THE MOST EXPENSIVE BUMPERS EVER
Look: The world is a strange place. My world sometimes seems to be even stranger.
Good, bad, or indifferent, odd things happen to me pretty often. I have stories, lots of them. I have accumulated more than my fair share in the brief 41 years I have existed on this earth. Less than some, but certainly more than most. Odd things just take place. Good things. Bad things. Just things. Stuff is happening to and around me basically all of the time. Not just stuff, noteworthy stuff. Things that make me stand back and say "What. The. Fuck. Was. That?" after the dust settles. This was one of those things.
It started out innocently enough. The first time I laid eyes on this little coupe was about a year ago at my friend Mark's house. Mark has a pretty extensive collection of hot rods and is the type of guy that when he sees something that catches his eye, he buys it. Every once in a while, he will get bored with something and part with it. Not often, but occasionally it happens. If you're a friend of his and express interest in something, the odds of it being for sale goes up. You see, Mark is a very generous person that enjoys his friends' wins just as much as his own. A truly good person that doesn't mind using his position to help others get what they want too. In a world where everyone is trying to step on your neck to further their own purpose, Mark is the kind guy that would rather see you come out ahead too.
The first time I got close enough to it to check it out.
Now, when I first saw this car, it was stuffed all the way in the front of his massive shop and was blocked in by several cars in basically every direction. I didn't look at it closely. Partly because it was so stuffed in and hard to get close to, partly because in the vast sea of his impressive collection of cars, this was just a black '32 Ford Coupe. Now, that may sound stupid to some, given the virtually unrivaled popularity of this particular Model. But, if you've ever been lucky enough to step inside the four walls of my friend's shop and see the sheer volume of top-tier cars he has amassed, you would have a better understanding of just how a simple, black Coupe could easily be lost in the shuffle. You couldn't really get close enough to it to be struck by it anyway, it really was packed in there and the only way to get a glimpse of it was to shimmy your way through a winding ally between very closely spaced car after car, until you were basically right on top of it.
It was so underwhelming in the grand scope of the scene as a whole that there was just one thing about it that stood out to me initially: There, hanging off of either end and looking somewhat out of place were a pair of bumpers that stopped me in my tracks.
Anyone that knows me knows that my passion is 1936 Fords. To me there is no better-looking car in stock form, and no better platform for a period-custom. While the list of improvements needed to turn an already beautiful car like a '36 Ford into something tidy and refined is short and varies from car to car depending on the style of build you're after, there is one thing that seems to be a universal improvement: The addition of 1941 Ford bumpers. In my opinion, they are just about the only good-looking thing on a '41 Ford, and as it turns out, they look even better on a '36. And to be honest, they look good on just about any car.
This is the car in need of those bumpers.
I try to run these bumpers on every '36 Ford I own. I had one car though that was sorely lacking in this department, my blue 3 Window Coupe, recently chopped by East Bay Speed and Custom, which you can read about here:
EAST BAY SPEED AND CUSTOM PART 1
EAST BAY SPEED AND CUSTOM PART 2
POSTSCRIPT - EAST BAY SPEED AND CUSTOM
I had been looking for a nice pair of '41 bumpers for quite a while and was finding them to be in short supply. The only ones I was coming across were singles, or rough examples in need of re-plating, something I didn't want to do. As hard as I tried, I couldn't find a nice, matching pair of bumpers for sale. But there, in my friend's shop, was the perfect set. And the best news? I had a feeling that Mark wasn't going to keep those bumpers on that car. I decided to test my theory:
"Hey, you're not going to keep these ugly-ass bumpers on this nice '32 Coupe, are you??" Mark's answer confirmed my suspicions, "Hell no, I was going to put stock ones on it, or just run no bumpers. You want those? When the weather cooperates, we'll dig this thing out and you can pull those bitches off and take them."
And that's just how it went. For the next six months or so, I just kind of filed it away in the "We'll deal with that later" pile and moved on with life. I wasn't in a hurry, the car that the bumpers were slated for was at the upholstery shop anyway, with no foreseeable completion date. Every third or so time I'd see Mark, he would say something like, "We'll get that car out one of these days so you can yank your bumpers off of it." And that was good enough for me.
One day though, while texting back and forth with Mark, he said something that caught my attention. I don't remember exactly how it went, but the short version was that the little black Coupe with a certain pair of chrome accessories mounted to it may be available. I was curious, so I asked what he thought it was worth. His answer was kind of what I was expecting, if not a little higher than what I thought it was worth myself. All moot to me, I was not in the market for another '32 3 Window, I was more focused on completing the one I already had, the car from the story, "Better Lucky Than Good."
The in-progress "Better Lucky Than Good" car.
For several months he would occasionally mention the black Coupe. Sometimes in the context of it being for sale, other times saying that he had plans to make some improvements to it. He flip-flopped on that car a dozen or more times, trying to figure out what to do with it. For me, it was just entertainment, and I would send him photos of similar cars with different things done to them. At one point, he talked about putting a freshly-built Ardun motor he had laying around (yes, I know) in the car, something I was a huge proponent of, mostly so I could live vicariously through my friend.
At one point, Mark sent me some photos of the car from when he bought it. I had never seen a full side profile of it before, I had only viewed it from afar in his shop. "Damn." I thought, "That really has a nice look to it." But still, I wasn't in the market and only commented jokingly a few times how it would look better in my shop than in his.. In one of the conversations, he mentioned a roundabout number that was a revised/lower one than what he had mentioned in previous conversations. It was more in line with what I thought it was worth, but still just a pipedream for a guy like me.
Somewhere along the way, Mark mentioned that he was potentially putting together a deal that involved a partial trade, resulting in the 3 Window going away. "Don't worry, I told him the bumpers didn't go with the damn thing!" I just kind of chuckled. I wasn't too worried about that and had only briefly entertained the idea of selling something off to try to get my hands on the car. I could tell that he hadn't totally fallen in love with the thing yet and one of two things was going to happen:
1) He would sell or trade the car to someone, in which case, he would let me pull the bumpers off.
2) The car would stay and receive an Ardun motor, in which case, I would still get to pull the bumpers, but would also get to be around a really bitchin car.
There was no third option at this point. But one day, that all changed.......
My friend, Robbie and I buy a lot of cars from Mark. Remember at the beginning of this story I mentioned that he would occasionally cut loose of one or two here and there? Well usually when he did, he would call us. Robbie and I would either buy them, or in some cases just take them to sell on Mark's behalf. In the situations where we were buying, we would usually be putting together a deal on multiple cars at a time, at bulk pricing that was always more than fair. Sometimes I would buy something, sometimes Robbie would buy something, sometimes we would buy one or more together, and sometimes we would just go grab a car or two to sell off. The point being, when Mark decides he wants something gone, it's going away no matter what.
Robbie had made a deal on a '32 Ford Roadster that Mark had. This was a really bitchin car with old, checked black lacquer paint, a hot Small Block Chevy and just the right look to it. It was a long-time hot rod that in the 90's received some updates at Brizios, so it looked the part of an old, weathered hot rod, which it was, but also drove exceptionally well. Really a neat car!
The day came to pick up Robbie's Roadster. He had asked if I would hitch up my trailer and drag it home for him, as it hadn't been driven for quite a long time, and while it would likely make it just fine, he would rather tow it to his shop and give it a thorough once-over before hitting the streets in it. I told him no problem and the next day, we came idling up Mark's driveway, trailer in tow, ready to pick up a killer old hot rod.
Now, this Roadster was in a similar position as the Coupe was: It too was blocked in in all directions and required a substantial amount of digging to get to. One by one, we moved car after car out of the way. Luckily all of Mark's stuff is nice and unlike the bullshit I own or would typically be buying, his shit actually starts up and runs reliably, making it just a matter of hopping in and carefully squeezing them by the others. The worst offenders needed a jump due to not being driven, that's about it. We pulled them out, one at a time and put them outside, leaving each one running to warm up/charge up, until we had a vast sea of hot rods idling in stereo on the asphalt in front of his shop.
We get Robbie's Roadster outside and are looking it over. It's a super bitchin car! I was walking around it, telling Robbie about how he probably didn't need it and that I could just tow it to my house instead. You know, the usual. We fire it up and it runs really well, so we take turns driving it around the block before we load it up and it actually drives great.
The car we came for..
So, I have my trailer at the end of the driveway, ramps out, ready to go. We're just getting ready to load up the Roadster and start moving the pack of still running hot rods back into the shop when I notice something: The black Coupe is now just a car away from being freed from the spot it had been hibernating in too...
"Hey Mark, this thing is so close to being unblocked, what do you think about moving this one too, that way I can roll the Coupe back and take the bumpers off?"
And this is where it really started to go off the rails:
Mark said, "We could do that. But I think if we dig it out, you should just take it with you."
Confused, I replied, "Oh, you want me to take it and sell it? Are you not keeping it after all?"
My question was met with a half shrug and dismissive facial expression. "I'd sell it. I mean, where it is right now is where I parked it when it was delivered to me, I haven't even driven the thing."
This was all very unexpected, so while my brain is trying its best to catch up, I'm asking questions. "If you sold it, what do you need for it?"
I could tell Mark was trying to get the hamster back on the wheel too, he was probably trying to remember what he had paid for it when he bought it.. Whether he could remember that number or not, he finally blurted out, "Well, it depends, do you want it?"
By this point, I could sort of see this vision of like a single flake of snow hitting the ground, and then by some unknown method, morphing into a ball that was about to start rolling downhill, fast.. As I'm computing this chaos, I'm trying to remember the range of numbers he had associated with this car in previous conversations, all of which were out of my comfort zone by a long ways.
"I will treat you very fair if you want the car for yourself, I know you really like it."
Now, this was a true statement, I did sort of fall for the thing when I had seen the photos Mark had sent me in text messages. But I kind of fell in love with it the way you would an attractive celebrity, with a sense of reality-based detachment that comes with knowing that you live in two different worlds that will never intersect. In short, I had put about as much serious thought into owning that car as I had about going on a date with Scarlett Johansson.
Feeling my palms start to sweat, I made my way to it to give it a closer look. It really was a nice car. It was a straight as an arrow, with only a few minor blemishes in the paint, which was a deep, black lacquer and had obviously been on the car for decades. The few imperfections here and there were just enough to prove its age and give it a little character.
I pop one side of the hood to find a tidy 59AB flathead in full dress with Weiand heads, a Tattersfield intake with a pair of 97's sitting on top of it, headers, the usual. It had also been converted to 12V and fired (once we got fuel to it) like you were flipping a light switch on. In addition to the '41 bumpers, I noted a dropped headlight bar with BLC's, a filled grill shell, molded door hinges, '41 Chevy tail lights, and 25-louver hood sides and louvered hood tops. The stance was killer thanks to a chromed dropped axle and reverse eye springs front and rear. The interior was also perfect and looked like it had recently been redone. The more I looked, the more I liked it.
Finally, I walk back to Mark and say, "Ok, what would you like to do? You want me to take the car and sell it? What do you need for it?" His response was swift and to the point. He said, "Take it home. If you just sell it, I want $X, if you want it to keep, to you, the price is $X."
The first "X" was the previously stated number that Mark had mentioned in earlier conversations about the car. But the "to you X" was, well, substantially less than that.. It wasn't free by any stretch, it was still a lot of money for a guy like me, but it was definitely an offer that was designed to make me want to keep the car. It was also far less than what the car was worth. Not really knowing what to say, standing there with my eyes as wide as saucers, I just said, "Oh, shit."
Mark just smirked and said "Hey, no big deal to me, do what you want. But I know you like the car and if you want it, you should have it. Either way, just take it now and we'll figure it out later."
Spotting my bewilderment from across the shop, Robbie walked over to see what was going on. He asked, "What's the deal now?" and when I was able to force the basics out, his eyes got as big as mine. He didn't stand there in a trance like I was though, he offered a very to the point piece of advice instead. He looked me straight in the eye and said sternly, "Load the fucking car up right now." Already sensing the rebuttal I was forming, before I even finished the breath I was taking to prepare for my speech about how I shouldn't buy anything and how it's a bad idea, he simply said, "Put it on the trailer, you have to. That's a crazy deal, you have no choice." He went on to put the nail in the coffin with, "It could be two years before this car is unblocked again. If you want it, you can't think about it, just load it up and figure the rest out later." He was right.
So now the dilemma was that we were miles from home with one trailer and now two cars to take with us. It was also 30 degrees and about to start getting dark. I said to Robbie, "Load your car, I will take it to your house and drop it off, then I'll come back and get the Coupe." It seemed like a good plan to me, but Robbie shrugged it off: "Nah, the Roadster seems to run fine, I'll just drive it home. Load your Coupe." After a little back and forth and further assurances from Robbie that it would be fine, we shifted focus. I loaded the Coupe, while Robbie topped off the fluids on the Roadster, kicked its tires and gave it the "it should be fine" shake, grabbing it by the body and shoving it around with a hopeful and approving look.
And just like that, we headed down the mountain just as the sun was setting, the temperature rapidly dropping. We weren't smart enough to put the top on the Roadster before taking off, so Robbie fought his beanie in the 60mph winter wind all the way down the highway. I'd be lying if I said I didn't find it slightly amusing.....
The whole way home, I'm going over the options in my head: Sell the car, keep the car, do this, do that... It's all running through my mind a thousand miles an hour. By the time I made it back, I had convinced myself that I should sell my other '32 Coupe and keep this one instead. Yep, that was the big plan. I'd sell the one I already had, which was a project, but still worth about enough to pay for this shiny black one, thanks to the nice deal I was offered. Great! A perfectly reasonable plan. I thought.
Bye bye, bumpers.
While on my way home, I had gotten a call from another good friend of mine, Alex. I've known Alex for more than twenty years, he is a fantastic person, a great friend, and someone I don't get to see often enough. It just so happened that he and his family were going to be passing through my area on their way home from a day on the mountain. He asked if it would be alright if they stopped by to say hi real quick, to which I happily agreed.
I pull in, back up to the shop and open the door. Just then Alex and his family pull up. They get out, and we're just chatting and walking through the shop. Before long, my wife, Marissa comes out to greet them as well. She knew I was out doing car stuff all day and when I left, I told her what I was planning to do: Haul a '32 Roadster home for Robbie.
'41 Ford bumpers really do make any car look better...
So, we visit for a while and before long Alex decides its time to start heading back. He and his wife load up their two daughters and hop in their truck. Of course, we do the thing where even though they're "leaving," we stand at the door of the running truck and talk for another ten minutes or so. Right about then, my wife, finally realizing that there is a car on my trailer, stops mid conversation and says to me, "What the hell is this? Did you buy this?" and just like that, Alex gave me the "Welp, see ya" look, dumped it in gear and took off, he and his wife laughing out loud all the way down my driveway. "Good luck, buddy" was the last thing I heard.
I turn to her, she has her arms crossed and this smile on her face that says, "Alright, what did you do this time?"
Now, something to know about Marissa is that she really doesn't care what I do with this whole car thing. I understand that most men have to have these pitiful conversations where they're pleading with their better half to let them buy something or do something, my life just isn't that way. Marissa has never discouraged me, not once, from buying something I want. Partly because she wants me to be happy, and she knows that these old cars are what does that for me, and partly because she knows if I buy something for $10k, it's because it is worth $15k. I also don't intermingle the "household" money with "hot rod" money. If I want something, I hustle on the side for it, buying and selling cars, hot rods and parts, whatever it takes. I've always done it this way and it has so far worked seamlessly. I highly recommend this system! All of that said, she does still give me a hard time in sort of a "haha" way, more laughing at my inability to control my old car addiction than anything else. She finds it amusing, but not annoying.
That escalated quickly...
So we're standing there in front of the shop and I'm trying to explain how this all happened and how a simple thing like helping a friend haul a car turned into buying something and dragging it home.
She asked, "Don't you already have one of these?" It was a valid question, asked with a hint of "What do you think it wrong with you?" thinly disguised in her voice.
I explained that I did, but that this one was much nicer and that I will probably sell the one I had and keep this one instead. Now her face turned to confusion.
Her: "Wait, the chopped one? With the Hemi in it?"
Her: "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Why would you sell something that you've been working on for years and have spent all this time and effort to make it exactly what you want?"
Me: "Well, this is just a different type of car, it's nice. The other one is just a pile of shit with a chop on it."
Her: "No. That's dumb. You're going to flush years of work down the toilet, for what? Because this one is shinier? That's wrong, you're doing it wrong. Keep this one if you want, but don't sell the other one. Don't be an idiot."
Ok, maybe she was right...
Now, this is most hot rodder's wet dream and I understand that: Your significant other telling you to add to the pile, rather than slim it down may be unheard of and our collective fantasy as car guys, but in this case, it was quickly giving me an ulcer.. Now I have to figure out how to keep all of this shit? I'm adding up the money in my hot rod fund, and then the pile of things I had laying around to sell, and I was, um, let's say, coming up a bit short!
Luckily, Mark was not in any kind of hurry for me to make a decision about what to do, and after several conversations, all of which centered around him telling me I should keep the car, we came up with a plan. And just like that, I made a deal to buy the most expensive set of 1941 Ford bumpers ever.
SPEAKING OF WHICH: The first thing I did when I got the car into my shop was pull the bumpers off. I couldn't wait to get those things off of that black car and onto my '36 Coupe. So, I yanked them off, stood back to have a look, aaaaaand...... was very disappointed. As I sat there looking at the now bumper-less '32, I realized that now it just looked like a black '32 Ford Coupe. It was as if it lost some of its charm.
I tried to compromise with just a rear bumper only. It didn't work.
I tried like crazy to fall in love with it. I even mocked up some stock '32 bumpers and stared at it. No matter what I did, or what angle I looked at it from, there was no denying it: Quirky or not, that car needed those '41 Ford bumpers. So, after much debate, I begrudgingly reinstalled them. Once I did, it instantly went back to being the sort of "gentleman's hot rod" with an odd charisma that I had fallen in love with when I first saw it.
So in the end, my '36 is still wearing its stock bumpers, the black car got the ones it came with back, and I'm STILL on the hunt for a nice pair off of '41 Ford. How's that for full circle?
The bumpers back on.
And to think, all I wanted to do was help my buddy haul a car....
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