This article on Kevin's Ford Roadster was originally published in the 2007 issue of Street Machine's Hot Rod magazine
“I REALLY wanted it to look like a car that was original,” says Kevin Britton about his American-bodied ’36 Ford roadster. But he didn’t want it to drive like it was original, as Kev says. “Two major things for me, it had to steer and it had to stop”.
Kevin has lowered the '36 just a touch but hasn't gone overboard. As he says, "I'm a pretty practical type of person"
Bought originally as a road-registered stock standard ’36 five-window coupe in 1997, Kevin discovered that that it didn’t did do either of those things particularly well.
Related: Hand-built 383ci 1932 Ford Roadster
Of course you might have noticed in the pictures that Kev’s ride isn’t a coupe at all – he sold the original rusty body off and put an order in for a new Deuce Customs roadster body. For something a little different, Kevin went with the American-style body. “Ken’s done two or three, I believe, and when I saw the body I was more than impressed,” Kev reckons.
The difference is that the US version has a compact cockpit compared to the Australian version, which extends back almost to the centre line of the rear wheels. Kevin kept the original bonnet and the rest is fibreglass now but he laments selling the original grille with the coupe shell now because of the difficulties he’s had in finding a good reproduction. “I’m very disappointed in the quality of the stuff that comes from the States,” says Kevin.
Back home in the shed, Kev set about bringing the chassis and driveline up to scratch. Up front he’s adapted a Holden Camira power rack set-up. At the rear there’s a shortened diff out of an XF Falcon complete with disc brakes. Coil springs keep the rear end off the ground thanks to the custom-made rear suspension, but the factory transverse leaf still rides up front along with XF Falcon disc brakes and Holden calipers.
Kev’s done all the work himself – he’s got his own engineering business (Britton Engineering) so he knows his way around a welder and a lathe. He was getting a lot of conflicting advice on the best way to approach the chassis and suspension but going his own way has really paid off.
“I started attacking the car like it was a work job and that’s when I really started to make some headway with it,” he reckons.
When it came to powering the roadster, Kevin’s original plan was to use the 8BA sidevalve V8 that someone had already installed in the coupe’s chassis. He even had it built up with all the trick gear from the States but eventually decided on a 302 Windsor instead. “A far better choice,” he reckons. “More user friendly.”
Kevin got good money for the freshly built sidevalve and had Stirling Performance build up a mild little 302 that could rack up endless trouble-free miles. “I don’t want to work on a car every week,” Kev points out.
As for the body and interior, well Kevin left that to the experts – he just chose the colours.
“I was going to paint it yellow with orange wheels until I saw one of those new Falcons.” A trip down to the Ford dealer to get the paint code and then on to Dave Watts at Colour Smart sealed the deal. After Paul Kelly at Smooth Customs finished with the body Dave coated it in Bionic Blue from the current model XR Falcon range.
With the new body colour the wheels had to be repainted again because the orange just didn’t suit, but red looks perfect combined with the chrome hubcaps, trim rings and the whitewall tyres. At the steering end there’s a pair of 6in wheels with 185/70-15s while the back end sports a pair of 7in rims with 235/70-15s.
Inside it’s all red leather thanks to Beenleigh Auto Trim and there’s a modified ute bench to sit on, the same material extends back to the dicky seat area. A Gennie shifter works the reconditioned C4, there’s VDO gauges to keep an eye on things and an imported Grant wheel to point everything in the right direction. Kevin’s worked a glove box in the dash because there’s nowhere to put stuff otherwise and he’s installed the Pioneer head unit where he can see it and work the controls – something that’s hard to do when it’s under the seat. Up under the dash there’s a Vintage Air heater demister unit.
“Haven’t used it yet,” says Kev. “I suppose it works.” That’s the beauty of living in Queensland.
The dry-cell battery, fuse box and cut-off switch are all hidden in this neat panel behind the seat
For those times when it’s not so sunny Kevin’s got a one piece soft-top that locates using pins at the back and bolts to the windscreen pillars at the front. They made the roof out of stainless tubing before having it covered and lined by the trimmers. With the roof on or off, the ’36 still looks a treat.
This gives Kevin and Tineke, his wife of 37 years, some flexibility when it come to enjoying their new toy, and enjoy it they do. Kevin reckons he even enjoyed the build. “It was a challenge and I’d like to do it again,” he says. There’s talk of a 50s Desoto or even a track-style roadster with some trick suspension – with skills like Kevin’s we’re sure that neither project would be too much to handle.
1936 FORD ROADSTER
Colour: BF XR6 Bionic
Engine: 302 Windsor
Carb: 600 Holley vac sec
Pistons: ACL dished
Cam: OEM US
Exhaust: 2in stainless custom
Diff: XF Falcon BW78 narrowed, 3.0:1
Brakes: XF discs, Holden calipers (f), XF Ford (r)
Springs: Stock leaf (f), King coil (r)
Shocks: Rod City (f), Monroe Gas (r)
Bushes: Urethane & rubber
Steering Wheel: Grant
Rims: Steel 15x6in (f), 15x7in (r)
Rubber: BF Goodrich whitewalls, 185/70R (f), 235/70R (r)