It started out as a pipedream. The whole thing was kind of that way when it came to this car really. A 1936 Ford 3 Window Coupe had been hovering at the top of my list for decades. One day in the summer of 2018, it finally became a reality. Read the story HERE about how that car came to be in my shop.
It started here - this piece of shit had no idea what was in store for it!
But once the high of actually getting the car itself wore off, a sobering reality set in: In order for it to be what I wanted, I was going to have to make some serious shit happen. These cars are good looking in stock form, but nothing looks better than a nicely lowered, skirted and chopped 3 Window Coupe. And that is just what I wanted. But there was one big problem: I'm not the guy to be trusted with a cutoff wheel anywhere near a car like that.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not afraid to cut the roof off of something and glue it back on.. Several Model A Coupes met their fate with high and tight cuts at the hands of my friends and I. But this was no Model A, and make no mistake about it, there's no easy way to chop a '36 Ford, especially a 3 Window, which I can only liken to essentially trying to chop an egg. This is no job for a guy like me, I needed a professional.
That's me - Billy Backyard! But this ain't no '36 Ford either...
I started out talking to guys that I knew of right away, like as soon as I got the car home. These were people who I had heard of or seen on social media that I knew had the right skillset to chop this car. I talked to several guys, all of which basically told me, yes they can do it, it would cost about this much, and they could get to it in a year, maybe two. Ok. I followed up after long blocks of time as instructed, and it seemed like that "year or two" was actually a moving target. I started to get the impression that maybe you had to be part of their cliques to get "in" with some of these guys. Which would be fine, except that I wasn't a member of said cliques, and the ones I am a part of sure as shit weren't touching my car with a sawzall, despite many drunken offers to do just that...
Guys, here is the secret handshake you'll need to get in with some of these top-choppin' dudes!
Around that time, I started noticing posts from a (then) smallish shop called East Bay Speed and Custom, owned by Brandon Flaner. I took note of some really high-end cars that were coming out of this place. Not just new builds, but restoration and preservation work on extremely well-known historic cars too.
The Eddie Dye car was one of the many well-known cars I couldn't help but notice casually passing through the doors at East Bay.
At the time they had been working on a brilliantly executed period-custom that also happened to be a '36 3 Window. (owned at the time by/built for: Bryan Rusk) I can't tell you how many hours I spent pouring over pictures of that car and watching for updated posts. Right away it went to the top of my list as a sort of blueprint for how I would like my chop to look.
The Rusk Coupe.
The perfect example of a timeless custom car. And to me, the archetype for my car.
I'll be honest, I was hesitant to reach out to East Bay at first. I had already gotten a feel for how it goes when dealing with guys talented enough to do this kind of work, and I wasn't super impressed with the interactions I'd had up to this point. And as I studied what East Bay was cranking out, I began to realize that they were producing the highest quality work around. I thought if my experience up to that point had taught me anything, my inquiry would be shut down immediately, and I would be taunted and booed until their throats were sore. "Fuck it," I thought, "Probably a waste of time." And for a while, I gave up on the idea of having my car chopped at all.
Just East Bay doing East Bay stuff.
For a few months, I occupied myself with other projects and just sort of put the 3 Window on hold. It sat on rollers, pushed into the corner of my shop and patiently waited for me to come up with some sort of a solution to its big problem, a much too tall roofline. In the interim, I had done everything I could do to try to make it look as good as possible: A hammered stance, sitting low in the front, high in the rear, chrome Merc wheels and caps and wide whites. It looked a lot better, but it wasn't what I wanted long term.
Enough to get me by for a bit, but not "it."
By January of 2019, I couldn't take it anymore. Brandon and his crew at East Bay hadn't relented in their habit of kicking out top-tier work. In fact, the volume just seemed to increase. It seemed like every time I checked in on them, there was a new project being completed, a new notch in the belt, and a fresh one in the hopper. All of which were impeccably executed and finished to the highest level of craftsmanship. "Shit," I thought, "I should have gotten ahold of these guys sooner..."
Yeah, just normal East Bay shenanigans.
The final straw was the unveiling of the Bryan Rusk Coupe. As I stated previously, I had been watching that build for a long time. I knew it was something special as I watched the progress, but when I saw it completed and in paint, it was over with. I couldn't stand it another minute, I had to find out if these guys would be willing to chop my car.
Another angle of the Rusk Coupe.
It started out with a direct message on Instagram. One of probably dozens that Brandon must receive on a weekly basis. One that I figured may go unanswered, or lead nowhere. I sent it off and waited. To my surprise, I got a reply back the same day. “Yes, we can do it. Give me a call when you're ready to talk about it.” Well, shit. That was easy. And we're off to a good start. I called later that day and had the first of what would be several conversations with Brandon about how the process would go. Right away, I was impressed by his straightforwardness.
“What kind of chop are you thinking about?” He asked. It was clear that this was partly an interview on his end. Brandon is someone who takes pride in the work he does and I know he wanted to make sure I didn't want some garbage chop that he wouldn't want his name attached to. My answer though was met with instant approval. I said, “It's pretty simple: I want the same chop as the Rusk Coupe, but more of it.”
By the end of our first conversation, I had all of answers to my preliminary questions: Process, approximate cost, time frame to start, time frame for completion, etc. And I hung up the phone with a revitalized sense of optimism that this may actually happen.
A short time later, I ran into Brandon at The Grand National Roadster show. It was the first time meeting him in person and he had some fantastic cars on display. I again brought up the subject of chopping my car and to my surprise, he was just as interested in talking about it as I was. "Whenever you're ready to move forward, I will be too," he told me. Looking at the cars he had built that were on display at this show, I couldn't believe he would even want to talk about working on my bucket..
You really think the MF'ers that put these cars together are gonna call me back about working on my pile? Well, they did!
It would be a full year before the conversation got real again. This wasn't Brandon's doing, it was mostly mine. I had become caught up in a whirlwind of work projects, as well as having my '32 Coupe (The one from the story BETTER LUCKY THAN GOOD ) chopped at the same time.
This thing has been distracting me for several years. Luckily it's almost done so I can get back to good-looking cars again.
Long story short, I got overwhelmed. Throughout the process though, Brandon and I stayed in contact, and he continued to be extremely helpful and supportive. Every time we talked, he would assure me that he would do the work when I was ready. In the meantime, he gave me some homework:
-Look at photos of chopped cars that had features that I like and didn't like.
-Set the stance of the car the way it was ultimately going to sit.
-Gut the interior.
The Pierson car was at the top of my list of "chops I like."
Another shot of the completed Rusk Coupe taken by the mega-talented Stephen Brooks, @stephen_brooks_photo
And in one of our conversations, he made an offer I couldn't refuse. He said, "Why don't you come down and spend a week or so here in the shop with us. We will cut it up and set the preliminary profile the way you want it. Once you sign off on it, you can head home, leave the car here and I will finish it off."
Holy shit! There was no way I was going to pass on an offer like that. I set out to make it happen. (Full disclosure, this is not a normal offer, don't go calling these MF'ers telling 'em ol Jake said you could come work on your jalopy at their shop!)
Adjusted stance, mocked up skirts. Ready for a haircut.
I started off by dragging the thing to my friend, Darryl's shop (Schroeder Speed and Custom, here in Portland) to have a flattened rear cross member installed, along with a new spring and small C-notch. I changed the wheels and tires to 6.00-16's, added a pair of skirts and gutted the interior. And in July of 2021, I set off for East Bay to make this dream a reality. Little did I know that I was about to have an experience of a lifetime and make memories that would stick with me for years to come. For that, you'll have to tune in for part two of this story.
All loaded up - East Bay or BUST.
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