Ray Giovannoni's 1936 Ford
1936 Ford roadster restyled by Herbert "Bud" Unger for Ray Giovannoni of Washington, D.C. During the Second World War, Bud learned how to form aluminum panels for airplanes in the Air Force. When he got out of the Air Force in 1946, he started to work at a body shop in Virginia. Bud's main income came from repairing and painting autos, but after work, and in his spare time, he turned to his secret hobby of hot rods and customs. He tried his ideas on a brand new 1947 Chevrolet convertible in 1947. Once completed, Bud's tasteful custom caught the eyes of Ray Giovannoni, who commissioned him to restyle his 1936 Ford roadster. Ray's roadster was Bud's second attempt on a custom car build, and his first paid custom job.
East Coast - West Coast
According to a story about custom trends published in Speed Age October 1949, Bud had a passion for California styled customs, and he had spent plenty of time studying current West Coast trends. The same article mentioned that Bud had some guidelines that he followed when he customized cars; His first mission was to kill the identification of the car, so all chrome on Ray's roadster was shaved before the front end was reworked to accept a 1941 Packard Clipper grill. A hood with solid sides was installed and something that appears to be 1939 Buick headlights were molded down in the fenders. Next step for Bud was to fabricate narrow running boards that bended with the body before converging into the fenders. Then the top had to be chopped, this was a must for Bud, so the windshield on Ray's Ford was chopped and fit with a "California Top" built from accepted styling. Looking at early photos of Ray's car, it looks like Bud installed a chopped soft top on the car. 1941 Ford bumpers, single bar flipper hubcaps, whitewall tires, dual Appleton 112 spotlights and teardrop fenderskirts wrapped up the style. The rear license plate was installed on the splash pan, mounted in a chromed frame behind plexiglas. A light was also installed on the splash pan to illuminate the plate at night. On the splash pan apron was also a brass plaque which said "1949 Venus Custom. Engine by Giovannoni. Body by Unger." If the owner still had money left, Bud topped his builds off with a 20-coat paint job. Ray's car was no exception, and it received a 20-coat paint job by Unger. The build was completed around 1947 - 1948.
In 2012 Kustomrama interviewed Bud about Ray's car. In the interview he claimed that he wasn't aware about the California custom trends at at all when he set off to restyle Ray's 36; "Ray's "36" was the best custom that I have ever done. It was my pride and joy! I never put as much into any other custom as I put into Ray's. I welded solid and hand leaded all four fenders to the body.I did the same with both 1/4 panels, front aprons and running boards after narrowing them. I cleared off the back deck, moved the tail lights into the bumper, and made a new back splash pan that housed a license light before I finished it off with a 20 coat jet black paint job. Oh yes, I did a major reshaping of the grille area to incorporate a Packard grille."
According to a "Customize it Yourself" story Bud wrote for Speed Age March 1953, "The unmistakable style and class of a Carson-type, padded top is the true signature of a custom car. A padded Carson type top gives the car the smooth curves of a hard top, yet it can be removed for open-air driving." Once completed, Ray drove his roadster to California to have a genuine padded top by Carson Top Shop made for the car. The car gained a lot of attraction along the road, and it even landed a featured story in Hot Rod Magazine November 1948. By then the car had been fit with a padded top and the seats, interior side panels and underside of the top had been upholstered in matching gray and white leather. The dashboard had been sectioned and finished in light brown. Power came from a warmed over 1934 Ford V-8 engine equipped with Eddie Meyer manifold, heads designed by Giovannoni, and a Harman & Collins cam. The engine was hooked to a Zephyr transmission and a Columbia rear end. The story did not mention Bud as the builder. Welded and molded fenders became a trademark for Bud. He preferred milder changes in body design, and in 2012 he told Kustomrama that he preferred a lot of small changes as opposed to a major: ”In my humble opinion I think that a custom car should be practical and functional. So many customs are too far out, not practical for street use. Some are too radical- too low to the ground, etc. But as the old saying goes- To each his own. These various designs give variety to the business! After I did simple surgery to Ray's 36. I think I improved the over all appearance of the car over it's original design. The car now has simple beauty, flowing lines, gracious looks and oneness and unity!, and yet you can tell that it is still a 1936 Ford roadster.”
After Bud had restyled Ray's roadster, he was asked by another customer to restyle his 1936 Ford exactly like Ray's. Bud took the job, and started by removing all chrome, acetylene and oxygen welding all holes and leading them in. He moved both running boards in after removing the rubber, and he blended them into the body and front fenders. He then installed a license plate holder pan with a license light between the body and the rear bumper just like he did on Ray's 36. He made two solid hood panels, installed a Packard grille and fenders skirts, and was about to weld the fenders and grille area to the body when he began to think what he was doing. He was attempting to duplicate Ray's 36, and he began to feel like he was committing treason to Ray's 36. After all Ray's 36 was his best custom. So he stopped doing any more custom work to it, and he told his customer about the decision not to complete it. Bud finished it off with a black custom paint, and delivered the car to the customer.
Where is it Now?
The whereabouts of Ray's roadster are currently unknown. Bud believes Ray sold it to someone in North Carolina. Bud has searched for it on numerous occasions without any luck. According to rumors on the HAMB, it was supposedly spotted in a trailerpark in Jessup, Maryland in the 1970s. If you have any addition information about this car please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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