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The '36s Have It

The '36s Have It



I love 1936 Fords. The open ones mostly. Three windows are ok, fives I can make do with, but no mor-doors for me. Not entirely so, because ’35 and ’36 phaetons are bitchin’, but it sounds good. Anyways, one day in about 1951 I spied this really primo ’36 convert in a backyard in my hometown at the time, Rexburg, Idaho. You must understand that such a car in any yard in Idaho of that time would have been no big thing. Dime a dozen.

I shelled out $15 bucks, knowing the engine was cracked from a winter freeze. Didn’t care about the trans, as I knew where there was an abandoned ’41 Tudor with a good box, and there was a Lincoln in a local tin yard that wouldn’t cost mor’n a fiver. Drug it back to the house, solo, by chaining the front bumper to dad’s ’41 Stude champion two door. Pull it cinch tight and such a lashup will work plenty good. Isolate the bumpers with a couple old tire carcasses if you are a Type One.
Built up a nice flat motor, fifty bucks for some Offy heads, ten for a dual intake, couple pennies in the block heat risers, all the necessary (and probably non-performance-enhancing) stuff and it was time for the highway. Red paint was already good, and the top only needed a few needle and thread passes. Got a year out of that one.

Not mor’n that year later, I had relocated to Bozeman, Montana and found a ’36 coupe, without engine. It followed me home to a couple of months of hanging in the bitter winter cold while I built another flat thingie in the house basement. Narrow steps down there, a drop light and long extension cord for light, tiny electric heater to fool myself into thinking I as warm enough, and hours of grindstones in a small electric drill making reliefs and bigger ports. More heads, three 97s, homemade headers……still questionable as to real horsepower increase.

Springtime and the question was how to get the assembled V8 back up those stairs. Ever notice that when you are ready to do the heavy lifting there is never anyone around to help? In this case the solution was to wrestle the engine over to the stairs by “walking” it with a two by four lever. If you use two pieces of flat plywood it scootches better than on a dirt floor. Thicker pieces of plywood temporarily nailed to the steps and you can lever the engine up the incline, but you need to have a safety. I used an old overhead block and tackle, one end on the engine, the other rope end around a four by four across the outside door frame. You pry the engine an inch or so, then take out the rope slack while wedging your thigh against the two by four lever. Slow, not particularly clever, and way dangerous because in that small stairwell there isn’t room for 239 or so cubic inches and 190 pounds of meat.

At the top, you let the engine teeter a moment before it falls outside onto the muddy ground. Across the yard on Plywood pads, under the makeshift tripod, hook the engine to a chain across the three pipe legs, then horse each pipe leg inward an inch of so at a time. This leg, then that one, then the other……so on until the engine is hanging high enough to clear the ’36 fenders. Leave the engine hanging overnight, and in first light you roll the car back under the tripod and reverse the leg maneuver.  Go slow, and pretty soon you can squeeze yourself under the running board and try to punch the tranny. Patience, and hope the tripod doesn’t move, the car doesn’t move, and there are no earthquakes. When you are young, you do what you gotta. Especially with three Sixes.

 Then there was the for sure ’36 convert I got for five bucks. Again, blown engine, but rest of the car was good. In fact, it was great except for the top fabric which had wilted under several severe Idaho snow falls. Got this one pretty far along when time came to move up to Montana. What to do…….ended up giving this one away, and of course, I would really like it back now.
Or, how about that three window at the old ranch house up in Montana? Friend of the family bought a rundown ranch just up the tiny creek from their place, mostly just to get the good hay meadow, and I had free run of a dozen old Fords on the place. The former owner had gathered the cars so he could run in the stock car races over in Bozeman. Of most interest to me was the really decent 3 window coupe that had escaped the circle track mayhem. It was complete, and it just sat there unmolested for a couple decades. I went back to check on it this past summer, and someone had come on the place and hauled it away. Apparently without asking the family. Hard to keep a good thing secret.