Custom History

April 11, 2018

Channeled 36 Ford




Another Mystery Custom is this channeled 36 Ford that probably was restyled by Don Clark. The car has been owned for over 30 years by Doug Hall, and it now in the 3 Dog Museum in Pennsylvania.

This is one of those cars they has been on my mind for a very long time. It clearly is an old Custom Car that was either done in the 1940’s or in the early 1950’s. It is best known from the time it was owned by Doug Hall who drove it around for over 30 years in California and showed it at Paso Robles and other well known Car Shows in the 80’s and 90’s. I have been trying to find out as much info on this one as I could, but most people I asked about the car, do recognize it, have seen it in person, but do not know anything about its history… another mystery custom.

So this is not a complete story… and hopefully with the help of the Custom Car Chronicle readers we will be able to find some more puzzle pieces in the history of this Custom ’36 Ford.

The ’36 Ford with ’40 Ford front end how it looked in the early 1990’s.


At the rear we can see the removal of the character-line that extended from the original belt-line, how the rear fenders were molded to the body, and the use of 1940 Ford bumpers and 38-39 Ford teardrop taillights.


I first learned about this Custom convertible in the 1990’s, when it was owned by Custom Car enthusiast Doug Hall who owned the car for many years. He drove the car to many California Car Shows in the 1980’s and 90’s, and I had seen it in a few of the magazine features on the shows he drove the car to. To me the car had this beautiful, 1940’s look painted metallic copper orange with white padded top, white wall tires and what appear to be home made large size single bar flipper hubcaps. The car had that nice kind of rough look to it, the pure feeling that those early Customs have. With the sectioned ’40 Ford front end, the removal of the “delicate” ’36 Ford belt line, which made the body sides look more aggressive. Not much was mentioned about the car in the publication I saw it in, only that it was an older custom.

A couple of years later I came across a old photo of a the car in the Don Montgomery book Hot Rods as they were. The car’s features are so distinctive that this must be the same car in the photo provided by Dr. Bob Atol. The photo caption in the Montgomery book did sadly not mention anything about who owned it, or who had created it. Then later I came across a photo of the car in the Spring 1963 issue of Popular Customs magazine. The car has changed a little since the early 1950’s photos, but was still very recognizable. The photo in the Popular Customs magazine showed two show signs with the car, and most likely these would mention the owner at the time, and perhaps even the builder, but sadly I have not been able to read any of the the text on the signs.

The best info on the Ford Custom o far comes from the 2012 published book East vs West Showdown book done by Joseph Alig & Stephen “Spike” Kilmer. In the book it was mentioned that Dr. Robert Atol (the same person who provided the early 1950’s photo for the Don Montgomery book) knew the car very well, had driven in it many times and was good friends with the guy who build the car in the early 1950’s.

According to the book the car was built by Don Clarke a perfectionist from the Pasadena Ca. area. He created the car for his own personal use are regular car. And he later sold it when he moved on to another passion.

The Early versions

The earliest photo we have been able to find of the ’36 Ford is this one from Dr. Bob Atol, used in the Don Montgomery book “Hot Rods as they were”. It shows that the car around 1952-53, was sitting on motor cycle front tires, had no louvers in the sectioned hood, used a ’40 Oldsmobile bumper with what appear to be ’46-48 Chevy bumper-guards, a dark color painted lower hood section, which continues on the two side grilles. the car had small size spotlights mounted on the A-pillars. Sadly the photo caption did not say much of the car, or who owned it, and created it.


About the Restyling.

The car started live as an 1936 Ford Convertible, or Cabriolet. The body was channeled over the frame, and the body top section was cut off at the belt-line. The top of the cut down doors were reshaped and rolled to become the new, much lower top of the doors. The top hinge had to be moved down a few inches. The rear quarter panel tops were reshaped and the trunk metal welded in the new lower position. The character line from the belt-line all the way to the back of the car was eliminated in the process. The complete front of the car was removed and the cowl, hood and front fenders of an 1940 Ford were crafted on. The cowl had to be sectioned to fit the new lower body.

The hood was sectioned a few inches to fit the cowl, in the process the two hood halves were welded together and a slight peak was added. The belt-line was removed from the rear of the hood so that it would flow nicely with the new body shapes of the rest of the body. The front wheel openings were raised to make sure the front wheels could still turn. All four fenders were welded to the body and molded in to create one smooth body shape. 1940 Ford running boards were adopted to fir the ’36 Ford rear fenders. According Dr Atol all the metal work was done flawless all hammer welded metal, with nearly no lead used. The photo caption in the Don Montgomery book mentioned that the car had a set in license plate back then. Either this info was incorrect, or the hole was later filled. When Doug Hall bought the car there was no set in place on the back.

The second photo I came across was in the Spring 1963 issue of Popular Customs. By then the car had changed a bit, the Olds bumpers were replaced with 1940 Ford units, the fender skirts had been removed, the running boards upholstered, the spotlights removed as well as the front fender mounted parking light. The car had been repainted in an unknown light color. Sadly none of the signs are readable, and the photo caption did not provide any real info either.


The windshield of the car was chopped a few inches and a padded top was created for it. Dough Hall, who would own the car from the 1970’s always thought it was an original Carson Top, but there is no proof for that since there never was a interior tag in the interior. The oldest photo shows that Don Clarke finished the car with 1940 Oldsmobile bumpers detailed with 1946-48 Chevy bumper guards. Below the ’40 Ford headlights some parking lights were mounted, which were oddly mostly covered by the ’40 Oldsmobile bumpers, perhaps indicating an earlier version with a different bumper up front? The photo also shows that the car used narrow motor cycle tires in the front, we are not sure why this was done. The rear fenders were dressed up with teardrop shaped bubble fender skirts, and small cone shaped moon hubcaps and small size Spotlights complete the restyling. We have no idea how the interior was finished.

Doug Hall owner for 30 years

In the early 1970’s Doug Hall was able to buy the ’36 Ford from an collector in the Pomona Ca. area. The car looked amazing, but did not come with any info on who had owned it before the collector, or who had originally created it, and when. From what we have heard the car was in very good condition when Doug got it in the early 1970’s. But Doug thought it sat a little to high, so he lowered the suspension and did some work on the ’51 Oldsmobile engine that was in the car when he got it. Doug also added new fender skirts and Appleton Spotlights. Since the last photo from the 1963 publication the hood had been louvered, most likely to make it easier for the Olds engine to cool. At this moment we are unsure if the car was already painted bronze, but as far as we know it was. Doug would drive the car frequently and enter it at several California car shows in the 80’s and 90’s.

I have added this photo of a near stock ’36 Ford convertible to be able to compare the Custom version with.


Side profile shows how low the car is, with the channeled body, the cut down ’36 Ford doors and rear quarter panels, the sectioned ’40 Ford hood and radiused front fenders. The windshield was chopped just the right amount for the optimal proportions with the padded top.


It is amazing that they were able to get that ’51 Olds engine to fit the super low car.


This is how most people remember the ’36 Ford… parked with the hood open at the 1980’s and 90’s California outdoor events.


Doug Hall drove the car regularly, and its low profile looked stunning on the road.


3 Dog Garage

After having owned the ’36 Ford Custom for over 30 years Doug Hall decided to let go of the car. With the help of a car broker the Custom found a new home at the 3 Dog Garage privately owned museum in Boyertown, Pennsylvania. The car has been part of their collection ever since, and is on display in the same shape as it was when Doug let it go. The car is however starting to show its age. The trunk had a dent, and the peak of the hood on the front is also dented.

This is how the Don Clarke ’36 Ford is now sitting in the 3-Dog-Garaga in Boyertown, Pennsylvania. The car is well used, I guess very much like the Custom Cars looked back in the 1940’s when these cars were the only way of transportation for most owners. (Along the way the front of the hood was dented)


This photo shows the reshaped rear were the wrap around belt line had been completely removed from the back as well. It also shows how nicely the fenders were molded to the body. And it shows another dent.


Interior uses a modified ’36 Ford dash with bold white pin-striping. Not sure when the race car type steering wheel was added.


When Doug Hall bought the car it came without the teardrop skirts that were on the car originally. (but already missing in 1963) Doug added an aftermarket lipped skirt and lowered the suspension for an more dramatic look.



A closer look to the huge diameter single bar flipper hubcaps. They appear to be handmade units, but I have no idea when they were made, or by who.


If you have any information on the Don Clarke 1936 Ford, or perhaps some old photos from pre 1970, that would shed some more light on this mystery Custom, please Email Rik Hoving here at the Custom Car Chronicle. We would love to add any new information to the story to make it as complete as possible. Thank you.


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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)


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