• A period all-steel Ford hot rod

• Well-known car from the Pacific Northwest hot-rod scene

• Striking color combination of Cadillac Ivory over dark green

• Beautifully presented throughout

• A usable hot rod for cruise nights or local shows

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1936 Ford Model 48 roadster
Years Produced:1936
Number Produced:3,862
Original List Price:$560
SCM Valuation:$55k–$100k (depending on build quality, history and condition)
Tune Up Cost:$200
Chassis Number Location:Stamped on top of driver’s side frame rail
Engine Number Location:Stamped on pad on right front of block, below cylinder head
Club Info:Goodguys, National Street Rod Association (NSRA), Early Ford V-8 Club of America
Alternatives:1934 Ford roadster, 1935 Ford roadster, 1940 Ford roadster
Investment Grade:C

This car, Lot 145, sold for $68,200, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Quail Lodge Auction in Carmel, CA, on August 26, 2013.

Better the second time

Ford Motor Company cleaned up and mildly modernized its 1935 designs for the 1936 model year. The bodies stayed basically the same, but the front end for the’36 was redesigned, the hood louvers were reshaped to be more efficient, and the rear fenders were slightly altered. The Type 710 DeLuxe roadster, the least-expensive car in the Ford lineup, was $560 new. If you wanted better weather protection than flimsy canvas snap-on side windows, Ford offered a snug cabriolet with roll-up windows for $625.

I’ve always thought that the ’36 Ford is that rare example of a second-year model that’s arguably better-looking than the company’s first try. Phil Wright, who designed the Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow and worked for Ralph Roberts under John Tjaarda at Briggs Manufacturing, penned the ’35 Ford. Holden Koto, another Tjaarda staffer, updated the car for 1936. Interestingly, Eugene T. “Bob” Gregorie, who ran Ford’s design department under Edsel Ford, did not have a hand in the ’36. He was busy with Mr. Ford’s rakish “Continental Speedster” at the time.

Gregorie later told author Henry Dominguez, “You can see Edsel’s influence in the ’35 and ’36 Fords. They have a Bentley look and Edsel liked the design of the Bentley.” There’s not much overt visual difference between ’35 and ’36 Fords, but the ’36’s handsome wrap-around grille, with vertical bars, is attractive, and the old-style external horns were now hidden behind discreet little covers, updating the newer car considerably.

Cut ’em up

Period hot-rodders and customizers loved Ford’s ’36 roadster. At 2,561 pounds, it was light enough to benefit from a hot flathead. Lowered, with skirts and teardrop taillights and the external spare-tire mount shaved, which is what most guys did, the ’36’s inherently clean lines were made even better.

Serious customizers leaded in faired ’40 Chevy headlights, built an insert rear license plate, installed vertical LaSalle grilles, fabbed solid hood sides, and finished things off with ribbed ’38 DeSoto or later ’41 Ford bumpers. Famed Northern California customizer Harry Westergard set the tone for slick ’36s, and many people copied his examples. The ’36 roadster looked especially nice with a two- to three-inch chopped Carson-style padded top.

This roadster was reportedly customized in the ’50s in Washington state, and a period black-and-white photo in the auction catalog of this car back in the day got me thinking. Shot from a low angle from the rear, showing the insert license, a “Dragons” hot-rod club plaque from the Western Washington Timing Association, with a chopped padded top, low-mounted ’39 Ford teardrops, a covered gas-filler cap, and 16-inch wide whites with flipper-bar hubcaps, the car resembled custom ’36s I’d admired in Rod & Custom magazine nearly 60 years ago.

Unwelcome changes

If you review the scant history in Bonhams’ catalog, and study the single vintage photo, this ’36 looks to be a very desirable car. But over the years, as so often happens, things changed.

Start in back: The insert license plate, a great ’40s-era touch, is gone. So is the original-style white padded top. Under the hood lurks a now-ubiquitous 350-ci Chevy V8 with triple Rochester carbs, backed by an unspecified 3-speed automatic and a column shift. The Ford solid axle is gone, replaced by an IFS — perhaps Mustang or Heidt, with disc brakes — and that’s okay, but it’s not the real deal. Thankfully, the neatly fitted ’40 Ford dash was retained and painted to match, and there’s a black-and-cream ’53 Ford Crestliner steering wheel, along with old-style pleated seats and door panels in green leatherette.

This roadster has a nice stance, a bit lower in front than in the rear, which is desirable, and its overall appearance is pleasing. But sadly, most of this car’s old mechanical and physical history is gone, and with that, much of its current net worth.

Ford built just 3,862 DeLuxe roadsters in 1936; who knows how many remain? There was a lovely Dearborn Award-winning example offered in Hemmings Motor News recently for $75,000. I’ve seen them even higher. If you wanted to replicate this car, you’d have to spend at least $60k for a decent starting point, and then add the three-carb small-block, the suspension updates, a set of 15-inch steelies, etc., so you’d pay much more than the car’s $68,200 hammer price, right?

Back to the future

I’d have been tempted to buy this car, yank the Chevy, and sell it and the tranny, build a stout flathead, swap a dropped axle and reverse-eye springs for the IFS, redo the top and the license insert, and have something closer to a car that could have been built half a century ago. The revenue from those unwanted pieces could help offset the cost of the refit.

Today, historic hot rods and custom cars are often worth more than stockers or later hot-rod builds. Mecum sold the historic ex-Jack Calori ’36 Ford 3-window, a Hot Rod magazine cover car, for $318k last year (ACC# 213968), and the ex-Tom McMullen ’32 roadster for $742k at the same sale (ACC# 213966).

Admittedly, this ’36’s history is a bit more obscure, but I reckon the price would have been higher had it been offered closer to the way it was first built. This would be especially true if more history than one old photo had been available. The money was in the room — Bonhams sold the historic ex-Walker Morrison ’32 Ford roadster in the same sale for $242k.

Bottom line: If you want a cruiser with a reliable V8 and an automatic, this was a decent deal, made even better because of the car’s “history.” But for purists, it’s a shame when a great old hot rod gets updated and its provenance is lost. I’d say it was fairly sold and fairly bought. And I’m still looking for a cool period ’36.

(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.

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