1936 Ford Flatback Sedan Hotrod Build
Edited by: Lizzy Rountree
We purchased the car on the 24th November, 2003, and stored it for the next six months as the then-builder – as per usual – was up to his ears in work and unable to start our project. Mid ’04 came and went without much significant progress. At the time it did not feel like a very promising start.
The car was at “final paint stage” according to the restorer we purchased it from. What a joke that turned out to be! This story is not a new one to those in the hotrod building game.
After stripping the whole car to the bones and having it sand blasted we were left with something that resembled a piece of Swiss cheese more than it did a steel body. The complete rolling chassis and anything else we did not want was sold to an optimistic restorer in Victoria who promptly got on the Spirit of Tasmania with his trailer to collect all the junk – sorry – I mean treasure.
Now knowing our frame, or lack of frame, we had to face what direction to go with the build. Do we use a Holden or a Mitsubishi front end? Do we box the original chassis as a lot of rodders? In the end we put aside all the issues associated with using old parts and ordered a Rod City Repro chassis complete with:
- Polished stainless steel triangulated four bar and coil-over shocks rear end
- Independent front suspension with polished stainless steel top and lower control arms complete with coil-overs
- Front mounted Cortina steering rack (fitted as part of the front end package).
Wheels were specially made by ROH in Adelaide: a three piece combination with polished rims and a hand polished centre, 15 x 8.5” rears and 15 x 6” fronts.
The rims and tyres have since been updated to INTRO Show Wheels, 17 x 7 (front) & 20 x 8.5 (rear) New Yokohama Tyres all round were fitted to suit the new wheels.
The upgrade to the wheels allowed us to fit Nissan GTR front rotors and 4 Pot Callipers.
After a further 12 months of cutting off bits of the body and adding others, due to more issues found, we finally fitted the chassis, suspension and a steel roof where the vinyl insert existed. We owe a big thank you to Kalven Waddington for the advice on the best roof options, and Graeme Mannering of Rods & Classics for his expertise in fitting it.
Next on the wish list: the drive train, with a Ford 351 Windsor / Ford C6 Auto / Ford 9” diff combo being our first choice. At the time, our number one priority was to create a purebred – all Ford components in a Ford vehicle – as opposed to a hybrid miss-match, miss-fit or whatever you would like to call them. What hotrodder hasn’t had these thoughts at the beginning of a project? In the end, we decided that we would have to compromise too much performance for the sake of nostalgia if we tried to remain true to the Ford heritage.
Under the advice of John Gilligan, our engine builder, we went with a standard 351 Windsor. We knew the history of the part and that it was unadulterated, and it was a platform that would ultimately set us up for the best scenario in the engine build. A pair of DART aluminium heads and a complete MSD ignition system, purchased from Bo Seaton, to compliment the specialised engine re-build that was about to take place.
A brief run down on the engine components used:
- SRP Forged Pistons – floating with JE pins and spirolocks
- Scat “H” Beam conrods with ARP bolts
- Speed Profile fit rings
- Clevite 77 Main, Conrod & Cam Bearings
- Power Bond steel harmonic balancer
- Rollmaster timing chain set
- Mellings high volume oil pump
- ARP main stud kit
- Felpro gasket and seals
- Felpro race “O” ringed head gasket
- Speed Pro solid lifters
- Crow 0.80 competition hardened push rods
- ARP head stud kit
- ARP flex bolts
- Solid Camshaft by Crow
- Holley mechanical fuel pump, 130GPH
- 750 Mighty Demon Carby
- Edelbrock Victor Junior intake manifold
- Ford short series water pump
- 1 5/8“ HPC coated tuned length extractors by Adrian Oliver
- MSD billet distributor
- MSD 6AL Ignition control with rev limiter
- MSD Blaster 3 Ignition coil
- Ford Racing aluminium rocker covers and air filter assembly
- Tuned length extractors and exhaust system (HPC coated) by Adrian
- Aluminium Dart Windsor, 62cc chambers
- Ported and flowed by Higgins Race Developments
- Stainless CNC Ferrea Valves
- Competition cams dual with damper valve springs
- Competition Cams hardened spring seats
- Competition Cams chrome moly spring retaining and collets
- ARP 7/16” screw in studs
- Competition Cams guide plates
- Yella Terra 7/16 Roller Rockers, 1.6 Race series with Posi-locks
- Teflon valve stem seals
The C6 gearbox was also modified with a carbon fibre clutch pack fitted and valve body had a high performance upgrade by TCE to handle the engine power and provide good pedal feel. A 2500 / 2800 high stall converter by Sling Shot was also installed. Clifton Campbell of All Transmission Services carried out the total gearbox re-build, with some expertise from Ian Weatherhead of Weatherhead Engineering.
The 9” diff was rebuilt, housing shortened, billet axels cut and splined (31) to suit and, finally, disc brakes were fitted by Weatherhead Engineering. At this point in time we were unfortunate (or fortunate?) to have a change in builder. I say “unfortunate” because every hotrod story has this “hiccup” moment with a major blowout in build time. Sometimes you feel like you’ll just never make any headway. But I also say fortunate, because not everything goes to plan, and sometimes you need these moments to ultimately reach your destination.
We initially went with Graeme, as he is well known for being the best at what he does. In the end he had far too much work to continue with the timeline we were trying to achieve. We spent some time trying to recruit Shaun Rugan of Mod & Rods, who was also at the top of our list, but of course was also very busy. With a little bit of gentle encouragement from the owners, Shaun came on board, and in the end was responsible for about 80% of the project.
The major task at this point was to rebuild the body metalwork. Starting with the
fire-wall which required a rebuild, we also had to move it back 250mm to in turn allow the engine to also move back 250mm for better weight distribution and thus better ride and vehicle handling. Then the floor, all four doors were re-built, including all pillars. A complete floor-pan/gear-box tunnel was constructed and fitted to complement the new fire-wall now already in place.
Opting for quality wherever possible, there were still a lot of decisions made on the run. At this stage we decided to change the shape of the Rod from a
hump-back to a flat back despite having very few panels available. However, this did not deter Shaun who set about expertly hand manufacturing the missing panels. Despite initially being one of those building moments that seemed a bit arbitrary, we were all very happy with the new shape and in the end it felt like a good decision
Now for the boot. We had successfully removed the external access to any boot that we ever had, albeit very small. We decided that we could always access the boot via a 60/40 rear back seat. Mick Calvert our trimmer successfully achieved this by reshaping a Daewoo seat. Funnily enough, we ended-up with a more functional boot than the original! More top work by Shaun.
Finally, we get to the doors. We opted for all electric windows, electric door locks, new glass, new window trim, new door handles… no skimping here! One of the challenges we met was that in 1936 doors were not exactly constructed to accommodate all things electric. This task was even more involved by the fact that we were dealing with a sedan, so multiply everything by four. But this was yet another challenge overcome by Shaun with a little bit of help from Adrian.
Whilst the metalwork revolution was taking place, Mick was beavering away in the background re-shaping and
leather-covering seats that were never designed to fit such a vehicle, but with his expertise – and patience – they did. The door trim, fire-wall inner lining, boot lining and carpets were completed on time and to a standard beyond our expectations.
After many, many, many hours of making panels that the original car never had, fitting brackets, sanding, and so on, the rod was dismantled into what felt like a million bits and sent to the painters for the complete paint job. (Some advice to anyone considering a full rebuild: this part requires a little bit of faith, and possibly a pint or two…)
We chose Mazda Velocity Red. It was a shame Ford didn’t have a colour similar that we could have used to keep the Rod all Ford – but I suppose it sort of counts as Ford does own Mazda…
Booths Bodyworks accepted the paintwork challenge with Phil, Norm, Chris and Nathan achieving a standard of workmanship above and beyond what even Phil expected from a “Love Job”. (I’m not sure what the term “love job” means, after living this entire process I think I am beginning to understand it!)
The reassembly took place with some extra effort employed by all concerned, including Craig Rugan who did a superb re-wire.
I believe a fine level of workmanship on what was a very protracted and difficult project was achieved and many other learned people in the Hotrod business have said the same. Well done Shaun!!
This four and a half year project reached all but epic proportions in our minds when we were living through it. However, in retrospect, and after reading stories of other owner-builder projects, our Rod did not just build for speed, but with it as well. And this is a major testament to all of those involved, and the incredible effort of each in this long but rewarding project.
Suppliers that should be recognised for their very good service are:
- Hot Rod Hardware – Kevin & Paulene O’Rourke
- TCR Components – Ray & Barb Alldrick
- Race Parts Austarlia
- Nuts & Bolts Tasmania
- Spectrum Paints – Brett Pitfield
- Bob Jane T Mart – Moonah – Jason Vesinger
We thank all those mentioned and many others involved in the project.
Rod & Julie Nichols
Early Ford Club of Tasmania Inc.
The ’36 has now won Top Sedan at the Street Rod Nationals twice, Top Sedan at the Victorian Hotrod Show and most other shows in Tasmania that is worth winning!