By Bob and Marianne Anderson
It was a foggy day in London Town in Autumn of 1968. I found some time during a business trip (I lived in Amsterdam at the time) to follow up on an ad in Exchange and Mart (See sidebar) or perhaps it was in Autosport or Motorsport. This was a long time ago! The ad was for a 1936 Ford Shooting Break with camping trailer. The visit followed several phone exchanges with the seller, and I was more than a little intrigued by his description of the car, being very partial to “Woodies” and ’36 Woodies in particular. My high school/college wheels was such a car.
The meeting was a short one
because I was immediately hooked. The ’36 was far better than
described, i.e. complete, a very good runner, sound wood all around,
good sheet metal, good interior, cool trailer, good, good, good. The
seller (the second owner, I was to be number 3) Ed Gee was a neat
young Brit who admittedly needed the money and the price was very
right. The clincher was the name of the “original” owner in 1936 in
York, UK… Robert Anderson! It was meant to be! We shook hands and
the deal was done! Excited, I hustled back to Amsterdam to arrange
the transfer of funds.
Shortly thereafter, I returned to London to pick up my treasure. Ed Gee, the seller, gave me the most convoluted detailed and totally accurate set of directions ever, taking me, the Woodie and the trailer out of central London, down to Dover and to the Channel Ferry…thence to Belgium and up to Amsterdam etc., etc. Londoners seem to have an almost magical encyclopedic knowledge of the city…”Go about 400 yards down the high street, take a hard left at the Pig and Poodle pub, then a mile and a quarter to the round-a-bout etc., etc.
The drive home was quite an adventure negotiating suburban London at night on the "wrong" side of the road with headlights somewhat akin to an orange popsicle up front. The Woodie is right-hand drive so at least that part of the trip was easier. Then there were the customs officers! Leaving England on the Dover Ferry arriving at Oostende, Belgium and up to the Belgium/Holland border, the drill was always the same: “Let's see your passport. Says that you were born in 1933 in the US, but the title says you bought this car in York in 1936. How do you explain that?” They never looked at the different middle initials.
We played with the car for a while in Holland and then in a very misguided moment to restore the ‘36 to its original glory, partially dismantled it. I say misguided because in retrospect, I had neither the time, space, funds or skills to do the proper job that the car deserved. Fast forward to the U.S., return for me but a whole new ballgame for Marianne who was a Dutch national and had only been to America for brief visits. I scurried off to the States to my new employment while she single handedly managed to marshal the shipping of our household, the Woodie, our model 2002 BMW and Lotus Elan to the US. This with a 2 year old and a new baby! Somehow she still managed to put up with my follies for 45 years. What a heroine!!
Upon arrival in the US, we settled into our new life and the
disassembled Woodie was assigned to ignominious storage in our
company warehouse for a very long sleep. At least the storage was
heated and dry so the survival of the wood and metal was pretty well
assured. Lots of stuff happened over the ensuing years…growing
family, growing company, other less worthy 2 wheel and 4 wheel
projects intervening while the Woodie potentially waited her (his)
turn at the checkbook and the calendar.
Now several of the classic owners were also avid rodders and they got our ear over wine and spirits when they learned of the ‘36 at home. We left the tour for home convinced that our Woodie deserved immediate attention with an upgraded chassis, power train and restoration worthy of its condition and history. Upon reaching home I rushed to the warehouse and confronted the ‘36 with our new resolve. The old Brit Ford shook itself, stretched and seemed to say, “I knew you would come eventually but it’s about time, so let’s get going” and going we did.
A drop-dead finish deadline was set to allow us to participate in the ‘08 Tour…this project start was October ’07! It was decided that the ‘36 would remain externally stock despite upgrades to the power train and running gear. Sheet metal removed & stripped for refinishing & wood samples taken to Mike Nickels Automotive Woodworking shop in Traverse City, Michigan…a truly magical place. Samples were pronounced sound, in fact, amazingly well preserved considering 30 years in the UK’s notoriously foul weather. A loaner ’36 frame appeared and the floor pan and body were trundled up to Mike’s shop for restoration.
Chassis was stripped to the bare frame and the ’36 components set aside. Sheet metal remained at RU II in Fox River Grove, Illinois for refinishing and the frame went to Frame Up Wheel Works in Waukegan, Illinois for its total transformation into a modern (almost) touring cruiser. Decision was made to stick with a flathead V-8 and the job was entrusted to Dave Tatom in Mt. Vernon, Washington who turned out a 190 HP gem.
The Frame Up guys (what a bunch of pros) worked their magic teaming up with Unisteer Performance Parts to create rack and pinion steering, then mating a T-5 gearbox to an open drive shaft to a 9” diff with big Lincoln drum brakes and tube shocks at all four corners, and parallel leaf springs at the rear with hefty sway bars front and rear. All this was very, very tricky, especially up front because throttle linkage to the new Demon carbs, steering, clutch and brake master cylinder and linkage, etc., etc. all had to be created to accommodate the Brit right hand drive configuration. Some of Frame Up’s bracketry is worthy of a Picasso sculpture. Mike returned the body with all the original wood beautifully refinished so Frame Up could bolt the whole works back together….yup, in time for the ’08 Pebble Beach Motoring Classic Tour (Seattle to Monterey) and the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance.
This brief description of the restoration does not come close to giving credit to the shops/craftsmen who created the ’36 in our image. We’ve met some car buffs who decry our upgrades, but we now have a great car that visually and philosophically is true to its roots and gives us much pleasure as a fast, safe, beautiful commuter and tourer. We think the fantastic salon photography Combined Design Studio and Tony Ray Keisman Photography bears out our vision.
Sheet Metal / Paint work
Chassis, Power Train, Wiring, Total Perfect Reassembly
Their gauge faces were a perfect fit for the year. (Very good
service from C.I.)