Courtesy of Bonhams
  • Desirable open-top ’36 cabriolet model with rumble seat
  • Elegant black with Apple Green pinstripe
  • 221-ci Ford flathead V8 with dual exhaust
  • Classic styling and reliable engineering

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1936 Ford DeLuxe Cabriolet
Years Produced:1936
Number Produced:Ford sold 4,616 cabriolets and Club Cabriolets in 1936
Original List Price:$675
SCM Valuation:$37,400
Tune Up Cost:Estimated $150
Chassis Number Location:Stamped on frame in front of firewall, driver’s side
Engine Number Location:On bellhousing
Club Info:Early Ford V-8 Club of America, Goodguys, National Street Rod Association (NSRA)
Alternatives:Other mid-’30s-era period Ford V8s
Investment Grade:C

This car, Lot 118, sold for $44,800, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Amelia Island Auction at the Fernandina Beach Golf Club on March 8, 2018. It was offered without reserve.

Early Ford V8s, built from 1932 to 1948, have a strong following today. They are delightful cars to own and drive in stock form, as this example was, and they offer great potential as rods or customs.

A banner year

1936 was a terrific sales year for Ford Motor Company. Despite the mid-Depression economy, Ford outsold its archrival Chevrolet — although a strike at Chevy probably helped.

The ’36 Fords were basically face-lifted 1935 models, updated with a more modern vee’d grille, refreshed hood vents and reshaped rear fenders. Steel disc wheels replaced traditional wires. Cabriolet models, like this car, carried two passengers inside and two outside in a rumble seat. In 1936, that model was joined by the new Club Cabriolet, which had a trunk and enclosed all four passengers inside.

When World War II ended in 1945, brand-new cars were in high demand and short supply. Detroit’s OEMs quickly tooled up for new cars — Ford built the first of its 1946 models in July 1945, and Harry Truman received the first completed Tudor sedan. Pent-up demand (civilian car production had ended in February 1942) and the challenges of converting “The Arsenal of Democracy” from guns, tanks and bomber manufacturing back to civilian-appealing automobiles meant that although independents like Studebaker and Hudson offered all-new cars in 1947 and 1948, the Big Three waited until 1949 before releasing their all-new models.

A matter of style

Hot-rodders and customizers in the early post-war period typically modified pre-war cars. Readily available and relatively inexpensive, 1934 and earlier-model cars were hot-rodded and often modified with fenders removed to make them lighter and faster. Generally, 1935 and later cars were customized. Their bodies were restyled and reshaped. Chopped tops and even sectioned bodies yielded sleeker, lower silhouettes and a more expensive appearance.

Some shops, like the Berardini Brothers, in South Central LA, did a thriving business fixing up late models in the ’50s. They reconditioned Fords, did semi-custom work and resold them. Pat Berardini said, “We sold beautiful Fords — ’36s, ’39s, ’40s, mostly coupes. We’d lower them, add fender skirts, install duals — I’d buy grilles by the dozen. We did nosing, decking, and removed the excess trim. Then I’d repaint them in lacquer. The most popular color was a Ruby Maroon shade. We did a lot of cars in black. One of the most popular colors was metallic Tokay Beige — kind of an off-white shade. Guys could buy one of our used, mildly customized cars all ready to go. They paid more for our cars than for clean stock models — but they were worth it.”

In contrast, George and Sam Barris, the Ayala Brothers, Clay Jensen and Neil Emory at Valley Custom, Gene Winfield and other LA area greats created full-on custom cars, both for street and show use, with major body restyling. The customizing principles and techniques they established are still in use today in the rod and custom community.

Rod it or not?

So here’s a cute little ’36 Ford cabriolet that sold for about what these are worth today in clean, stock condition.

The most popular ’36 Ford body styles to modify are the roadster and the three-window coupe. While other ’36 Ford models, like 5-window coupes, have been customized, they’re just not as cool. Roadsters have a rakish bolt-on windshield that’s begging to be chopped. The ’36 Ford 3-window coupes resemble 7/8ths-scale Lincoln-Zephyrs. Both these body styles, when hammered, stretched a bit, lowered and modified, are really attractive. The cabriolets like this one, not so much.

If this were a ’36 roadster, you could chop the windshield three inches, fabricate a padded, Carson-style top, lower it considerably front and rear (or give it a taildragger-style rear bias), de-chrome the body, fit fender skirts and ’38 DeSoto ribbed bumpers, fair in the headlights and taillights, and you’d have a serious ’40s-era custom. Add a modified ¾-race flathead crate motor from H&H or another top builder and you’ve easily spent $50k to $60k. Now you have a $100,000 early Ford custom, with no previous custom history, but you could still get $75,000, recouping some of your “investment” if you sold it.

Not so fast

But this is a cabriolet. They’re simply not as desirable. If it were mine, I’d replace the “push and pray” mechanical brakes with later Ford hydraulic drum brakes — that’s basically a bolt-in procedure — dress up the flatty with headers, an Eddie Meyer dual-carb manifold and finned high-compression heads for 21-stud V8s, install a vintage Columbia 2-speed rear axle, and lower the car three inches all around with a dropped front axle with reversed spring eyes and slightly longer shackles in back. That work would cost about $7,500, and you’d likely get that money back when you sold it.

At $44,800, this ’36 Ford cabriolet was a good deal for the buyer and the seller. An identical car was offered in March in the AACA magazine for $48,000. The buyer can keep this cabriolet just as-is, or perform a few discreet mechanical upgrades and probably not lose any money. The Early Ford V-8 Club of America even has a “Touring Class” that welcomes mildly modified cars with period-style improvements.

The new owner can have his or her choice — either way, this is a right-money ’36 Ford they can love.

(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)

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