You may recognize the name John Mearns as owner of the stunning '36 three-window that was featured, not once, but twice, on these very pages, in bare metal and as a finished kustom. The cabriolet you see here has had his name on the title even longer, and this is its second go-around in his possession.
As John puts it, "I got the bug to build a cabriolet after owning my first '32 roadster, and figuring out I wanted to have windows that rolled up. I found this car 15 years ago, listed in The Recycler as an old Ford convertible project. It was 50 miles from home, and an abandoned project. The guy had butchered the frame so badly while trying to build a lowrider out of it that we just threw it away. The body seemed OK but we soon discovered it was full of rust, had probably been hit at some time, and needed a lot of repair.
"There are two distinct phases to this car's history since I've owned it. The original build was done for me in 2000-01 by my friend Bruce Stedman at Street Machines by Stedman, in Hemet, California. I then drove it over 30,000 miles during the next 10 years in black primer with Mexican blankets over the seat foam. That was not the plan but when we first got it on the road we thought we'd drive it for a while to get the bugs worked out, which we did, but it was so fun to drive and so reliable that I just didn't want to take it apart to ‘finish' it.
"Then a couple of years ago I was approached by Dave Martinez at Viva Las Vegas as I was parking my '36 three-window next to a stunning black '36 roadster with a padded Carson top. Martinez told me he had just done that top and the paint and interior on the roadster. Later that weekend he asked if I still had my cabriolet. I wasn't sure how he knew about this car, as it really seemed to me like no one ever noticed it. Once he found out that I still owned it he suggested that he could do a Carson top for it. He wanted to do another one while the first one was fresh in his mind.
"Over the next few months we hatched a plan. I decided to do the Carson top and to redo the interior at the same time, as I'd never been happy with the cheap interior and top I'd had done a few years earlier. Martinez did the top and the upholstery and it really made the car look better. Well, only if you ignored the paintjob. You see, the white top and beautiful interior really made the paint look terrible by comparison. It was like an old suit with a brand-new pair of shoes. When the shoes and the suit were of the same ‘vintage' it all worked together and neither made the other look bad, but this was a real problem. Martinez didn't think so because he knows how to do paint and body and simply said ‘No problem, John, let's paint it.' The real problem was that I could not afford to paint it at the time, so I lived with it for a while until I was able to sell a load of parts that I had collected for another ‘someday' car. I figured it best to go all the way and finally really ‘finish' this one.
"Dave fixed all of the little stuff that was not right in the bodywork: the door gaps were a little off and the doors sagged, the decklid never fit right, the rear pan was installed ever so slightly down on one side. You know the story; a bunch of little stuff that no one else would notice, but I did. It should be noted that these old issues were not from Bruce Stedman but from a body guy I hired on the first build. Martinez really made all of this stuff right, in fact better than right, it was excellent! Then he painted, cut and buffed the car, and I took it home with the instructions to give it about two weeks before applying wax. The car looked so nice I was a little nervous about caring for it.