What? You say. That doesn’t look like a foreign car. It looks like a ’36 Ford 3-window coupe, made in America. To be quite honest, I don’t know where this particular ’36 Ford was made, or much of its backstory. But, like any vintage Ford follower, I do know that–just to keep up with incredible demand–Henry built stamping and assembly plants not only in several locations in the U.S., but in far-flung places around the globe, including England, Germany, South America, and Australia. Some of the cars built in these foreign plants looked like their American counterparts; some were slightly different; others completely different. But that’s not the real subject here.
The beautiful, traditional, mild custom ’36 Ford coupe you see here, in perfectly straight, smooth, and fitted Henry Ford bare sheetmetal, was painstakingly rebuilt in this form in Auckland, New Zealand. I’m sure most of you have never seen it, so I am very happy to present it here. These photos were recently sent to me by Greg Stokes, regular reader and owner of GMS Hot Rods in Auckland, NZ. And what you see is actually its second rebuild, in what both Greg and the car’s owner, Tania Foster, consider not quite finished form. Let me relay some of the information Greg furnished me.
This period-perfect 3-window was the last in a line of rods and customs built by Tania’s late husband, Steve Foster, who succumbed to cancer in 2013. Steve was a noted pinstriper and sign-writer–an artist. As Tania described, “He had an incredible eye for stance and style.” To build this ’36 with its LaSalle grille, he studied the quintessential Calori and Pearson cars (both, coincidentallly, restored in the U.S. by Bill Ganahl), as well as the more-recent Jon Fisher, Cole Foster (Metallica), and John Mearns versions. You will note some differences, but also the correct pieces and perfect lines.
Further states Tania, “The car was completed with much support of his family and friends, as well as fellow members of the Midwest Street Rods. He went for a ride and drive in it a few days before his passing.” It was in bare metal and unupholstered at that point, and the car’s future was uncertain.
But, as Greg says, “Then Tania stepped up and got respected NZ upholsterer Ian Goodwin (sort of like our Sid Chavers), to trim it in traditional green rolls and pleats to Steve’s wishes, to match the ’40 dash and Crestliner wheel. The 291-in. DeSoto Hemi with four 97s, S-10 T5 trans, SoCal dropped I-beam on an original ’36 wishbone, and a triangulated
rear 4-bar with QA-1 coil-overs were all in place and dialed-in. So then Tania had a clear coat sprayed over the bare metal, and proceeded to “Drive the wheels off it and show it in Steve’s memory.” The only problem, as Greg points out, is that “Unfortunately the cool and wet climate of New Zealand is obviously harsh on bare metal cars. So the clear coat was beginning to ‘spider rust.'” Plus they knew a bit more panel fit and finish was in order.
So Tania got together with Greg at GMS, and proceeded to tear the car down once again and strip each piece to clean bare metal. “Of course,” Greg says, “Every panel needed
further massaging. And as you know, when you’re in this deep, then you gotta keep going.” Right.
Fortunately they hooked up with Mark McAlpine of Alpine Panel Beaters [that’s what metalmen are called over there], who proceeded to flawlessly finish and fit each body panel, getting the car reassembled in bare metal just in time for Auckland’s big Grand National Rod & Custom Show this year, as you see in these photos. Greg continues, “This style of car here in New Zealand is the exception, not the rule. So it’s always been an intriguing and appealing car from its LaSalle grille, lowered headlights, 4-carb Hemi, to the Forty dash and Crestliner wheel.”
Further, “Should Tania have painted it a color? Maybe and maybe not. It’s her car and her reasons are clear. For starters, she loves the Deco styling of the ’36 Ford coupe and
loves the bare metal appearance. Closer to her heart, she loves the identity the car has and the way it pays tribute to Steve.” At this point she intends to clear-coat it again, and “This time around much care and consideration will be taken in its use. But using it is something Tania loves doing. It rides and drives and steers and stops as beautiful as it looks.” Just don’t be looking for it at the usual U.S. rod runs or car shows, nor in our remaining magazines or other websites. Tania will be happily cruising the mountain and shoreline highways of the beautiful New Zealand North Island. Yes, a foreign country thousands of miles away. And we thank Greg Stokes for this exclusive report on this beautiful expatriate custom car.