Jean Leonardy's 1936 Ford 3-Window Coupe
(from Volume 24, Issue 279)

story by owner Jean Leonardy, photos by Michael B. Kelly


In 1966 my husband, Don, announced he wanted to buy an old car, a year after we were married. He found a 1936 Ford 3-Window Coupe with a rumble seat sitting in a carport, located in Hollywood, Florida. The total cost was $125, as it was nearly a basket case. My husband then found another ‘36 Ford for $100 dollars. Shortly after buying the two cars the car club we belonged to, South Florida Street Rods, volunteered to help us switch the good body onto the good frame. By combining the two together we wound up with one car that was totally original.

Shortly after that Don lost his eye sight due to juvenile diabetes. The car sat in our carport for a couple months, then someone turned us in for having a junk car. Money was so tight so we couldn’t do much with the Ford. In order to keep the car we got some builders who were on strike to build us a garage. At least now the Ford was safe, and after I got a good job we were able to go back to work on the Ford.

Don had been a machinist and mechanic by trade, and he found a ‘53 Mercury flathead to go in the car. When looking for an engine block Don would feel it with his hands to determine if it was good. After checking many blocks we found a good one, and it was rebuilt. Then one Sunday with my help we also put the transmission together, with Don instructing me. Without the use of his eye sight, he double checked everything by feel. In 1971 we had someone paint Ford, followed by another person doing the interior in March of 1972.

With Don being blind by the car’s completion in 1972, he never got to drive the car. I drove all over, going to picnics and car shows the club put on, having a blast with our ‘36 Ford.

My husbands health continued to deteriorate, and he had to go on dialysis. Just 8 months later he met Jesus in December of 1972, having died from complications of diabetes at the age of 38. I was working full time and had two small kids. However many weekends were spent going to the car club’s outings, with me driving and the two kids riding in the rumble seat. In fact, in April of 1973 I drove with the South Florida Street Rods car club up to Orlando for the Easter Rod Run, and even won the spark plug changing contest. Those are good memories. On one trip, while on the way back from Orlando to Hollywood, the flathead died. I got the car home and called a mechanic. He worked on old cars, and had helped Don with some parts over the years. The mechanic suggested that I put a late model 350 Chevy engine in, along with an automatic transmission, and I agreed.

A few years later I met and married a nice guy, named Gene. Together we loved taking the Ford every weekend to club outings. In 1985 I had to transfer from Miami to Orlando, which I did to keep my 15 plus years with the Bell company (I later retired after 31 years with the company). When we moved from Miami the house we bought in Kissimmee didn’t have a garage. So I stored the Ford in Sebring at my parents home, until we had a small barn built to house the car. Once in Kissimmee we joined the Osceola Rodders, and enjoyed the club functions, car shows, picnics and friends. I helped with the Thursday Night cruise in downtown St. Cloud. Unfortunately Gene died in 1995 from COPD lung problems.

I decided to have the car painted in 2004, and fix the rust. At that point it also received a Mustang II front end, along with disc brakes. The man doing it was busy, so it took 3 years to get it rebuilt. Now my Ford is powered by a 350 cubic inch Chevy motor with a Turbo 350 automatic transmission. The frame was boxed in, and other upgrades include power brakes, power doors, air conditioning and heat. The copper paint looks great, and it is also panted the same underneath.

I have owned this all steel car for 51 years now, and it has gone with me through lots of stages in my life. It holds many memories, and is still a source of great joy when I attend various events. If cars could talk, certainly this one would have lots of great stories to tell. I certainly have lots of great stories about it. CN