1936 Ford Roadster - Truly Sublime
dick and helen rash's custom '36 ford roadster
From the February, 2009 issue of Street Rodder
By Ryan Manson
Photography by Brian Brennan
The story behind Dick Rash's '36 Ford roadster goes back to a little surfing trip he was on. Now, before you get carried away with the Hawaiian Island visuals and the cowabunga lingo floating around in your head, understand that this was a different type of surfing trip. This was the kind of surfing trip you take from behind your desk, in the comfort of your own home, or perhaps behind your boss' back at work. This surfing trip took place on the World Wide Web, and the popular Web site eBay was Dick's surfboard--navigating him through the millions of listings, looking for something that would catch his eye. Dick and his wife Helen have a history with antique and classic automobiles, but they never really owned what we would constitute a street rod. Their history with antique and classic cars dealt mainly with automobiles of the brass era, but, as veterans of car shows such as Hot August Nights, they were not strangers to the street rod scene in any sense of the word. The problem for Dick was that as much as he would have loved an early hot rod, he just couldn't fit in the tight confines of a roadster body. What he needed was something a little later, but with the same feel as the early cars.
While Dick was on his surfing trip, he came across an auction for a California-based '36 Ford roadster designed by Chip Foose. The car was shown in its mock-up stage using the sheetmetal shell of a coupe that had been converted into a roadster, along with a set of '39 Lincoln Zephyr fenders, but he saw the perfect recipe for a driver street rod in that pile of old steel. As Dick inquired about the car, he soon learned a couple from Minnesota that had recently passed away had commissioned it. In addition to the body pieces, the custom frame for the project was located at John West Fabrications in Costa Mesa, California, and that would be made available as well. The one-off chassis rode on narrowed Corvette C4 suspension at all four corners and had aircraft aileron screwjacks acting as linear actuators to raise and lower the Bilstein coilover-sprung suspension. A deal was made to purchase the car and it was soon on its way to Dick's Pacific Northwest home of Puyallup, Washington, and Thun Field Rod & Custom.
When the car arrived at Thun Field Rod & Custom, Marshall Woolery, who oversaw the project while Garry Sutherland Jr. did most of the fabrication, had little more than a couple Foose sketches and what had begun in California from which to start. In addition to relieving the old coupe of its top, the body had also been split down the middle and 2 inches had been added to widen its profile. With those Zephyr rear fenders, Garry removed the peak and rotated each fender in a downward fashion 6 inches at the rear and then trimmed them to fit. The front of the fenders were also brought forward to intersect the running boards, and custom fender skirts fill the wheelwell for that leadsled look. The front fenders started as '37 Chevy units before being hacked and tacked, eventually to be brought back to life with the help of a pair of '36 Ford and '36 Hudson fenders. The running boards were handcrafted from aluminum, as were the hood sides, while the hood itself was converted to one piece, pancaked, and widened 2 inches at the rear to match the added width of the body. The grille was fashioned from 22-gauge sheetmetal, each bar bent like an original stamped Ford piece, and slanted back at a 35-degree angle.
While the front sheetmetal no doubt received its share of modifications, Marshall said the back of the roadster was almost all handmade. The doorjambs and about the first 6 inches of the quarter-panels are all that remains of the stock Ford body. The decklid, having been modified to resemble a '40 Ford more so than its former self, was fabricated from aluminum, while the surrounding structure was all done in sheetmetal. The whole rear section was fabricated to flow with the surrounding fenders, accentuating the curves while still maintaining the classic design. Moving forward, the rear portion of the car flows right into the passenger compartment and across the doors thanks to the door caps that lend the appearance of stock roadster doors to the converted coupe items. The doors, which mount on hidden hinges, continue to flow forward around the top of the dash, intersecting at the center console, thus splitting the passenger compartment in half. The frenched E&J headlights are two of the focal points on the roadster. Not only do they complement the front end of the car, but they were also the inspiration for the design of the taillights, as well as the air cleaner. Designing different parts in a similar fashion lends a sense of balance and continuity throughout the car and helps create a more purpose-built theme. The last item on the car, perhaps the icing on the cake, is the custom windshield, which was fashioned using a pair of posts of unknown vintage origin. To get everything to fit just right, Marshall enlisted the help of Dave Seacrest to fit the glass for the roadster windshield.
The car remained in bare metal while the rest of the fabrication was completed, including hanging all the Corvette C4 suspension and the installation of the crate Chevy 224ci engine and overdrive 700-R4 trans. A complete stainless steel exhaust was fabricated around the rack-and-pinion steering, fuel and brake lines were ran, and then everything got blown apart and sent to Byers Custom and Restoration in Auburn, Washington. Once there, John Byers skimmed the roadster in primer, blocked it to perfection, and then sprayed on liberal coats of PPG Indigo Blue. McFarland Custom Upholstery saw the car next to cover the Glide Engineering seats and custom panels in contrasting red leather and wool. Returning to the Thun Field shop, the now-colorful car was reassembled by Marshall, Garry, and the resident mechanic at Thun Field, Russ Jadin. Jason Killmerof of JK Automotive Detailing applied the final shine and finish.
In all, more than 6,000 hours were invested in the rolling sculpture, nicknamed Sublime, first dreamed up by Chip Foose and created by the Thun Field crew. Their desire to create a car that carried European styling combined with their idea of what Ford may have built in 1936 as a concept car has resulted in a truly different and unique street rod. Dick tells us that while the original concept for the '36 was to simply be a driver, the work ethic and attention to detail of the Thun Field crew paid off in the roadster being one of the first hot rods too be invited to the Kirkland Concourse d'Elegance and taking a Judge's Award.
Reminiscent more of a '40...
Reminiscent more of a '40 Ford than a '36, the decklid and rear portion of the body was completely restyled and fabricated to reflect more of a European influence.
The Lincoln Zephyr fenders...
The Lincoln Zephyr fenders were actually rotated toward the rear for a total of 6 inches, and then cut and redesigned to match the roll pan that houses the exhaust tips. The taillights were fabricated by Oscar Anderson to match the original E&J headlights using aluminum and modified '37 Ford lenses.
The crew at Thun Field had...
The crew at Thun Field had already fabricated the dash, but were unsure of what gauges they were going to use when someone came by and gave them the idea of using a '36 Studebaker gauge cluster. The cluster fit perfectly, and it was brought back to original condition thanks to United Speedometer.
Since the body was originally...
Since the body was originally a coupe, the roof and offending steel that remained had to be removed and reformed. This resulted in the doors and rear portion of the passenger compartment being rolled and capped to form a surface similar to that found on original Ford roadster bodies. The doors were then formed into the dash, terminating into the center console. A Juliano's banjo steering wheel and column-shift steering column fit nicely under the arc of the custom dash. The 2 inches added to the center of the body lend to the addition of the center console, flanked by a pair of Glide bucket seats. McFarland Custom Upholstery stretched the red leather over the entire compartment.
A GM crate 350 backed by an...
A GM crate 350 backed by an overdrive 700-R4 sits under the one-piece pancaked hood. The air cleaner was fabricated to match the Mooneyes valve covers and the E&J headlights.
Removing the rear fender skirt...
Removing the rear fender skirt reveals the 16-inch Wheel Vintiques Artillery wheels. These wheels feature the wide-five bolt pattern and keep with the late-'30s Ford concept car vibe found elsewhere on the car.
|Facts & Figures |
|Dick Rash |
|Puyallup, Washington |
|1936 Ford roadster |
|Frame / Manufacturer ||custom by John West Fabrications (Costa Mesa, CA) |
|Wheelbase ||118" |
|Modifications ||custom-built frame to accept Corvette suspension |
|Rearend / Ratio ||C4 Corvette / 3.70:1 |
|Rear suspension ||IRS w/ Bilstein (Poway, CA) coilover shocks |
|Rear brakes ||Corvette disc |
|Front suspension ||narrowed C4 Corvette w/ Bilstein coilover shocks |
|Front brakes ||Corvette disc |
|Master cylinder ||Corvette |
|Steering box ||r&p |
|Wheelcovers ||Wheel Vintiques (Fresno, CA) Artillery |
|Wheel make, size ||Wheel Vintiques Artillery, 16x7" |
|Tire make, size ||BFGoodrich, 215/65R16 |
|Gas tank ||custom 15-gal stainless steel |
|Other chassis items ||aircraft aileron screwjacks & bellcrank system to raise & lower suspension by John West Fabrications. Controls designed by AccuAir Control Systems (San Luis Obispo, CA) |
|Make ||GM Performance Parts |
|Displacement ||224ci |
|Machining / Assembly ||GM Performance Parts |
|Water pump ||Edelbrock Performance Products (Torrance, CA) |
|Cooling fan ||Zig's Street Rod Center (Newberg, OR) |
|Radiator||112th St. Radiator (Puyallup, WA) |
|Alternator ||Powermaster Motorsports (Knoxville, TN) |
|Valve covers ||Mooneyes (Santa Fe Springs, CA) |
|Manifold / Induction ||Barry Grant Triple D SixShooter (Dahlonega, GA) |
|Ignition / Wires ||MSD Ignition (El Paso, TX) / Taylor Cable Products (Grand View, MO) |
|Headers ||HPC-coated block huggers |
|Exhaust||stainless steel |
|Other engine facts ||custom air cleaner to match headlights & valve covers |
|Make||GM 700-R4 |
|Trans mods ||Phoenix Transmissions (Phoenix, AZ) |
|Driveshaft ||Drivelines NW (Seattle, WA) |
|Body style / Material ||roadster / steel & aluminum |
|Body manufacturer ||Ford |
|Body mods ||converted from coupe to roadster, body widened 2", sectioned & channeled, doors widened & angled forward, custom decklid, one-piece pancaked hood, custom aluminum running boards by Thun Field Rod & Custom (Puyallup, WA) |
|Hood ||aluminum by Thun Field Rod & Custom |
|Grille ||custom from 22-gauge sheetmetal by Thun Field Rod & Custom |
|Bodywork ||Byers Custom & Restoration (Auburn, WA) |
|Paint type / Color ||PPG / Indigo Blue |
|Painter ||John Byers |
|Headlights / Taillights ||E&J restored by Steve's Auto Restoration (Portland, OR) / custom to match headlights by Oscar Anderson (Marysville, WA) |
|Other body items ||modified Lincoln Zephyr rear fenders, modified front fenders w/ '37 Chevy fender crowns, front of fenders modified by Thun Field Rod & Custom |
|Dashboard ||custom by Thun Field Rod & Custom |
|Insert / Gauges ||'36 Studebaker restored by United Speedometer (Riverside, CA) |
|Stereo / Speakers ||Pioneer |
|Wiring ||American Autowire (Bellmawr, NJ) Highway Series |
|Steering wheel ||Juliano's Hot Rod Parts (Vernon, CT) |
|Steering column||Juliano's Hot Rod Parts |
|Seats ||Glide Engineering (Rancho Cucamonga, CA) |
|Upholsterer ||McFarland Custom Upholstery (Puyallup, WA) |
|Material / Color ||leather / red |
|Carpet ||red wool |
|Other interior items ||center console by Thun Field Rod & Custom |