Patrick Ernzen ©2019, courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
  • Traditional-style hot rod with modern drivetrain and conveniences
  • 406-ci small-block Chevrolet engine with 700R4 transmission
  • Custom built by Joe White’s Performance and Machine, Austin, TX
  • Windshield and folding-top assembly chopped two inches
  • Authentic 100% stock Ford steel roadster body

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1936 Ford Deluxe Roadster Custom
Years Produced:1936
Number Produced:3,862 DeLuxe Roadsters
Original List Price:$560
SCM Valuation:$55,000
Tune Up Cost:$300
Chassis Number Location:Stamped on frame rail near the firewall, driver’s side (for OE frame)
Engine Number Location:Pad on front of block, below passenger’s cylinder head (SBC)
Alternatives:Other ’30s-to-’40s-era period custom rods
Investment Grade:C

This car, Lot 227, sold for $168,000, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s Phoenix, AZ, auction on January 17, 2020.

There was a buzz about this roadster at RM Sotheby’s sale. People gravitated to it in the parking lot of the Biltmore, where it was on display ahead of the auction.

Resplendent in a custom-crafted, single-stage, darker version of Ford “Washington Blue,” this car had “the look,” as my friend Joe Caputo likes to say. 1936 Ford roadsters are rare — only 3,862 were built. They’ve been a hot rod favorite for decades, along with their sister 3-window coupes. It doesn’t take much to improve on this already handsome Bob Gregorie design — a little chassis lowering and a subtle, two-inch chopped top is all a car like this needs.

Hidden treasure

Joe White, formerly of Joe White Performance and Machine in Austin, TX, built this subtle ’36 in 2004 for a client. It’s held up beautifully.

Like many modern hot rods, the original steel Ford body (Joe called it “a major basket case”) was refurbished and mated with a modern chassis from The Roadster Shop, using Pete & Jake’s components. The stock Ford I-beam axle was deep-sixed in favor of a modern Heidts independent front suspension setup and Jaguar IRS. Power steering and disc brakes in all four corners ensure it handles and stops as good as it looks. White says, “The springs and shocks are a perfect match — this car rides phenomenally.”

The engine is a 406-ci small-block Chevrolet V8. It’s been meticulously balanced, align-honed, and fitted with Edelbrock heads and an Edelbrock EFI induction system and custom exhaust headers. There’s an Iskenderian 272-280 hydraulic lifter camshaft, and a deep Cal Custom finned oil pan. Joe White built the engine and fabricated a custom fiberglass fan shroud. It was dynoed at 420 hp.

The car has hidden transmission and oil coolers, too. The custom valve covers have engine-turned surfaces, and White used aircraft–grade stainless-steel tubing throughout the car in lieu of rubber hoses.

A labor of love

“I put 5,000 hours into this car,” Joe White told me. “I even learned to use a sewing machine so I could do the leather interior and the rumble seat.” An older craftsman in Texas built the top — it’s chopped two inches and carefully crafted to fold flat.

The windshield features tinted glass, while the rear window glass is from a Jaguar cabriolet. White adapted rare, original Ford Spyder hubcaps by carefully modifying a set of later 15-inch steel wheels to accept ’36 Ford centers. The running boards came from original molds, while the bumpers are stainless steel repops. Advance Plating did the all the shiny bits.

Inside, a cut-down banjo steering wheel complements a stock dash that’s been faux-burled-wood finished. Modern electric instruments resemble the ’36 Ford originals. The overall appearance is that of a mildly modified car, but a closer look shows there’s so much more.

This car has really been under the radar. The original owner took it to a Goodguys event in Phoenix, where the late Boyd Coddington gave it one of his coveted “Boyd’s Pick” awards. It has never been featured in a magazine.

Behind the headlights

The high bidder was Ed Chirgwin of La Quinta, CA. Ed told me he had to outbid Wayne Carini (Host of “Chasing Classic Cars”) for the ’36. “When I heard Wayne was interested in this car,” he said, “I knew it was special. I was born in 1936,” Ed adds, “and I already own two other ’36 Fords, so I had to have it.”

Joe White says the roadster was appraised at $245,000 some years ago. The sale price was $168,000 with the buyer’s commission, which I think makes this a screaming deal. You couldn’t build this car for what it cost to buy it.

Of course, that’s pretty typical. You can’t expect to make your money back on a hot rod or a custom car that you had built from scratch. As an example, the radical, Ridler Award-winning 1959 Cadillac shooting brake called “CadMad” reportedly cost over $2.5 million to build. But at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2020, it sold for “just” $302,500.

What’s the lesson here? If you’re looking for a high-quality hot rod or custom, shop carefully, do your homework, and you may walk away with the car of your dreams for less than it cost to build it.

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)

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