I never met Andy Aschittino's 1936 Ford convertible touring sedan, but if a car is a reflection of its owner, I know it was a grand automobile that stood a notch above the rest. Grandpa Andy died just a few years ago, and the Ford was sold long before I was born, but photos dug up after his recent passing confirm the beauty of his long-gone pride, and joy and add to the story of Andy's missed convertible sedan.
This first picture of Grandpa Andy and his 1936 Ford convertible touring sedan dates to 1940, when he was 21 years old. The car is parked in his family's driveway at 1607 Burns Ave. in St. Paul, Minn.
Even though Grandpa Andy was my cousin's grandfather, I spent a lot of time around him, enjoying his witty one-liners and "Ole and Lena" jokes, usually from the backseat of one of his immaculately kept early-1980s Oldsmobile Ninety Eight sedans. Those dark blue and black fender-skirted Ninety-Eight Regencys were so well-kept, Grandpa Andy was asked to put them into occasional limousine service by his friend. I remember sitting in the plush gray velour seats of those cars, barely able to see out the window, and being offered a "stick of rubber" (it's how Andy referred to gum), and thinking I was in a Cadillac.
From my own childhood experience in those Ninety-Eights, I always associated Grandpa Andy as an Oldsmobile man. But long before he drove cars from GM's Rocket division, Grandpa Andy piloted a string of Packards from the 1950s, including 1950, 1953 and 1956 sedans. There was also a 1953 Buick Special Riviera in his garage at one point, and even though these cars were all impressive vehicles from the upper end of automotive hierarchy, it was the 1936 Ford convertible touring sedan Grandpa Andy loved most.
Grandpa Andy's brother Nicky and his mother posed with the 1936 Ford for this photo, in which the car's accessory hood lip trim and headlamp visors are visible.
Long after the '36 was gone, Grandpa Andy scoped out 1936 Fords at every car show he attended. Each Ford earned a grin on his face, and on the rare occasions when a 1936 Ford convertible sedan was in attendance, the smile was even more special. He'd stop and talk to the car's owner, and he'd usually get a photo snapped of himself next to the Ford, for old time's sake.
Having his picture taken next to restored 1936 Ford convertible sedans really was reliving the past for Grandpa Andy. During the course of his ownership of the '36 Ford from 1939-'47, his picture was taken with the car so often it appears he spent as much time posed next to the car as he did behind the Ford's instrument panel, which was unique to convertible sedans and station wagons. While someone else was documenting Grandpa Andy's Ford through a lens, he was meticulously documenting the car in a tiny notebook that he kept until his passing.
According to the yellow pages of his notebook, Grandpa Andy paid $350 for his Washington Blue 1936 Ford convertible touring sedan in 1939 or 1940. That was a lofty sum for a 21-year-old, but far less than the car's original $780 retail price, which made it Ford's most expensive offering. Grandpa Andy was always quick to point out that two versions of the convertible sedan were offered in 1936: a trunk-back convertible touring sedan like his, which debuted in April, and a slant-back convertible sedan that retailed for $760 and was offered at the start of the 1936 model year. At the three or four-year-old Ford's $350 sale price, Grandpa Andy got a swinging deal on a very nice, slightly used Ford.
Grandpa Andy sits in his 1936 Ford convertible touring sedan in St. Paul's Mounds Park on June 6, 1946. The original top has been painted a dark color to match the Washington Blue body, and the car sports Cadillac V-16-style hubcaps.
Grandpa Andy drove the whitewall-equipped car with its white top for a couple years, and at some point, fit black walls to the Washington Blue car and painted the convertible top a dark color before that fateful December day in 1941 when the world changed forever. Then, like many American men, Grandpa Andy entered the service in defense of his country, serving in the storied 6th Armored Division from 1942-'45 and fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and other historic battles. Even though Grandpa Andy knew he would be thousands of miles away from his Ford, he didn't sell the car before shipping out to the European theater. Perhaps knowing the car would be waiting for him upon his return made the distance from home that much more bearable. While he was away, the car was left in the careful hands of his brother Nicky. When Grandpa Andy returned, he picked up his relationship with the Ford after his brother handed the keys back to him.
Aside from the number of photos he had of the car, Grandpa Andy proved his pride in the car by constantly upgrading and adding his own accessories, all of which he documented in his notebook. The remaining pages of his notebook tell part of the story: generator repair on July 13, 1946, at 47,946 miles; $7 for a rebuilt generator on July 16, 1946; $12 for trumpet horns on Aug. 8, 1946; $8 for fender skirts on Aug. 21, 1946; $67.50 for a new convertible top and $14.80 for a new rear spring on Aug. 26, 1946; oil change and a used tire for $12.50 on Aug. 30, 1946; $5 for a used battery and used door locks at $2 on Oct. 12, 1946; and $7.80 to winterize the car from the Minnesota weather on Nov. 10, 1946.
There are a few pages missing from Grandpa Andy's notebook so not every change has documentation, but the pictures show other customizing tweaks he performed through the years. Cadillac V-16-style hubcaps; headlamp visors; rare accessory rock guard at the front edge of the hood; tailpipe extension; mudflaps; and rock guards on the rear fenders all made their way to the Ford and added Grandpa Andy's personal touch.
Not every personalized detail was included in the notebook. Grandpa Andy had the removable center pillar between the windows chromed while he worked at the railroad to add more glitz to the glamorous Ford. He also didn't record how he'd removed the inside passenger door handle so his dates would have to wait for him to open the door (he never told this kid if the trick was for the middle or the end of his dates). He also bragged that he learned how to shift the car with his right foot so he could always have his arm around the lucky lady in the passenger seat of the Ford.
After seven years of ownership, Grandpa Andy sold his Ford. It's pictured here with a new convertible top in Hudson, Wis., on Independence Day 1947, just one day before he sold it. He'd never forget the car.
But all good things come to an end, and Grandpa Andy eventually sold his Ford on July 5, 1947. The last picture of Grandpa Andy and his car was taken in Hudson, Wis., on Independence D ay of that year, just one day before he sold it. It took $850 for Grandpa Andy to part with the car, so the buyer must have wanted it pretty bad. I know Grandpa Andy got more than $850 worth of fond memories out of the car.
According to Grandpa Andy's son, Brad, the Ford was replaced with an Olds or Pontiac. Whichever it was, Grandpa Andy didn't care for the car much and immediately regretted selling the Ford.
Since the Ford was in nice shape when Grandpa Andy sold it, and he was able to get a healthy price for it, I'm sure the car survives today. I know Grandpa Andy would be happy knowing the Ford is creating new memories for its lucky owner today.