A Split With Tradition
Building a custom split rear bumper
Building a Custom Split Rear Bumper
■ By Gerry Burger ■ Photography by the Author
♦ My latest project is a 1936 Ford Phaeton, and in the
Nov. ’18 issue of STREETRODDER the car received a
1939 Buick front bumper. The bumper itself required no modifications, just a new mounting system. The V-shaped front bumper fit the profile of the 1936 Ford perfectly and tucked in nice and tight. I feel certain this bumper would also work on many other brands of mid to late ’30s cars (particularly 1939 Buicks).
Pleased with the look of the front bumper, we located a rear 1939 Buick bumper to adapt to the rear of our 1936 Ford. This process proved to be a bit more involved. First, we removed the spare tire and carrier from the rear of the car, because in our humble opinion, the spare tire gets in the way of that gorgeous sweeping flatback panel. The spare also makes the car look very long. With the spare tire removed we set about adapting the 1939 Buick bumper.
The first order of business was taking some basic measurements. As it turns out, the original bumper on the car was out of alignment by over 1-1/2 inches. This could have been caused by many things. First,
1936 automobiles were not exactly precision built, tolerances were “generous.” Second, undoubtedly over the past 82 years this old car may have been push-started or used a chain to pull another car home. Either way we set about heating and bending the bumper irons until they were both identical. This ensured we would be mounting the new bumper to equally spaced brackets. There would be more modifications to the brackets during the process, and we were able to tuck the Buick bumper nice and tight to the body, resulting in a much shorter-appearing car. In the end, the bumpers were just beyond the face of the taillight lens.
While we could have mounted the Buick bumper as a one-piece bumper, we decided to build a license plate recess into the bumper. Borrowing a concept from the late ’30s and early ’40s Lincoln Zephyr, we decided to use two bars in the middle of the bumper as a license plate recess. If you prefer to
leave the license plate light mounted to the driver-side taillight this modification is a good way to change the length of a bumper and use the tubing as a simple styling que.
Like most things on old cars, this got a bit more involved than anticipated, but in the end we were very pleased with bumper. It is now about 1-inch shorter than the original 1939 Buick bumper, and much like the front bumper this rear piece conforms nicely to the shape of the car.
Of course, the same principles involved here apply to virtually any car and most early bumpers; it certainly does not have to be a 1939 Buick bumper on a 1936 Ford. So follow along as we slice and dice an old bumper to give our Ford a more modern appearance, and a little extra style. It may inspire you to take a similar approach on your next project.
■ The original 1936 Ford Phaeton is pretty busy looking from the rear. The spare tire and dropped-center rear bumper and bumper guards are hiding a beautiful sweeping, “flatback” panel. (Below) Removing the spare tire and adding a modified 1939 Buick rear bumper gives our 1936 tub a whole new look.
■ Removing the spare tire and moving the license plate from the driverside taillight to the bumpers makes a dramatic difference, but we have bigger plans.
■ With the 1939 Buick bumper clamped to the inboard portion of the Ford bumper irons, the bumper is too far from the fenders, so it’s time for some bumper tucking. ■ Before we can begin any modifications we must be sure both bumper irons are the same shape. Our preliminary measurements indicated they were quite different. First, we leveled the two bumper irons with a long level.
■ The passenger-side bumper iron was almost 2 inches further away from the fender than the driver side. Using a large C-clamp and some heat from our Oxy-Acetylene torch, we carefully bent the bracket toward the fender. Always use extreme care with an open flame anywhere near or around the gas tank of an old car. We did not use the torch on the driver side due to the proximity of the fuel neck, cap, and vent.