Slick the ’36 Ford
Smoothing and Adapting a '39 Buick Bumper for a Custom Look
Smoothing and adapting a ’39 Buick
bumper for a custom look
Automotive styling was rapidly changing in the mid ’30s.
The '33-'34 Ford fenders were the first with side skirts behind the wheels; by 1935 Ford had entered what hot rodders affectionately call the “fat fendered” era. The new, round fenders were more streamlined and fully covered the wheels. The '35 Ford employed a grille with styling cues carried over from 1934. While the '36 Ford shared many body parts with the '35 model, the new grille had a distinctly modern look, with the V-shape tapering back to the hood. It was a stylish treatment that met with the approval of the general public and hot rodders alike. While the grille was modern, the front and rear bumpers were still reminiscent of the '34 bumper. The center dip provides clearance for the hand crank, should it be needed, and the curled ends of the bumper definitely recall the earlier cars. However, in our humble opinion, the bumpers, both front and rear, appear to be too short for the car, ending almost in the center of the front fenders.
The '36 Ford body style lends itself to being a rod, a custom, or often both. Think back to the famed Pierson Brothers '36 coupe. It ran DeSoto bumpers, fender skirts, Appleton spots, wide whitewalls, but could also be stripped down for a rapid pass across the salt. Such is the versatility of the '36 Ford, which brings us to the '36 Ford phaeton seen here.
As we all know, street rodding is as much about friends as it is cars. So after selling my '57 Ford Ranch Wagon, my good friend Al Casteen was certain he had the next car for me. After some brief negotiations I was the proud owner of the '36 tub seen here.
I headed up to Virginia to collect said phaeton and along the way picked up another longtime pal, Larry Shoaf. We retrieved the car and on the way back home I mentioned the first thing to go would be the stock bumpers. I spoke of V-ing a '40 Ford pickup bumper for the front when Shoaf mentioned he had an old bumper in his shed that carried a factory V-shape. He thought it was a late-’30s or early-’40s GM bumper. When we arrived at his house the bumper was placed on the front bumper irons of the '36. It appeared to be the perfect width and curvature, plus it was a great-looking bumper.
Once home the original bumper was removed and the “new” bumper was clamped in place. I felt it was the perfect upgrade for my newfound '36. A bit of research indicated it was a '39 Buick bumper. In less than an hour online I had located a rear '39 Buick bumper, so I now had a matching pair.
The phaeton will be running a hopped-up 59AB Flathead motor so the key here was to keep things traditional. We decided to use the stock Ford bumper irons to mount the '39 Buick bumper. We also filled the original bumper mounting holes for a nice early custom touch and fabricated mounts to the backside of the Buick bumper to mate to the Ford bumper irons. Our mounts are simple,
3⁄16- inch plates welded to the inside of the bumper. This provides a nice, flat surface to mate to the bumper irons and also ensures we won’t distort or crack the bumper when tightening the bolts; two problems that can occur if you simply weld studs to the back side of the bumper.
In the process of adapting the bumpers we did heat and bend the
Ford brackets a bit and we also slotted the bumper iron mounting holes on the driver side bumper irons to provide front to back adjustment. This allowed us to fit the bumper perfectly. Remember you are working on an 81-year-old automobile. That original bumper has no doubt been bumped, used to pull other cars, and maybe had the weight of the car lifted on it. It pays to take preliminary measurements of the original bumper and the bumper irons before trying to adapt a new bumper. By getting the bumper irons matching from side to side, mounting the new bumper level centered will be much easier. The job is pretty straightforward work, but like all things, work slowly, measure twice, cut once, and keep things centered and level.
In the end we believe the '39 Buick bumper gave our '36 Ford a wider, lower look and the 79-year-old bumper was just “modern” enough to provide a nice custom touch. The bumper also gently sweeps around the corner of the fenders, providing protection and good looks. The sculpted shape of the Buick bumper also adds a nice touch of detail. The filled holes enhance the smooth lines of the Buick bumper and when the bumper returns from Advanced Plating in Nashville our bumper makeover will be complete. The principles behind mounting this bumper will apply to many cars with exposed bumper irons, so follow along as we mount a '39 Buick bumper to our '36 Ford phaeton.
For the digital experience: https://bit.ly/2NX5xon
■ The new grille was sleek and aerodynamic by '36 standards, and in our opinion the Ford bumpers look too old and too short for the sleek new design.
■ A filled '39 Buick bumper gives our '36 Ford a wider, smoother appearance, and the good news is adapting it was easy.
■ The first step was to simply rest the new '39 Buick bumper on top of the bumper irons to check for proper width and contour. The Buick bumper was V’d from the factory and the width appeared to be good.
■ After removing the original bumper we clamped the Buick bumper to the Ford bumper irons. We were amazed at how perfectly the new bumper fit the contours of the '36 Ford fenders.