The automobile market was changing rapidly in the late Thirties. All steel closed bodywork was becoming the standard and the open five and six-passenger bodies that had been common even a few years before were rapidly losing favor. In 1935 Ford shifted from the Model T and took on a fuller and more substantial appearance which saw little change until 1940. Out of those 5 years, we are particularly fond of the 1936 model year.
In 1936, the twenty millionth Ford was built; the success of the flathead V-8 was endorsed in the market by the production of the three millionth V-8 engine. It was a year of consolidation and realization of the tremendous investments that Ford had been making in design, development and production.
1936 saw Ford reach several other milestones. Perhaps the most important was this: Ford Motor Company earned $17.9 million dollars. The introduction and development of the V-8, a stronger, improved chassis and more modern, streamlined bodies were behind it. Production of most high volume bodywork had been brought in house. Massive investments had been made and now were returning dividends in the form of profits. It had not been accomplished easily or without strife and dislocation, but it had been accomplished.
Ford passenger cars and light trucks received a subtly redesigned from 1935 with a broad vee grille composed of vertical chrome elements, redesigned rear fenders, pressed steel artillery-style wheels and the twin horns of the DeLuxe model recessed behind grilles set in the fender catwalks. It has come to be regarded as one of the high points of Ford’s Thirties’ styling, handsomely shaped, streamlined and gracefully proportioned.
Ford’s redesigned created ideal proportions for their light trucks built on the passenger car chassis. With the cab moved forward the cargo area could be longer yet with reduced rear overhang. Cargo weight was located more centrally for better handling and stability. These were haulers and the new proportions fit their purpose perfectly. For the second time since the introduction of the V-8 in 1932, Ford trucks outsold Chevrolet.
In 1936 the phaeton body style had only two more years in Ford’s catalog. It would be discontinued after 1938 and a glance at the production numbers, 5,555 in 1936, 3,723 in 1937 and only 1,169 in 1938, shows why. Phaetons were among the most expensive to build, relying on the traditional coachbuilding methods of the past rather than the high volume stamping and welding techniques that were employed to build all-steel closed bodies. The combination of rarity and open-air fun has brought these few phaetons to the forefront of today’s collector car market which values open cars much more highly than their more practical but mundane closed counterparts.
The market continued to shift its preference to enclosed bodies. Only 3,862 of the old standby Deluxe Roadsters were built. Ford’s new Club Cabriolet was introduced mid-year, offering enclosed seating for five with the top up. In production for only half the year, 4,616 were built, exceeding the roadster’s total for the full year. The roadster, however, is one of the iconic models from the Twenties and Thirties. Its light weight and simple, straightforward design are perfect complements to Ford’s design and business philosophy: build a good product with sound value and consumers will find a way to buy it.
Station wagons from this era were all built out of wood by specialty firms that took delivery of the completed chassis and its cut-away body. Then, both the interior and required bodywork were added before shipping it back to the manufacturer for final assembly and inspection. This was a time consuming and costly procedure.
In 1936 Ford opened its station wagon assembly line at its Iron Mountain mill. This allowed Ford to fabricate and assemble at one site. Fit and finish improved as inspections could be completed immediately after the wagon left the assembly line. The popular 1936 Ford Woodie Station Wagon featured roll-up front glass windows with canvas side curtains fitted with transparent isinglass plastic windows that could be fixed in place for additional protection from the elements.
Today, any of the Fords produced in 1936 would be a great investment for any collector.
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