custom cars

November 2, 2013

Westergard classic 36 Ford




One of the finest Harry Westergard build early style custom cars is Jack Odbert’s 1936 Ford convertible.

When I was about 20 years, I first saw a photo of Jack Odbert 1936 Ford convertible in the Best Hot Rods booklet (published by Facett Books in 1952). I totally fell in love with this one photo, that was shown in the chapter: “Album of Best Hot Rods”. The car reminded me of the bright yellow and white 1936 Ford, that Possies Hot Rod shop had built in the early 1980’s. The Best Hot Rods booklet listed Jack Odbert from Sacramento, California as the owner. But the name of the builder was not mentioned.

CCC-Westergard-Jack-Odbert-36-051952 photo of Jack’s 1936, shows the wonderful speedboat stance of the car. It also shows how all the custom elements on the front of the car work together to create an unique classic look.


Many years later I found a copy of the 1957 Trend Books Custom Cars annual, and in this there was a small article called: “Remember when”. In this article, two more photos of this stunning 1936 Ford convertible were shown. The car had been build by the Granddaddy of Early Customizing: Harry Westergard. Something I had already assumed, but now it was confirmed. This 1957 Annual showed a dead on front and rear photo. Both new photos showed this was a very well designed, and grafted 1936 Ford Custom Car.

CCC-Westergard-Jack-Odbert-36-01The 1941 Oldsmobile bumpers have a lot more body than the original Ford bumpers. These new bumpers fit close to the body, and the stock cut out at the center fits the LaSalle grille perfectly. The long over-riders give the front extra height.


CCC-Westergard-Jack-Odbert-36-02The Oldsmobile rear bumpers are perfect for the back as well where the heavy end sections flow well with the Fords fenders. The chrome surround on the set in license plate help with the classic feel of the car.


Recently, perhaps a year or so ago, I came across a copy of the July 1984 issue of Classic & Custom magazine. This magazine has a two page article on Harry Westergard, and shows a few photos of the custom cars he created. And two of the photos show Jack’s 1936 Ford indoors. One nice front 3/4 view, and one partly shot from high up, inside a car dealer showroom in Sacramento, where a small Hot Rod and Custom Car show was held.

CCC-Westergard-Jack-Odbert-36-03Overview photo of the Sacramento Chevrolet dealer showroom. In 1950 there was a small Custom car and Hot Rod show, and in this photo we can already see 4 or 5 padded topped customs. At least three of them can be identified as Westergard Customs.


As far as we have found out, there has never been a real proper feature done on Jack Odbert’s ’36 Ford, not back in the day, and not recently. In fact I have never even seen any other photos of the car, other than the ones shown here in this article. We have not been able to get in contact with anybody who knows what ever happened with the car, or knew Jack Odbert or his car. To me Jack’s Ford is one of the best ever Harry Westergard customs. The classic thin, high nose, padded topped convertible, looks so much more classic, and expensive than the original Ford it was based on, ever looked.

Bryan Rusk shared this snapshot of the ’36 Ford Cabriolet from the Donovan Welch Collection. 


We also do not know exactly when the car was built. Some of the looks indicate the car might have been just after WWII. The earliest photo we have seen of it is however from 1950, when it was photographed at a local Chevrolet dealer showroom car show in Sacramento. The newest parts we can find on the car, are from 1947.

CCC-Westergard-Jack-Odbert-36-04This photo was also taken at the Sacramento Chevrolet dealer. It shows the car with 1950 black letters on yellow plates. It also appears that the skirts have been decorated with 1941 Buick trim pieces. Note that the small diameter spotlights are pointing forward.


Lets take a closer look at the customizing Harry Westergard performed on this car.
Larry chopped the windshield frame, and had a padded top made for it. Most likely done by the Hall Top Shop. Harry removed the stock grille, reshaped the opening to accept a 1937 LaSalle grille. The grille looks like it was made for the car. Even the bull nose, and chrome trim on top of the hood looks so perfect with the grille. Harry added some unidentified – longer than stock – headlights, and modeled them half way into the front fenders. This in combination with the tall, and narrow LaSalle rille, gave the illusion that the hood is now much higher than it originally was.

New smooth hood sides replace the original louvered units. The former small grilles on the horn openings in the front fender were reshaped to accept 1947 Ford parking lights. The stock bumpers were replaced by 1941 Oldsmobile units. These bumpers have a wonderful Art Deco look, and the thick end sections fit the Ford fenders perfectly. Harry kept the tall bumper guards which fit perfectly with the LaSalle grille up front.

At the back, the stock taillights were removed, and replaced with what appear to be low mounted 1946-48 Ford units, or perhaps 1940 Chevy units. The rear panels below the trunk were modified to accept a set in license plate, which was detailed with a chrome plated surround. This surround echoes the shape of the mail slot window in the padded top. The suspension was lowered bit for the perfect ride hight, and set of black wall tires were detailed with Sombrero look alike, after market hubcaps.
Harry added spotlights, but smaller than the regular Appleton S-122 or S-522’s. He also shaved all the handles from the body, and most likely installed electric door openings.

Sadly, we do not know the color of the car, it must have been a medium color, perhaps metallic. Hopefully this article will generate some more talks about this car, and hopefully some of the older enthusiasts know more about it. If we do find out more, we will add it to this article.

Resources and more info

  • Best Hot Rods, Facett Books 1952
  • Custom Cars annual 1957, Trend Books
  • Classic & Custom magazine, July 1984





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About the Author

Rik Hoving
Rik is the CCC editor in chief. As a custom car historian he is researching custom car history for many years. In 2004 he started the Custom Car Photo Archive that has become a place of joy for many custom car enthousiasts. Here at CCC Rik will bring you inspiring articles on the history of custom cars and builders. Like a true photo detective he will show us what's going on in all those amazing photos. He will write stories about everything you want to know in the realm of customizing. In daily life Rik is a Graphic Designer. He is married to the CCC webmaster and the father of a 10 year old son (they are both very happy with his excellent cooking skills)


One Comment

  1. yes i hope this article will generate infos on this superb 36 ! the front end is so nice and well balanced ! the lasalle grille really looks stocks !! amazing ! thanks for sharing Rik

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