The chassis was built around the reinforced factory ’rails. The suspension wasn’t radically modified; springs and shocks remain stock. There’s a Magnum dropped axle in the front. The original ’36 rearend was retained and spins 3.54 gears. Ron remembers it being popular to use the axles out of a ’49 Merc, complete with the Bendix drums, so that’s what he did here. The front brakes are ’39 Ford, including the pedal assembly.
A lot of trim was kept in place on the dash, but a full set of early Stewart-Warner gauges replace the factory instruments. Builder Frank Wallic from Denver suggested the way to keep it all very clean looking was to build a recessed custom panel and install the gauges from the back side of the dash. The stock ’36 steering wheel was bought, literally, out of a guy’s hands. Ron says he saw the man walking into a swap meet carrying the banjo wheel. “Hey, you’ve got my steering wheel,” he informed the man. A few minutes later, a deal had been struck and the steering wheel had changed hands. Now it’s mounted on the stock column. Augie Anzo at Costa Mesa Auto Upholstery did an extraordinary job refreshing the factory bench and stitching a tuck ’n’ roll design to the seat and door panels. Did you notice that the maroon upholstery and carpet color matches the wheels?
For Ron, probably the most important component to this project was the Olds engine. This ’56 324 Rocket was machined at Taylor Machine. An Edelbrock intake is topped with quadruple Stromberg 48 carburetors, fed by a vintage Weiand fuel block. A Mallory YL/25 distributor with tach drive was converted to work with the Olds; the small size prevented cutting the firewall. The tight fit didn’t leave much room for headers, so Ron built his own, using MagnaFlow stainless mufflers for the right tone. The Olds is tied to a floor-shift ’39 Ford transmission with a McLeod Racing clutch.
Building the coupe was a four-year project and Ron thanks Marshall Topping for letting him use the shop at the Long Beach Swap Meet to get it done. We suspect the ’36 turned out nicer than the ’35 from his youth that inspired it. Then again, it’s hard to improve on your first car, especially when it’s had 50 or more years of nostalgia behind it. In any case, for Ron, repeating the past is a blessing, not a curse. “Everything I’ve owned goes back to my youth and I like them just as much today as I did then.” He seems to shake his head when taste and methods are called “traditional.” “It’s just built the way I would’ve built it then,” he says. “It’s just how I know to do it.”