Cars

Ford coupe a three-generation restoration

Parked in the shade of a vintage barn of about the same age, the Wallis men's 1936 Ford coupe looks right at home. Three generations combined their time and talents to recreate grandfather Jimmie Wallis' first car.
Parked in the shade of a vintage barn of about the same age, the Wallis men's 1936 Ford coupe looks right at home. Three generations combined their time and talents to recreate grandfather Jimmie Wallis' first car. The Wichita Eagle

HAYSVILLE – Jimmie Wallis, now in his 80s, had good reason to go looking for another 1936 Ford 5-window coupe. He had some real adventures with the one he owned in the early 1950s.

“I had flames on it, spark plugs in the tailpipes that ran off a Model T coil,” he said. “Going down a hill, I would turn the ignition off, pull the choke out and switch it back on and that thing would shoot flames out the back 20 feet.

“I turned that car over once in a ditch. We pulled it out of the ditch, I checked the oil and the water and it fired up and ran.”

He was a young married man at the time and his wife didn’t exactly approve of such shenanigans, so the ’36 eventually was traded off for a ’50 Ford.

But that didn’t mean the fond memories of the sleek shape of the silver ’36 with the rumbling, fire-spitting tail pipes weren’t still there. So the elder Wallis, aided and abetted by his son, Alan Wallis, and grandson Jimmie Wallis, began looking for another one.

They searched in Hemmings Motor News and scoured classic car and auction websites.

“We found several of them, but this one was the closest and the most complete,” said Alan. “We just didn’t know it was missing the bottom three inches all the way around.”

The car they located in 2000 was located in Friesland, Wis., so the three generations of Wallises loaded into a pickup truck with a trailer attached and drove north to get it.

“Pops said whatever condition the car was in when he was gone, that was how I would get it, so I said, ‘Let’s get going on it,’” Alan said.

“Pops took it completely apart in his garage, right down to the frame. It was up to me to get the body done on it and Junior welded a whole new floor in it using a kit we bought from MAC’s,” said Alan. His son also had to fabricate bits and pieces for the lower door and body edges, along with the rusted transmission tunnel.

They discovered the frame was too far gone, so located an identical 1935 Ford chassis and rolled it under the body. The rear fenders had to be replaced with fiberglass reproduction pieces, also from MAC’s.

Surprisingly, the engine seemed to be in remarkable shape, new gaskets, rebuilt water pumps and a new generator being all that was required. Cliff Long tuned up the old flathead V-8 and it was installed, along with the original 3-speed transmission and rear end, in the replacement chassis.

Another friend, Joe Rock, wired the car.

“It took 12 wires to wire the whole car,” laughed Alan Wallis.

Once the considerable amount of body work was finished, the car was painted a gunmetal gray that approximates the factory color, with the paint work done by Trey Clough of Galena.

The bumpers were beyond salvaging, so they were left off the car, giving it more of a hot rod look. The grille was powder coated instead of rechromed. Staying true to the first ’36, the rebuilders installed a set of dual exhausts on their project car, but left the flamethrowers off.

Inside, a cream-colored upholstery kit was installed by Adam Brickman, with the rumble seat in the rear being redone in a matching leatherette material. When it came time to reassemble the car, Kent Minnick stepped in to help put the coupe back together.

“This was a 14-year project,” said the elder Wallis, who noted that his wife passed away just a short time before their second 1936 Ford coupe was roadworthy again.

“A lot people build cars like this to put in a garage. Dad drives it around on weekends and I’ll go get it out and drive it around whenever I can. It snaps so many heads,” grinned the youngest Wallis.

“We’re proud of it and we want people to see it,” said his grandfather. The plan is to show it off later this month at the Starbird-Devlin car show in Century II.

Reach Mike Berry at mberry@wichitaeagle.com.

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