When you sit back and dream of building something no one else has, what kind of car do you come up with? In the street rod aftermarket, the choices are a bit more limited, as there are many types of cars already on the market with companies waiting to give you a deal on what they have to offer.
Unique Motorcars, owned by brothers Maurice and Alan Weaver and located in Gadsden, Alabama, has been building its version of a Cobra-type roadster since the company was founded in the late '70s. Still going strong today with those same cars, the Weavers decided a couple of years ago to expand their operation by adding a new model to their lineup: a street rod.
But which one should they build? Perhaps create another '32 roadster in an already overcrowded market? Not likely. But having a fondness for '36 Ford's elegant lines and knowing many folks want to have the option of having a roof or not, the Weavers decided to build a car that no one has done since Henry did it back then: a '36 Ford cabriolet. As the Weavers soon found out, building a car as complicated as a '36 cabrio from scratch was no easy task, and when you add their high standard of build quality, you can see why the project took a couple of years to get from the drawing board to the open highway.
The Weavers had first restored an original '36 cabrio for a friend and then made their molds from it, modifying Ford's design only where you couldn't tell (adding a welded metal plate inside the windshield frame for added strength, replacing the original wood reinforcement with laser-cut steel tubing, etc.). The result was a body that looks so good right out of the mold that at a short distance some folks think the glossy gelcoat finish is actually a painted car!
The Weavers have an enormous amount of pride in the cars they build, a fact not lost on Bruce Bunn, a body and paint man from McDonough, Georgia. Bruce has worked with the Weavers for several years painting and selling Unique's other roadsters, but when they mentioned they might be gearing up to manufacture a '36 cabriolet, he said he wanted one. Bruce also owns a Brookville '32 roadster, a '66 Cobra replicar (from Unique Motorcars), a '35 Ford truck, a '37 Chevy truck, and even a '46 rat rod truck (a vehicle he believes everyone should own), but Unique's '36 struck a chord with him. As it turned out, Bruce's cabrio would be the first one the Weavers would offer for sale-numero uno.
Bunn had a few ideas of how he wanted to finish the car, so after he purchased a rolling chassis from Fatman Fabrications (though Unique offers a complete '36 chassis, too), he went to town building his car his way. He knew he wanted a classic street rod look because he felt something built with trendy parts would soon be out of fashion, and he wanted his car to last.
Bunn ordered his chassis with a Ford 9-inch rear outfitted with disc brakes and a Mustang II setup in front equipped with a set of Wilwood discs. Boyd Coddington 15- and 17-inch wheels shod in Goodyear Eagle rubber (195/60R15 and 235/65R17), make the chassis a roller, to which he bolted down the 'glass '36 body that Unique sells separate for just under $15,000.
Friends with the folks who run Southern Automotive (Bill and Susan Parham), Bruce decided on one of their 351 Windsor V-8s backed to an AOD transmission. The motor utilizes Edelbrock components for performance enhancement (aluminum heads, intake manifold, carb, etc.), as well as Flowmaster mufflers and Ford Motorsport headers. Unique offers its '36 with an optional hood, fender, and running-board package (for about $3,000), which is what Bruce ordered and assembled. The hood sides are actually steel, and come from Rootlieb. (Some folks who have original steel fenders or hoods have used those items to assemble their Unique '36s, as they'll fit without any problem). Another Unique option is the stainless steel top kit, and it comes with all the wood bows, too, so you can have a working, folding top. Bruce also picked up one of those and, being in the paint and body business (Jodeco Auto Body), did all the required bodywork before spraying the car in two-tone PPG-black on top, silver down below.
The color combination carries over into the interior, as gray and black is used on the dash and door panels. The smoothed dash is fitted with a set of six Classic Instrument gauges, and vents for the Vintage Air A/C system are located at each end. Paul Atkins used gray leather on the bench/bucket seat and gray wool carpet to cover the floor. Bunn also used a polished aluminum banjo steering wheel and ididit column, and finished off the interior with a shifter and an aluminum e-brake handle from Lokar.
Being the first one to have his own '36 cabriolet, you'd think Bruce might have had some problems with the build, but he didn't. The Unique package was everything he had hoped for when he first heard about it, and it lived up to his expectations. And though he's recently found a new love for rat rod vintage trucks (he builds and sells 'em out of his shop), he still finds time to cruise his cabrio all over town whenever he can. Bruce wants to enjoy his new '36 as much as possible (he's already racked up 1,200 miles on it), but he plans to build another one soon. Now that's a satisfied customer!
The Unique '36's dash closely...
The Unique '36's dash closely follows the shape of the original Ford design. Bruce chose to fill his dash with six Classic Instrument gauges as well as two vents (one at each end) for the Vintage Air HVAC system. A Juliano banjo steering wheel attaches to an ididit column, while Lokar provided both the shifter and the aluminum e-brake handle.
A 351 Windsor is the base...
A 351 Windsor is the base for the Bunn's powerplant, which was hopped up with Edelbrock equipment (manifold, carb, aluminum heads, etc.), as well as an ignition system from MSD and headers from Ford Motorsport. The small-block is mated to an AOD transmission, with power running to a Ford 9-inch rear (3.50:1).
Bruce's cabrio rolls on a...
Bruce's cabrio rolls on a 15- and 17-inch wheel combo wrapped in Goodyear eagle rubber. Owning his own auto body repair shop, Bruce is also responsible for the bodywork and PPG paint on his ride.
For a perfect fit, all Unique's...
For a perfect fit, all Unique's '36 bodies start life in the company's body jig. Both the body molds and jig took years to perfect, but Unique Motorcars is confident in what they've produced and are now offering these bodies to the public. Their 'glasswork is so good some folks are fooled when they see the bodies just in gelcoat-it looks like a painted car!