Some things just naturally go together. Top Fuelers and nitromethane. Rusty bolts and skinned knuckles. Beer and bench racing. But some things just—don’t. In those cases, it takes a person of vision (or perhaps delusion) to combine two almost opposing ideas into a whole new creation.
Jason Ludwin is such a person. He took two concepts—hot rods and off-roading—and combined them to create what’s most likely the world’s first and only 1936 Ford overlander. The idea doesn’t make sense if you think about it, but when you see it the pieces just fall together and you go yeah, that works.
Jason is no stranger to building rods or 4x4s in his one-man shop, Rodz by Ludwin. He started as an off-roader, got into hot rods and rat rods (including a wicked 1936 Chevy pickup powered by a twin-turbo LS) then went back into 4x4s, so the idea to combine them was already percolating in his brain. All it needed was a spark, which arrived in the form of a 1936 Ford Tudor sedan. The barn find was unmolested and in remarkably good shape for a New York resident, so Jason bought it on the spot.
Chassis and Brakes
Jason discovered that the Ford’s chassis dimensions were very close to a four-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. That meant he could adapt suspension components made for the Wrangler to the Ford. Here are the dimensions for comparison:
1936 Ford Dimensions:
- 112 inch wheelbase, 55.5 inch front/58.25 inch rear track width, 182.8 inches overall length
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited JK Dimensions:
- 116 inch wheelbase, 61.9 inch track width, 173.4 inches overall length
Jason elected to use the Ford’s frame. He took it apart, removed the X-member and crossmembers, boxed the rails, and added new crossmembers for the drivetrain—a 5.3L GM LS engine; a Turbo 350 transmission; a NP231 transfer case; and Dana 30 front and Ford 8.8 rear axles.
The suspension is a three-link up front and a triangulated four-link out back with high-travel, nitrogen-filled air shocks, Rock Jock Anti-Rock sway bars, and Trail Gear limit straps. Jason says the suspension provides about 12 inches of travel; ride height is 30.5 inches from the ground to the bottom of the frame.
The ’36 rides on 17 x 9 inch wheels mounted on 35 x 12.50 all-terrain style tires that are comparable to a Mickey Thompson Baja Boss A/T or a Nitto Ridge Grappler tire. Braking is the job of Power Stop Z36 disc brakes front and rear with 11 inch slotted and cross-drilled rotors and red powdercoated calipers with carbon-ceramic brake pads.
Jason pulled the 5.3L LS from a 2007 Chevy Silverado. The engine is all stock internally; Jason installed a Summit Racing Pro LS Oil Pan Kit and Summit Racing Block Hugger Headers designed for LS swaps in pre-1949 vehicles. The icing on the cake is a FiTech Go EFI 3×2 Tri Power EFI system.
The transmission is a Chevy Turbo 350 with a shift kit and a Summit Racing Torque Converter. The transmission is connected to an NP 231 transfer case from a Jeep XJ Cherokee. The Dana 30 front axle came off of the same Cherokee; the rear axle is a Ford 8.8 inch from an Explorer. The axles were rebuilt and upgraded with Yukon Gear 3.73 gears.
Body and Paint
For 80-plus years old, the Ford had really good bones. Jason replaced the floorboards with new Direct Sheetmetal steel, repaired the firewall and rockers, and stretched the wheel openings in the fenders to accommodate the 35 inch tires. He built a roof rack and a rear spare tire carrier from 3/4 inch diameter tubing, and adapted Body Armor 4×4 front and rear bumpers for a JK Wrangler. He even installed a pull-back canvas sunroof to replace the Ford’s factory fabric top.
Jason was going to leave the Ford’s patina-ed black paint as-is, but with the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling everything in 2020, he used the extra time to paint the car Toyota Quicksand as used on the TRD versions of Tacoma and Tundra pickups. Jason added some flattener to slightly alter the color.
Jason prepared the Ford for overlanding duty. He installed a Mile Marker SEC9.5 9,500 pound winch on the front bumper and a Warn VR EVO 8-S 8,000 pound winch on a mount that slides into a Curt receiver hitch out back. Up top is a Body Armor 4×4 Sky Ridge two-person popup tent. Electrical power comes from two 600 amp batteries and a 1,000 watt power inverter with a 20 amp onboard battery maintainer and a solar panel backup.
Other gear includes an LED light bar and auxiliary lights mounted on the roof rack; Bubba Rope Power Stretch rope and GatorJaw soft tow shackles; a Mile Marker recovery kit; and a high-lift jack.
Jason had the original dashboard and windshield moldings hydrodipped in an oak wood finish and filled it with a Classic Instruments Velocity Series gauge kit. The matching wood steering wheel sits on a Summit Racing Floor Mount Steering column. Rosie Rockabilly stitched the bitchin’ plaid covers for the Mazda 6 bucket seats plus a set of matching sunvisors and floor mats. Jason removed the Ford’s rear seat and built a platform to mount the VIAIR onboard air compressor system, battery maintainer and power inverter, and a 20 gallon fuel cell.
Other interior bits include a Vintage Air Slim Line underdash climate control system, a Summit Racing Floor Mount Shifter for the Turbo 350 transmission, and a switch panel to control the exterior lighting.
Jason took the ’36 to the 2021 SEMA Show in Las Vegas where it got a warm reception. Even Motor Trend magazine gave it an admiring glance. But it’s a new year, and Jason is taking time off from building stuff to off-road the Ford in the Adirondack mountains, just a short drive away
1936 Ford Overlander Parts List
Suspension and Brakes
- Rock Jock Anti-Rock Sway Bars
- Trail Gear Rock Assault Limit Straps
- Power Stop Z36 Truck and Tow Brake Kit with Calipers, front
- Power Stop Z36 Truck and Tow Brake Kit with Calipers, rear
- FiTech GO EFI 3×2 Tri Power EFI System
- FiTech Force Fuel System
- Summit Racing™ Block Hugger Headers
- Summit Racing™ TH-350 Torque Converter
- Summit Racing™ Pro LS Oil Pan Kit
- Yukon Gear 3.73 Ring and Pinion Gear Set, Dana 30
- Yukon Gear 3.73 Ring and Pinion Gear Set, Ford 8.8
- G2 Axle and Gear Differential Cover, Ford 8.8
- G2 Axle and Gear Differential Cover, Dana 30
Body and Paint
- Direct Sheetmetal Front Floorboards
- Direct Sheetmetal Rear Floorboards
- Body Armor 4×4 Front Bumper
- Body Armor 4×4 Rear Bumper
- Body Armor 4×4 Fuel Filler Door
- Summit Racing Floor Shift Steering Column
- Summit Racing Floor Mount Shifter
- Classic Instruments Velocity Series Gauge Kit
- Vintage Air Mini Slim Line Climate Control System
- Body Armor Sky Ridge Pike Tent
- Mile Marker SEC9.5 Winch
- Warn VR EVO 8-S Winch
- Mile Marker Recovery Kit
- Bubba Rope Recovery Rope
- Bubba Rope Gator-Jaw Soft Shackle