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By KENNETH HALL – Motoring Tampa Bay correspondent
For 20 years, Harry Oelgart, of Ruskin, had a 1937 Ford coupe that he had rebuilt himself. About five years ago, he was at the annual Turkey Rod Run in Daytona Beach when he spotted a rare 1937 Ford rumble seat convertible for sale. In all the years that Oelgart had been going to car shows, he had never seen one and decided that he had to have it.
“The body and paint job were beautiful,” Oelgart recalls, “but whoever had rebuilt that car did it on the cheap. They used the original frame, which was in bad shape, and the engine was installed wrong because the engine mounts were in the wrong position. I saw all of these problems before I bought the car, so I knew what I was getting into. The owner knew the problems too, and I think he did not want to go through the headache of fixing them, so he kept the car in an air conditioned garage for nine years.”
Still, Oelgart sold his 1937 coupe so he could buy the convertible. Then he set about correcting the errors of the previous restoration.
“I took the car all apart and went through it from top to bottom,” Oelgart says. “The engine ran okay, but it ran rough so I knew something was not right. I found that one of the cylinders had very low compression. I bought a brand new Chevrolet 350 cubic-inch crate motor and installed it with a carburetor, while getting rid of the Corvette fuel injection system that had been in the car when I got it. Now the engine runs like a Swiss watch.”
After replacing the damaged original frame with a new one complete with four wheel disc brakes, Oelgart swapped out the air-conditioning system with a brand new one. He then added a Mustang II front end with a power steering bracket and a new nine-inch Currie posi traction rear end with a 3.7 gear ratio. He kept the four-speed automatic transmission, with the gearshift on the steering column, which was in the Ford when he bought it.
“I did not have to do anything with the body which, along with the convertible top frame, all that is still original from 1937,” Oelgart says. “The convertible top fabric had been replaced, but it had been done on the cheap with just a single layer of canvas material, which makes the interior very hot when the sun is beating down. I plan to redo the top with Stayfast, which has three layers: the exterior top, a layer of insulation and the headliner.”
Oelgart did a lot of work on the interior of the car, which include installing new upholstery of manmade Ultraleather and replacing the windows since they tended to leak in rainy weather.
“The dashboard and interior molding are woodgrain, which Ford only used in convertibles in 1937,” Oelgart explains. “The dashboard instruments are from Classic Instruments. The dashboard had been filled in where the radio used to be. I had an original radio head that I was going to put in the car, but there was no room once the air conditioning was installed, so I put in a center console with cup holders and space for the six-speaker stereo system.”
Because 1937 Ford rumble seat convertibles are so rare, Oelgart found some parts hard to come by. “Whoever restored the car before me did not put the correct cushions in the rumble seat, probably because they could not find them,” he explains. “It took me two years to find the correct seats for it, although they were faithful reproductions.  The car is so much fun to drive, and it gets a lot of attention. Even when I just stop for gas, people come and take pictures of the car.”

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