Who wouldn’t like to rewrite history, especially those personal moments that changed the course of your life? You know, the missed catch at the high school championship football game, the girl you wanted to ask out but never did, and that cool car you wished you had bought and fixed up. You can’t go back in time, of course, but you can find the car you longed for and make it your own.
Just ask Mike Jonas. Back in the late Nineties he spotted a ’46 Ford convertible at a street rod event that he longed to own. “I fell in love with it,” Mike admits, “but I thought it was too expensive at the time. I later realized I was wrong.”
Ironically, that car and its string of owners would later cross paths with Mike, after he forged ahead with his own plans for customizing a ’47 Ford. More about that later, but first we need to reveal the radical surgery he performed on a forlorn and forgotten car.
Originally his ’47 was first sold in Phoenix, Arizona, and later purchased by a broker in Toronto, who sold it to someone in Buffalo, Mike’s hometown. He heard about the car, and tracked down the owner, who was cash-strapped with another resto project. The ’47 was a basket case, with parts spread all over town, and rust eating away at the A-pillars, doors and rockers. Even so, original tin doesn’t come cheap, but Mike was able to talk him down from $10,000 to $7500.
That was just the beginning, though, because he had to purchase a second ’47 Ford, a Club Coupe that has the same door size as the convertible. He parted out most of the second car to offset the purchase price, and used the rest of the components to repair the deteriorated areas of the convertible. Whatever he couldn’t scavenge off the second car, he had to find through countless internet searches and hours of phone calls. “It was cheaper to buy fenders than the expense of repairing the original ones,” he explains.
This project was by no means a straight resto, though. The number of changes to the bodywork is startling, but not all that obvious because of how subtly and tastefully they were handled. Mike credits his initial rendering of his concept as essential to the success of the outcome, which prevented any costly mid-stream alterations (you only get a few chances to rewrite history, after all). “My goal was to create a car that looked old, but handled like a new one,” he recalls.
So he chose a Corvette C4 suspension with an Air Ride system to modernize the road manners. For that extra kick, a RamJet 350 burbles under the low-profile hood, backed up by an automatic tranny. “I wanted a combination Corvette, muscle car and street rod all rolled into one.”
As for those body mods, starting at the nose, this ’47 actually has a grille from a ’46 Chevy, and headlights from a Jeep Liberty. The hood was pie’d, (lowered), by cutting out elongated triangles of sheetmetal on each side. These pie-shaped sections measured about two and half inches at the front, and tapered to nothing near the windshield. The trim running down the centerline was integrated into the hood as well.
Underneath, in the engine bay, a firewall from Bitchin Products conceals the wiring and plumbing for the Vintage Air system. Bitchin also supplied sheetmetal to repair the floorboards.
After narrowing the fenders, Mike had them welded into a single section with the front fascia and rockers, which smoothed the overall shape of the nose. The bumpers were cut back as well, and horizontal creases added in the front and rear fenders to create contour lines that divide up their large rounded masses.
Endless little details required attention as the bodywork was modified, in many cases handled personally by Mike who taught himself how to weld for this project. “I’m actually pretty good at welding now,” he smiles (even though his day job is serving as president of Stainless Steel Brakes Corporation). Some of the nitpicky items that needed sorting out included shaving the door handles, custom hidden door hinges, and new V-butt glass for the chopped windshield frame.
Chassis chores were handled by Progressive Automotive, which manufactures frames with swaybars ready to accept the Corvette C4 underpinnings. Of course, Mike added his company’s Tri Power stoppers with three-piston calipers and integral parking brake. He chose Classic Tube’s brake lines to route the hydraulic fluid from the SSBC remote reservoir and billet master cylinder.
For the interior, Mike departed from his original plan a bit, and experimented with a few different versions before settling on a console inspired by a Lincoln Mark VIII he had seen in a magazine. A Dakota Digital readout modernizes the look of the dash, and for a bit of bling, a Budnik steering wheel tops off the Flaming River column. A concealed Sony Xplod system provides 1600 watts of listening pleasure, but for Mike the real music comes from the rumble of that Borla exhaust.
The paint job is a story in itself, requiring a lot of persistence on Mike’s part. He saw this PPG color on a show car, and just had to have it. At first the company declined, “But I bugged them for a year,” he laughs. After relenting, “PPG even named the color ‘Mikey Orange’ after me because I drove them crazy.” And the company said they’d never make it again because it was so translucent and difficult to apply.
For all his efforts, Mike has earned a slew of trophies from such illustrious events as the Detroit Autorama, where he won a “Best in Class” trophy for radical custom convertibles. He has also took home six “Best of Show” awards from other events, but the really interesting reward was a personal one.
Remember that’46 Ford that he pined away for? Turns out he met all four of its succeeding owners at various events, who each claimed they owned a car just like Mike’s. But he would just smile knowingly, and say, “Well, not quite.”
Air Ride Technologies, Inc.
Rock Valley Antique Auto Parts
Stainless Steel Brakes Corporation