Suppose you are on "Jeopardy" for the final question. If you answer correctly, you'd win a gazillion dollars, but if not, you get a smile and a handshake from Alex Trebek. The question is, which 1936 Ford model cost more, the 5-Window Coupe or the 3-Window Coupe?
I've been in the car biz all my adult life, but if it were me, I would have been shaking Trebek's empty hand as I would have guessed the 5-Window Coupe. According to American-automobiles.com, the Deluxe 3-Window Coupe cost $570 new ($9,485 in today's dollars) while the Deluxe 5-Window Coupe cost $555 ($9,235).
Buying a new car in 1936 was much less complicated than it is today. For example, if you wanted a new 1936 Ford there was only one engine, an 85 HP, 221 c.i. flathead V8, and one transmission, a three-speed manual on the floor. Other than selecting the body style, the buyer would have to decide if the Deluxe or the Standard model best suited ¿his or her needs.
Danville resident Sal Riele has the Standard 1936 Ford 5-Window Coupe. "The big difference," Riele said, "was the chrome grille, the chrome horn covers and a second taillight."
The Standard had a durable mohair interior with a rubber floor mat. The 1936 models did away with the wire wheels as standard in favor of solid steel wheels with hub caps.
A clever feature of Ford coupes was the rumble seat option. Riele explained, "Ford coupes from the Model A through the 1936 models were made so the rear compartment could either be a trunk or easily converted to a rumble seat. Even though my car had a trunk, it still has a crank to lower the back window so if a rumble seat were installed, those passengers could talk to those inside the car."
Other than the custom wheels, Riele's Washington Blue '36 Ford appears pretty much as it did when new. But like a lot of classic car collectors who love the styling of older vehicles, some want modern creature comforts and advancements.
For those who want the best of both worlds, the solution is a "street rod." This is where the owner starts living the adage, "You can't take it with you," because the bucks are leaving the wallet.
Basically a street rod is a classic car that looks like it did when manufactured, but with modern components like air conditioning, power steering, automatic transmission, bigger engine, stereo and so forth. That is what Sal Riele did.
"I bought this 1936 Ford Coupe for $3,000 in 1985 from the granddaughter of the original owner. It had been parked 10 or 12 years in a barn after the back end had gotten smashed in."
Once acquired, he sent the car to a body shop for a complete restoration of the exterior including making a rumble seat from the trunk and adding a second taillight. To get into the rumble seat, a step was installed on the second taillight and at the top of the right rear fender. It took more than a year to get the work done and Riele's investment doubled.
"Next I brought it to the San Leandro Upholstery shop. I wanted the car to look as close to original as possible so the interior has the mohair appearance. They did a great job and it cost about $1,500."
Later he bought a wrecked 1988 Ford Mustang and installed the 245 HP, 302 c.i. V8 engine, the automatic overdrive transmission, rear end and other parts. He used a Mustang II front suspension system. "Everything is Ford in it," he said.
The expression "one thing leads to another" applies here. To accommodate the changes, the old '36 Ford frame had to be cut and modified. Also, the bigger engine meant the radiator had to be moved forward, which meant a new custom radiator and fan had to be made to fit the smaller space. This work was done in a shop in Concord at a cost of about $19,000. Even with Riele doing about 50 percent of the work on his car, he figures he has invested about $35,000. He believes the current market value to be between $40,000 and $50,000.
He does have a pretty slick machine. One of the coolest things is the appearance of the automatic transmission lever that looks like the car has a floor-mounted manual shift. The knob shows the gear selection order, but the driver has to select the right gear by feel.
Riele drives his 1936 Ford 5-Window Coupe every Saturday to The Dukes of Danville club meeting at Denny's in Danville. This organization has about 75 members of which 40 or so show up regularly. "It's a good source for information and help," he said, "but the best part is there are no rules and no dues."
Have an interesting vehicle? Contact David Krumboltz at MOBopoly@yahoo.com.