The market quickly responded. The new ’35 Ford outsold Chevrolet by more than 150,000 units for the first time in many years, partly due to a strike at Chevrolet. But the new Fords were handsome, powerful, and more contemporary-looking than their GM counterparts. On a 4-inch-longer wheelbase, with a distinctive canted grille and softly rounded fenders, the ’35s had lots of eye appeal. The flathead V-8 developed more horsepower than a Stovebolt six, and the Ford weighed several hundred pounds less than a Chevy, so it was quicker and more lively. Ford’s new look compensated for the fact that Henry stubbornly clung to mechanical brakes and rigid axles. Arguably the two best-looking Ford models were the open roadster and the three-window coupe. Carried over in 1936 with a mild face-lift, these two body styles would become fast favorites with hot-rodders.
Our feature Fords represent two distinctly different approaches. One car is subtle, the other more profound. East Coast built and based, they have interesting parallels. Peter Martin’s ’35 coupe, built by Dave Simard’s East Coast Custom shop in Leominster, Massachusetts, is the vision of its owner, based on an interesting premise, which we’ll reveal in a moment. Jeff Goldstein’s ’36 roadster was mildly hot-rodded by its original owner in the late ’30s, then updated over the years.
Understated externally, the coupe is a sleeper, designed to blend in. Yet it’s equipped with a hot flathead that could exceed triple-digit speeds on the lakes, like the record-setting Pierson Brothers ’36 Ford three-window that graced the cover of HOT ROD in August 1948.
Peter’s idea was that this car could have been built by a U.S. Air Force P-51 fighter crew chief in the early postwar period. Peter has flown AT-6s and P-51s, and he’s met many former WWII pilots and mechanics. And this car’s builder is Dave Simard, whose dad was a P-51 crew chief based in England.
The body was stripped to bare metal and painstakingly metal-finished by Simard. The color is DuPont single-stage Pitch Black Centari enamel. All the trim is stock; it’s just been done to perfection. The only restyling elements are the trunk handle—a larger V from a ’37 Ford—and a set of Ford truck mirrors adapted to fit.
Careful attention was paid to the running gear, and the builders cherry-picked from the best of the Ford parts bin. Those handsome restored Kelsey-Hayes bent-spoke wires are 4 inches wide in front, while in back are rare 4½-inch-wide truck wheels. The Ford front axle was dropped 2 inches, with reversed spring eyes all around, for a 4-inch overall drop. Big-and-little 5.50/7.00-16 Coker Firestones provide a mild “rubber rake.” Rebuilt Houdaille shocks in all four corners and a ’40 Ford front sway bar round out the suspension. The front brakes are the best FoMoCo specification of the era: ’39 Lincoln Bendix hydraulics mated with finned ’35 Ford drums. The rear brakes are ’41-to-’48 Lincoln. The brake and clutch pedal assembly is from a ’39 Ford.
Under the hood is a seriously reworked, bored, and stroked, 3 5/16 by 4 1/8-inch, 284ci flathead running a period, Italian-built S.Co.T. 4,500cc Roots-type supercharger, twin Stromberg 48 carbs with oversized 0.052 jets, Navarro finned high-compression heads, and a ’40s-style “crab cap” Ford distributor that’s been fitted with a PerTronix electronic setup. The block was ported and relieved, and the intake and exhaust ports were polished, then fitted with 1.6-inch Hi-Flo stainless-steel oversized valves. A Hildebrandt oil filter is prominently mounted on the firewall. The dual exhaust starts with porcelain-coated Fenton headers, runs past discrete lakes plugs, and exits with parallel tailpipes.
Internally, there are Ross forged-alloy pistons with full-floating, race-prepped gennie 21A Ford con-rods and heavy-duty main bearing caps. A hot Schneider 270F cam (0.365 lift, 270-degree duration) and Johnson-style adjustable tappets complete the picture. A ’48 Ford truck donated a six-blade fan and a two-piece oil pan with a larger drain plug.
Built by flathead expert Ron SanGiovanni in Wallingford, Connecticut, the engine is estimated to develop more than 250 hp, and it can move the 2,600-pound coupe with alacrity. Engine detailing is exceptional, with a natural finish on the externals, neatly formed headers, and beautifully run wiring and plumbing. On top of that, many of the hose clamps and fittings are the same ones used on a P-51 Mustang Merlin V-12. Simard built the throttle linkage from scratch. There’s an Edmunds fuel pressure regulator and a functional choke, a must on a supercharged engine with dual carbs.
It’s a tight fit, I observe, and Simard explains, “In order to fit a stock fan, which Peter wanted, we had to move the engine back in the chassis about ¾ inch. That doesn’t sound like much, but it necessitated a lot of work. We modified the firewall (but you can’t see it), pushed everything backward a smidge, and cut the torque tube in order to get that space. People have asked me, ‘How did you get that engine in, with a fan, and the blower topped with two carbs and an air cleaner? We’ve tried and we can’t do it.’” Now you know. Of course, there’s a story to the air cleaner. Handmade to resemble a stock unit that’s made for twin carbs, it fits down over the Stromberg 48s. It’s another illusion, and the overall effect looks like the air cleaner’s in the stock location, but it’s not.
“Working with Peter was great,” Simard continues. “He knew exactly what he wanted, and he only wanted the very best we could do. That’s a builder’s dream.”
The hot flattie is mated to a carefully rebuilt ’39 Ford three-speed Top Loader, and it runs a lightweight Weber aluminum flywheel and 10½-inch Weber clutch. The torque tube is bolted to a stock Ford cast-iron banjo, equipped with a carefully “bulletproofed” Columbia two-speed axle running 4.11 gears. That computes to an alternative 2.97:1 gear ratio for highway cruising. “I found the rare ’35 Ford Columbia locally,” Simard adds. “It belonged to a guy who was going to install it in a ’32 Ford. I told him, ‘I have the exact application for it.’”
Inside, the leather interior replicates the original $75 option wealthier ’35 Ford buyers could specify. The seats use the ’35 Ford pattern, while the door panels are adapted from a ’39 Ford. The vintage web seatbelts are from a WWII B-29 bomber. The ’35 Ford dash features an array of restored stock instruments. Hidden in the glove compartment are vintage Stewart-Warner gauges—dual water temperature dials, along with manifold pressure and oil pressure. There’s a rare ’35 Ford radio and a ’40 Ford hot-water heater, relatively expensive options in the ’30s. A radio was considered frivolous, and if you lived in a warm climate, you didn’t order a heater.
I asked Peter Martin to summarize his feelings about the project: “When I envisioned this car, I was motivated by the deep historical significance of hot rod history emerging from the ’40s and ’50s. I wanted to reflect the amazing talents and developments that came from that time, expressed in an understated but extraordinary coupe.”
I would just add that the attention to detail on this car is remarkable. That’s how Peter wanted it, and he says Dave Simard was the perfect builder to help him realize his dream. Call it a period sleeper, I call it period perfect.
Jeff Goldstein’s ’36 Ford roadster represents a slightly different approach. I first saw it in 2017 at the giant AACA Hershey Swap Meet, for sale in the Dragone Brothers’ big display tent in the Green Field. At first glance, it just looked like a nicely preserved ’36 Ford roadster, with faded Washington Blue paint, polished wide fives and whitewalls, and a level stance not unlike a typical old stocker. But the hood was up, so I took a closer look, only to see a prewar McCulloch centrifugal supercharger and postwar Edelbrock heads.
It just looked like a mildly modified old Ford, but there was a story, of course. I was delighted to learn it was later purchased by my friend, Jeff Goldstein, from Warwick, Rhode Island. Jeff owns the ex-Harry Warner ’34 Ford roadster, originally fitted with GMC six and a Wayne 12-port head, and now equipped with an Ardun Mercury V-8. He also has the radical, ex-George Barris Villa Riviera custom. In addition to a comprehensive collection of General Motors cars and memorabilia, including a plethora of Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild models and GM designer renderings, Jeff is having Dave Simard build an old-style ’32 Ford roadster, starting with Bernie Couch’s old car.
“Any 1936 Ford roadster is a pretty rare model. Just 3,862 of the 711,385 cars in Ford’s 1936 production were roadsters. The car seemed in good—and mostly original—condition. Basically a well-taken-care-of car, it was repainted years ago and showed minor repairs here and there, but it was never taken apart or crashed. Most interesting was that it had a vintage ’39 McCulloch centrifugal supercharger.
“I looked it over for about a half hour,” Jeff says, “then I continued walking. I soon ran into an old friend from Rhode Island. When I mentioned the ’36, he asked if I knew whom the car used to belong to. He told me it was Gil Stafford’s car and then asked if I knew Gil. Since everyone in the tiny state of Rhode Island knows everyone in the antique car hobby, I quickly replied, ‘Yes indeed, I knew Mr. Stafford.’ He was one of my college professors, and during his very first class he mentioned his hobby was collecting antique cars. After class, I asked about his cars and told him how much I loved old cars.
“Not long afterward, Mr. Stafford invited me to see his collection. He had kept every single car he’d ever bought new, from his first car, a ’32 Ford roadster, onward. Mr. Stafford bought new Fords every few years, never trading or selling them. He stored many of his cars in a barn behind his house. It was an amazing collection.
“He told me stories about each car, but we circled back to his ’36 Ford. Mr. Stafford explained he’d traveled to Dearborn in 1936 to watch his car being built, bought it, and then drove all the way home to Rhode Island. Mr. Stafford also showed me his aftermarket McCulloch supercharger, which he said added 40 hp to the flathead Ford engine, increasing its horsepower from 85 to 125. He was very proud of this car and its modifications.
“But I was 19 years old, and something else caught my attention. I noticed the Rhode Island license plate on this car was S-100, and I thought that was a pretty cool plate number. I said ‘Mr. Stafford, this is a neat old car, but I like that license plate. If you ever want to get rid of it, I’d like it.’ Mr. Stafford said, ‘Jeff, I could never get rid of that plate, the Governor gave it to me. And besides, you need a plate that starts with G for Goldstein.’
“It’s funny what you remember and what you forget,” Jeff continues. “I hadn’t thought of that roadster for many years, and it hadn’t occurred to me that this could be Mr. Stafford’s car. All this happened more than 40 years ago! Mr. Stafford and I didn’t keep in touch after college. I heard he passed away in the ’90s.
“After my friend told me this ’36 was Gil Stafford’s and all these memories came flooding back, I rushed over to the Dragone tent to consider buying it. I was looking under the hood, seats, and all around the car. In the glovebox, I found a bunch of keys on a key chain, with a Rhode Island DAV (Disabled American Veterans) key chain tag. In the 1950s, the DAV would send key chains in the mail with a replica of your state license plate number printed on them, along with an envelope asking for a donation. The key chain I found had S-100 on it, but by then I already knew the car was Mr. Stafford’s. I negotiated for it, and I bought it on the spot.
“Mr. Stafford’s car had passed through several hands before I found it, but amazingly it had remained mostly as it was when he drove it, and it still had the rare McCulloch supercharger. This was one of Robert Paxton McCulloch’s earliest products. Indeed, he’s the same McCulloch who later produced Paxton superchargers, McCulloch airplanes, and chainsaws—and he founded Lake Havasu City, Arizona.”
So there you have it, a striking pair of Fords, a coupe and a roadster, with basically stock bodies and period accessories, both with blown flatheads. One car has a lot of history; the other is about to make its own history. The more you look at the photos, the more you discover.
There’s nothing the matter with a Ford or Mercury flathead V-8 that forced induction can’t fix. In the prewar era, the McCulloch centrifugal supercharger could be purchased outright from McCulloch, located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, or bought from and installed by a capable Ford or Mercury dealer. The price was $87.50 (the equivalent of $1,500 in 2019 dollars), so it was not inexpensive. McCulloch advertisements claimed an output of 123 to 125 hp, and a dual exhaust system was recommended. Mounted on the stock intake manifold with special brackets supplied by the manufacturer, the blower used the stock Ford Stromberg two-barrel carburetor, although some guys bought an additional Y-shaped aftermarket manifold to accommodate a second carburetor. Multiple belts were used to drive the blower pulley, and it’s likely the blower pressure was about 4 psi. Later versions, with a special intake manifold, and priced at $125, were water-cooled, with a short hose running to the cylinder head outlet. McCulloch superchargers were also available in the postwar period. Barney Navarro sold a special manifold that accommodated a McCulloch with a Thunderbird four-barrel carburetor for ’49-to-’53 flatheads.
Italmeccanica Inc., also known as I.T., and later called S.Co.T. (Supercharger Company of Torino), sold its compact, positive-displacement, Roots-type, finned-alloy blowers in different sizes, suitable for engines from MGs and Crosleys to Ford and Mercury flatheads. An even larger size was available for Oldsmobile and Cadillac overheads. Nine different supercharger models were available, ranging from small 500- and 750cc displacements to 3,000- and 4,500cc variants, and the largest ones were available as crankshaft-driven units. S.Co.T. superchargers were priced at $467.50, but they were discounted as low as $387.50 for a flathead V-8 installation in the early ’50s.
Depending on whether two or three V-belts or a Gilmer belt was used, a S.Co.T. was good for 5 to 6 psi and could be overdriven for higher boost up to 14 psi. The company claimed a 62 percent power increase, based on a road test of a ’50 Ford by Don Francisco in HRM. Bell Auto Parts distributed them for a time, and toward the end, they were marketed by John Edgar in Los Angeles and Tony Pompeo in Long Island City. Very reliable, they have precision-cut gears and are self-lubricating in front, with zerk fittings on the twin rear bearings. If you can’t find an original, H&H Flatheads in La Crescenta, California, offers an exact reproduction of the flathead 4,500cc unit.
Full disclosure: I spent many of my formative years in ’35-to-’36 Fords. My high school pal Bruce Gilmartin owned a faded black ’36 five-window with a ’53 Mercury flathead transplanted under its narrow hood. Bruce blew the budget on that installation, so despite the dire warnings from friends, he kept the stock “push and pray” mechanical drum brakes. One rainy night more than 60 years ago, we were passing by Ma Foster’s Do-Nut Hole on Western Avenue in Lynn, Massachusetts, when the car in front of us suddenly stopped, forcing Bruce to nail the feeble binders and try to swerve out of harm’s way. The coupe performed a violent double 360 maneuver, and we corkscrewed into the Do-Nut Hole’s parking lot, narrowly missing several parked cars. Subdued and shaken, Bruce drove the rest of the way home in Second gear—and the coupe didn’t roll again until he’d installed hydraulics.
Carbon Condutive O Ring
On another occasion, after we scurried to flee a party in Beverly, Massachusetts, where they were serving illegal alcohol and people said the cops were coming, Bruce inadvertently backed straight into a fresh snowbank. The coupe’s two long tailpipes, which stuck out well beyond the rear bumper, filled with packed snow. A few minutes later, the car began to slow, the lights flickered, and we gradually came to a halt with the engine stalled. It took a while before we realized the coupe had been effectively strangled, with the engine unable to “breathe” because the tailpipes were stuffed with ice. We used a tire iron to break up the frozen snow and continued home. We later read in the paper that a few kids at the party had been temporarily blinded by the hooch they were serving.
Those two instances, and more stories we don’t have room for, are why whenever I see a ’35-to-’36 Ford, I’m transported back in time, recalling hijinks and damn good times. I’d have trouble deciding between a ’36 three-window coupe and a roadster, but I still want one.
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