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.
"This is where the story gets interesting. You see, the paint was a little soft when I took it home. Martinez had used a very good-quality product and had followed all of the manufacturer recommended procedures to a T. After two weeks it was still soft. Not soft enough to leave a fingerprint, just enough that you could press your fingernail into the paint and leave an indentation. Martinez was getting worried and so was I. We had the paint manufacturer's rep come out and Martinez retraced his steps and painted some panels (with the same products leftover from the job) and they wouldn't harden either. Tests were done by the paint company and it was determined that we had received a bad batch of hardener and the paint would probably never harden. I am not saying who they were on purpose because they offered to provide new product at no cost (which says a lot about them) but I knew if we re-did it I was not taking a chance on that paint again.
"Right about this time Martinez relocated to Palm Desert where the temperatures are over 100 degrees in the summer. We thought we might be able to "bake" the paint hard so we brought the car to his shop, Martinez Industries, and he rolled it into the scorching heat every day for a month. It did not work. I thought I was on my own and would have to deal with this by paying for another paintjob but Martinez is a man of great character and told me he would do whatever was needed to make it right. The phone rang one afternoon and it was Martinez telling me that if I would get the new material, he wanted to completely re-paint the car. He would sand the old paint off and start fresh. I really could not believe it and actually felt bad for him. Here was a problem that was not really his fault but he didn't want his name on it if it was not right. So over the next six weeks Dave completely redid the paint. The car is beyond nice (and the paint is very hard). Dave Martinez is a man of character, something even rarer than a '36 Ford Cabriolet!"
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Costa Mesa, California
1936 Ford Cabriolet
The original chassis was too hacked up to use, so a Total Cost Involved replacement now sits under the body, using the same company's Mustang II–based IFS, complete with antiroll bar, with a Flaming River power steering pump and rack. The stock gas tank was retained, with the filler moved to the trunk.
A Ford Racing Performance Parts crate 351 Windsor makes a change from the expected SBC or Flathead, complete with Edelbrock 600-cfm carburetor, Cadillac repro air cleaner, and Edelbrock finned cast valve covers. The Flowmaster exhaust features cutouts for "scaring old ladies and kids!" If you were expecting an auto trans think again, there's a Tremec five-speed behind the small-block Ford, with a modified old truck shifter.
Wheels & Tires
Wheelsmith Gennie wheels measure 5x15 at the front and 8x15 rear, with wide whitewall radials.
Body & Paint
The original Ford cabriolet sheetmetal has seen some changes, notably the conversion of the rumble lid to a trunk, the addition of '36 Chevy hood louvers to the hood sides, and lowered headlights. The window frames have been chopped and re-chromed, and the bumper brackets front and rear shortened. Dave Martinez (Martinez Industries), handled the 1 1/2-inch roof chop and made the padded Carson-style top with zip-down rear window. Martinez also tackled the bodywork and laid on the House of Kolor black paint.
The '40 Ford dash is what you'll immediately notice, matched by a LimeWorks '40 Ford steering wheel. A Newport Engineering windshield wiper motor replaces the original. Dave Martinez modified a Wise Guys seat to fit, before trimming the interior in leather and vinyl and black German wool carpet. The wiring remains from the first build by Bruce Stedman.