Ron Cherry: Going from two to four wheels with a ’36 Ford Pickup
October 20, 2017
Although Al Mangini was no novice at vehicle restoration when he started on his '36 Ford pickup in 2014, his previous endeavors had been on two wheels.
"It was my first project after I retired," he said. "I always did Harleys, but figured I'd go safer. When you've got people texting all the time and you've grandkids you want to be with, you go with four wheels."
In 2013, he was in the home shop of his friend, local hot rodder George Beaty, when he noticed the cab of a '36 Ford pickup sitting off to the side and asked about it.
"Sometimes it's really hard to pry these things away from hot rodders. They just hang on to them," Al said. "But I guess he figured he'd never get around to doing anything with it, so he sold it to me."
Although the body was pretty much complete, except for the cab it was a basket case, all apart. The cab had the windshield and gauges still in it, but the other windows and door regulators were in boxes with other parts.
While Al described it as a "fairly decent body," there was some rust and other minor damage in need of repair.
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"There's not a spot on the body I didn't have to weld or massage," he said, "but that's part of the fun."
The paint was "60 percent original," a little faded and worn through with age at places, but still there.
"When I brought it home on a trailer, my wife, Robin, said, 'I like it like that,'" Al said. "She made my life a lot easier. I didn't have to strip it down and put out money for a high-dollar paint job."
Robin put her dibs on the truck. Twenty years ago, they had a '54 five-window Chevy pickup as a daily driver.
"My wife always liked to drive it," Al said. But he sold it to buy a Mustang convertible. The '36 Ford became hers and he could not sell it unless she was willing.
Using Craigslist for Bodega Bay, Al found a rolling chassis from a '35 Ford pickup that had burned. It had a Ford 8" rearend and the original straight axle in front with disc brakes.
"Sometimes you get lucky and find parts like that," he said. "It makes the job a lot easier."
Through Craigslist in Grass Valley, he found an old motor home that was drivable. He bought it and pulled its Ford 351 cubic inch Windsor engine and C-6 auto trans for running gear.
"I freshened the engine, put in new gaskets, and dropped it in," Al said. "It runs like a sewing machine."
After pulling out wiring to make a loom for the Ford, he sold parts off the motor home before sending it to an auto recycler. On Yuba City's Craigslist, he found a set of Vintique wire wheels and decent tires that would fit. It cost him far less than if he had used new parts.
"You can still build them cheap if you hunt down all the parts and have patience," he said. "it's like what I did in high school. It made me feel young again." Of course, scrounging parts was a little more difficult before Craigslist.
The few things that Al bought new were the radiator from Speedway and a set of modern gauges since the original ones were 6-volt and the alternator from the motor home was 12-volt. Converting the old ones to 12 volt wouldn't have been cheap.
He also had a custom driveshaft made for the Ford by Drive Line Service.
For the exterior, Al had a paint store match the original red on the truck and he painted the grill and fenders.
"I rubbed it through in a few places to match the cab and bed," he said. "Then I shot it with a semi-gloss clear to seal it. It looks original with some patina, but not all beat up."
He also repainted the dash. Instead of installing a new headliner, he painted the ceiling black with red accents. Robin redid the seat with black Naugahyde. For floor mats, he threw in a couple of rubber Harley ones he had left around. He opted out on a sound system.
The whole project took only six months, from January to June of 2014.
"I built it on the cheap," Al said. "I did it all myself."
Once it was finished, friend George Beaty seemed to regret ever selling it.
"Now that he sees it, he says he gets first dibs if I ever sell it," Al said with a chuckle. "Since I built it for Robin, it's her truck, so I doubt that will ever happen."
But what about his love of Harleys? He sold his last two bikes, his '66 and '72 police Harleys, when he took on building the Ford and has no plans to go back to them.
"I still think about Harleys sometimes," Al said. "But that's as far as it goes."
For Al, running on two wheels is history.
Ron Cherry's four books, including the Morg Mahoney detective series, are available on Kindle and in print copy at Amazon. His next book, a mystery that takes place in a small town in the Sierra Foothills, will be out soon. Check out his website at http://www.rlcherry.com.
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