Resourceful Roadster – Maintaining a Happy Marriage with a Timeless 1936 Ford
A car guy can count himself lucky when he finds a partner who not only tolerates his four-wheeled obsessions, but also enjoys participating in them. David Wolk is one of those fortunate guys. A lifelong enthusiast, David can be found at most events (and sometimes in the garage) with his wife Paulette right there alongside him.
Paulette has not only enjoyed cruising as a passenger in David’s many customs and hot rods through the years, she’s been able to do so behind the wheel of her own ride, too. “Paulette had a ’67 Chevy II Nova but was wanting something different,” David says. “She always liked ’36 Fords and we decided to sell the Nova to offset the cost of a ’36 roadster project.”
It helped that David likes ’36 Ford roadsters, too. A longtime custom fan (David chopped his first Merc at age 19 and has two other custom ’50 Mercs in his current stable – one chopped, one unchopped), he appreciates how the shapely ’36 straddles the line between hot rod and custom. “The ’36 Ford roadsters don’t need a bunch of body modifications,” David says. “They just need to sit right on a rake and have a perfect profile roofline.”
Of course, Paulette had some requirements for the prospective project, too. David says her wish list was relatively simple: “It must be easy to drive, have A/C, have brown leather with map pockets in the doors, and have wide whitewall tires.”
David has always been a resourceful rodder, so he found a ’36 Ford frame and began scouring eBay and other online avenues for a body. He knew original steel was out of the question (and the budget) and was hoping to find a quality fiberglass body – maybe a project someone had lost interest in. He was surprised to stumble on a ’glass body that had supposedly been built from the molds belonging to the now-defunct Fairlane Company. It was an almost-too-good-to-be-true deal that included inexpensive delivery to David’s house in Kansas. This got the project started with a reasonable buy-in.
David’s persistent swap meet shopping paid off again when he scored a good deal on an Outlaw Performance frame. It saved him a lot of time and effort compared to modifying the original frame. A Mustang II-style IFS was assembled using narrowed tubular A-arms, dropped spindles, and disc brakes from Speedway Motors, along with power rack-and-pinion steering to appease Paulette’s wishes. A ’57 Ford 9-inch rearend was hung from parallel leaf springs out back. The car ultimately got rolling with Wheelsmith 15×5- and 15×6-inch steel wheels on Coker 5.60- and 7.60 American Classic wide whitewall radials.
Another part of Paulette’s easy-to-drive request came with the 290hp, 350c.i. GM crate engine – “just a simple, good-driving setup,” David says. He slipped early Olds valve covers over the stock pieces, added Speedway Tru-Ram exhaust manifolds and Alan Grove accessory brackets, and topped it off with a Holley Sniper EFI setup and vintage air cleaner. Jeromy Scanlon rebuilt the TH350 transmission, which uses a Gennie shifter.
That bargain body did require some extra effort from David and his brother, James. “We did a lot of work to strengthen the floors and cowl area,” David says. “The rear of the body was modified to lower the rear pan.” It was essentially a pie-cut extension, with no material added at the back of the wheel openings, extending downward to where 2-inches was added to the backs of the fenders and across the rear. “This modification helped the overall look of the car,” David says. “The bottom edges of the front fenders were also pie cut from the running board forward to add ½-inch. This leveled the fender to the road surface.”
Attention to detail like that paid off in the finished product – the profile is spot-on, with just the right amount of rake. And what about that “perfect profile roofline” David mentioned earlier? “To achieve the roofline, we used roof bows from a late-model Saab and modified them to make a fixed-position top,” David says. “The windshield is cut 2-inches and laid back. We started with a set of Pinkee’s Rod Shop windshield posts, which we modified and re-cast to work with our custom-made wood header bow.”
David and James are not professional builders, by the way – they craft cars during the evenings and on weekends after their day jobs end. You’d never know it by the quality of work in this ’36, though. That includes the paint job. After months of prep, David sprayed it in a 2018 VW Urano Gray hue using Nason urethane with SPI clear. The contrasting chrome plating was done by JP Custom Plating in Portland, Indiana.
Last on Paulette’s list was that brown leather upholstery. The Tea’s Design bench seat came pre-upholstered, and Johnny Torres Kustom Upholstery in Hutchinson, Kansas, took care of the stitch work in the rest of the cockpit – including the top. Johnny sure to add those map pockets on the doors, and surprised Paulette with a dragonfly emblem in the trunk. A narrowed ’40 Ford dash with Classic Instruments gauges helped complete the cabin, as did the Juliano’s column, ’40 Ford wheel, and Vintage Air system.
“We have always built timeless, traditional-style cars,” David says of the projects he and James have crafted. “The 36 is no exception – it has a classy, traditional look.” We’d have to agree. More importantly, Paulette got everything on her wish list. The only thing left for her to do now is drive and enjoy this resourceful roadster.
Photos by Damon Lee