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Hot Rod Meets Overlanding: Rodz by Ludwin’s 1936 Ford

(Image/Rodz by Ludwin)

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 had Hitchens Artwork put his vision on paper. With the exception of the rear seats, every idea you see in the renderings made it onto the actual vehicle. (Image/Rodz by Ludwin)

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.

Don’t let the scratches, splotches, and surface rust fool you—this 1936 Ford Tudor barn find was a super-solid car, especially for one that lived in snowy upstate New York all of its life. When Jason Ludwin found it, he bought it even though he wasn’t sure what he was going to do with it. It didn’t take long for him to hatch the idea of turning it into an overlanding/adventure vehicle. (Image/Rodz by Ludwin)

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
Sights like this are what make old gearheads cry. Under 80-odd years of dirt and surface rust, the Ford’s chassis was solid and complete. Everything attached to the frame was given the heave-ho, and the center X-member was removed to make room for the new drivetrain and suspension. And don’t worry—the removed parts found a good home with a friend of Jason’s who is a purist when it comes to hot rodding old Fords. (Image/Rodz by Ludwin)

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.

Here’s the 5.3L LS engine mocked up on the Ford’s frame. Jason boxed the frame rails with 10 gauge steel plates and added new tubular crossmembers for the Turbo 350 transmission, Rock Jock antisway bars, and rear upper shock mounts. (Image/Rodz by Ludwin)

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 rear suspension is a triangulated four-link with 1.25 inch diameter bars with 7/8 inch heim joints, nitrogen gas-filled air shocks, and a 42 inch Rock Jock antisway bar. The rear axle is a Ford 8.8 out of an V8-powered Explorer that Jason updated with a Yukon Gear 3.73 ring and pinion gear set, Power Stop Z36 disc brakes, and a G2 differential cover. Check out those 16 inch long Trail Gear limit straps. (Image/Rodz by Ludwin)

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 adapted a universal-style three-link front suspension kit to the Ford. It’s a better choice than a four-link as it provides more clearance for headers, oil pans, and steering boxes. Jason fabricated the link bars, panhard/track rod, and steering linkage from 1.25 inch diameter tubing. The air shocks offer 12 inches of travel and are filled with nitrogen gas. They’re lighter than coilovers to reduce unsprung weight; spring rate and ride height are adjusted by changing the nitrogen gas pressure and oil volume.
Jason mixed and matched components to create a custom Rock Jock 32 inch long antisway bar. It’s fully adjustable to improve traction and suspension articulation. The axle is a Dana 30 from a Jeep XJ Cherokee fitted with Yukon Gear 3.73 gears, a Power Stop Z36 disc brake kit, and a G2 differential cover. (Image/Rodz by Ludwin)

Drivetrain

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.

Jason procured a 2007 5.3L L33 engine to power the Ford. Jason channeled his inner hot rodder and topped the engine with a FiTech Ultimate LS tripower EFI system. Rated at 750 horsepower, the system features three 500 CFM throttle bodies on an LS1 cathedral port-style manifold, 55 lb.-hr. injectors, fuel rails, and a self-learning ECU. The engine is connected to a Turbo 350 transmission and an NP231 transfer case from an XJ Cherokee. (Image/Rodz by Ludwin)

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

See, we told you the Ford was in great shape. The car was remarkably rust-free, but Jason did replace the floors with Direct Sheetmetal replacement metal, did some repair work on the rockers, and modified the firewall for engine clearance. He also stretched the wheel openings in the fenders for tire clearance, and even installed a foldback fabric sunroof so he could tan the top of his head. (Image/Rodz by Ludwin)

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 fabricated a roof rack from 3/4 inch tubing to hold the Body Armor 4×4 tent. (Image/Rodz by Ludwin)
…and a spare tire carrier from the same 3/4 inch tubing. Nice work, sir. (Image/Rodz by Ludwin)

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.

Tough-looking, isn’t it? Jason adapted a Body Armor 4×4 stubby-style bumper meant for a Jeep Gladiator to the front of the Ford, then mounted a Mile Marker SEC9.5 winch on the bumper. With a 4.9 horsepower motor and three-stage planetary gears, the winch has a 9,500 pound pull rating and a 210:1 gear ratio. Those bright orange shackles are also from Mile Marker. (Image/Rodz by Ludwin)

Overlanding Gear

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.

The rear bumper is a full-length Body Armor 4×4 model for a JL Wrangler. The Warn VR EVO 8-S winch is on a mount that slides into a Curt Manufacturing Class V receiver hitch welded to the Ford’s frame. The winch has an 8,000 pound pull rating thanks to a powerful series wound motor and a three-stage planetary gear train for faster line speed under load with lower amperage draw. Jason can fit a six-position Curt Rebellion XD drop-mount trailer hitch or a Curt basket-style cargo carrier in the receiver hitch. The Rebellion hitch is rated for trailers up to 10,000 pounds GTW when using the two inch ball and 15,000 pounds GTW with the 2.5 inch ball. (Image/Rodz by Ludwin)

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.

Literally topping off the Ford is a Body Armor 4×4 Sky Ridge Pike two-person tent. It features reinforced and waterproofed polyester/cotton canvas walls and is roof mounted on 6061 aircraft-grade aluminum tubing with stainless steel hardware. The tent base has an insulated core on a scratch-resistant aluminum deck to keep out the cold, and the whole thing folds up to just 12 inches in height when not in use. (Image/Rodz by Ludiwn)

Interior

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.

Rosie Rockabilly stitched the plaid covers for the Mazda 6 bucket seats plus a set of matching sunvisors and floor mats. Jason had the Ford’s dashboard and windshield moldings hydrodipped in a oak wood finish and filled it with a Classic Instruments Velocity Series three-gauge kit. A matching steering wheel sits on a Summit Racing Floor Mount Steering column. A Vintage Air Mini Slim Line underdash climate control system keeps everyone cozy when exploring the outback. Jason shifts gears with a Summit Racing Floor Mount Shifter. (Image/Rodz by Ludwin)

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

Jason removed the Ford’s rear seat and built a platform to mount the VIAIR Constant Duty onboard air system; a pair of batteries rated at 600 cold-cranking amps; a battery maintainer and 1,000 watt power inverter; and a 20 gallon fuel cell. Designed to easily fill 37 inch or larger tires, the VIAIR air system has a 100% duty cycle air compressor and a 2.5 gallon air tank. We dig the mesh grille Jason had custom-made. (Image/Rodz by Ludwin)

You can learn more about the overlanding Ford in this Summit Racing Performance Parts Expo interview,  SEMA video, and the Rodz by Ludwin Facebook page.

1936 Ford Overlander Parts List

Suspension and Brakes

Drivetrain

Body and Paint

Interior

Off-Road Gear

Other Items

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