholstery (Westfield, IN) is responsible for turning Kevin’s pages of drawings and sketches into reality. A ’40 Ford seat was covered in blue leather with a white insert, mirrored by a matching insert in the headliner, where the original roof insert panel would have been. The ’36 Ford DeLuxe Deco badges were stripped, chromed, and relocated to the door panels, while ’50 Mercury dash knobs have been chromed and used. There’s a ’36 Zephyr clock in the center of the dash, and a reduced-diameter stock steering wheel. The instruments are based on a ’34 Plymouth cluster, using Stewart-Warner gauges behind a new fascia. The ’55-56 Caddy exterior fresh air vents feed the air from the A/C unit mounted under the package tray while ’40 Ford driving lights are used as courtesy lights in the kick panels.