1936 Ford Phaeton - cars lost in the wine country wildfires

This week’s Curbside is special in many ways. The car I’ve featured belongs to a friend of mine, which isn’t unusual. But what is unusual is that the car is gone. I chose this car just because I knew I had good pictures of it. But it’s one of many, many lost treasures that belong to a lot of great people who have stories of restoring these cars. 

A beautiful 1936 Ford Phaeton that was the result of great effort to restore and customize - one of many, many collectible and special-interest vehicles lost in California's recent wine country wildfires. 

A beautiful 1936 Ford Phaeton that was the result of great effort to restore and customize - one of many, many collectible and special-interest vehicles lost in California's recent wine country wildfires. 

From beautiful one-of-a-kind classics to incredible customs to supreme hot rods, gassers, trucks, you name it. The stories have been coming like crazy to my desk here at the Curbside. 

This 1936 Ford Phaeton was special in many ways to its owner, Colin, as it was his wife’s car for years and she loved coming to car-related events with it. It ran super well with a modern engine under the hood. It was a great combination of modern, drivable technology and classic style. 

And, like so many wonderful collectible cars, this one had some great stories that went with it. For example, Colin found this car in a field with bullet holes in it and the doors on the ground. It was more of a rust and rot example than an example of a beautiful ’36 Phaeton. 

Through work connections he was able to find metal craftspeople who used a traditional English wheel to recreate the fenders, firewall and other parts. There were plenty of challenges, each with their own story, that were overcome to create this car. 

Another of the many stories is of the wood bows that hold up the convertible top. Colin called around and found a gent who makes wine barrels and figured his ability to do that might translate into having the convertible top bows made. Oddly enough, that gentleman used to make convertible top bows for these cars and found the demand dwindled so he stopped - but he was all to happy to resurrect his skills and did a fabulous job with these. 

The vent windows, too, carried a story. Colin’s wife, Kathy, was none too fond of his undertaking yet another car project but he convinced her it was for her. As part of that she got her name on the license plate and the vent windows were etched with roses. 

The fires in Northern California in the past few years have devastated many a car collection. Two years ago the Valley fire in Lake County took many, many classic cars. There was a field where the cars would be hauled after they had burned and so many beautiful formerly-collectible cars were there, on their way to wherever they take them. In particular I saw a Corvair Rampside pickup that was a bummer to see - but they were all sad losses. 

In that fire one friend lost his trophy from a previous show and, at last year’s show, we awarded him the trophy again so he’d at least have that. The car is gone. 

This time I know of a number of people who participated in the recent Lakeside Car & Boat Show who lost their collections. 

I wonder how many people from Houston or Florida or Puerto Rico or any number of other places where disaster struck have stories like my friend’s story with the Phaeton? Of course I’m happy to see the owners survive but the memories these cars bring and the passion they represent are lost in tragedies of natural disasters.

While we’re all grateful for the survivors of this devastation and for being able to rebuild, the memories and stories and effort put into creating rolling masterpieces is all that’s left of so many of these. It’s a sad day to see all these vehicles and the homes around them destroyed. Perhaps today might be a great day to take your special people for a ride in your special car as a tribute to those who lost so much in the devastation that has spread all over these United States.

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Tony Barthel

Tony Barthel has been writing the Curbside blog since 1996 with reviews of new cars, stories about old cars and the people who love them and finding the best car shows around for the Curbside car show calendar.