Something Blue – Diana Clise’s ’36 Ford Roadster was the Ultimate Anniversary Gift
When it comes to anniversary traditions, we know that 25 years marks something silver, and in the rare celebration of 50 years, gold comes into the equation. However, we had no idea that 30 years means a street rod! At least that’s what Jeff Clise decided to do for his wife, Diana, on their 30th anniversary, which we think was an excellent plan.
Jeff still owns a ’69 Dodge Charger R/T that he drove back in high school. Unlike most of us, he had the forethought to put the R/T in storage rather than sell it when he focused on building a business, career, and family. About 10 years ago he brought it out of storage and had his old school chum Ray Bartlett, who owns The East Coast Hot Rod Garage, bring it up to modern muscle car standards.
Jeff and Diana were thoroughly enjoying driving the Charger again and taking it to shows, which got Jeff thinking. Once again, showing great foresight, he concluded it would be neat for Diana to have her own car to cruise and enjoy. Once again, he reached out to Ray to see what he had available to build.
As luck would have it, Ray had recently secured a ’36 Ford roadster from a local man who happened to stop in the shop to see if they’d have any interest in buying his stalled project. Naturally, Ray was skeptical about it being a legitimate roadster, let alone a real deal in the first place, but it was worth a look. Surprisingly, the older man presented Ray with an all-steel roadster project car, which he had owned since 1963, and had stored in his basement garage. A deal was struck.
Jeff knew the ’36 would be ideal for Diana, so the East Coast Hot Rod Garage team set about the build. The fenders and much of the body remained mostly stock, but a little more focus was given to the rear of the car. The rumble seat was removed and a custom deck lid, modeled after a ’39 Ford was created, along with an entire truck area. Once the original sheet metal was smoothed, Jason Lester laid down the beautiful “Applegate Blue” paint. The official name of the PPG Envirobase color is close to Daytona or Diplomat blue, but Ray adopted the Applegate name from the color of the ’41 Willys belonging to his pal Dick Applegate, who passed away a couple years ago.
To provide some shade, the original top bows were chopped about 3-inches and reassembled to provide a classic look and shapely profile. The assembly is covered in Hartz Cloth, a durable and classic-looking material commonly used by Mercedes Benz. A set of side window panels was also crafted and is now stored in the roadster just in case some foul weather rolls through when Diana is out cruising.
One thing Jeff required of the build was using a Ford engine, so a Boss 302 making 345 horsepower was called into action. The stout small block was spiffed up with an Edelbrock intake and carb along with an MSD Ready-to-Run Distributor to handle the spark and timing changes. Sanderson headers lead to a stainless-steel exhaust that flows past an AOD trans with a comfortable overdrive for cruising.
The blue oval drivetrain sits securely in a chassis from Precision Fabrication. A Flaming River power rack is mated to a Heidt’s Superide front suspension along with that company’s trick independent rear suspension. This combination produces a smooth, predictable ride which is perfect for weekend back-road cruises. A four-wheel disc brake setup provides even braking action and rolling stock consists of a set of 16×7- and 17×8-inch Wheel Vintiques wheels shot in body color and wrapped in Diamondback tread.
The vintage-flavored interior features a widened factory dash along with a hand-crafted lower dash to house the Vintage Air controls and vents. Instrumentation is handled by a set of Classic Instruments’ Hot Rod Series gauges and a ’40 steering wheel caps off the Flaming River steering column. Dean Alexander was tasked with covering the modified Glide seat frames and side panels with a tasteful dark brown vinyl.
To say that Diana was happy about her new roadster is an understatement. Since its completion the roadster has been named the Pigeon Forge Street Rod of the Year and a Goodguys Top 5 Street Rod of the Year. She and Jeff take it to a number of shows and enjoy the occasional weekend cruise. We also learned that the couple is working with The East Coast Hot Rod Garage on yet another build, this time a ’39 convertible. This one will also be powered by a Ford in the modern form of a supercharged Coyote! We’re looking forward to that one at an event next year.
Photos by John Jackson