In our humble opinion, the 1936 Ford Phaeton has the prettiest rear fenders and panels ever to grace a Blue Oval car. But as hot rodders, we can’t leave well enough alone. We install a flush mount fuel filler neck, sending unit, and fuel tank for our Ford Phaeton.
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In stock form this sweeping rear panel is hidden by a spare tire and often a luggage rack, too. Because the rear tire effectively extends the back of the car, Ford opted to form long sweeping taillights extending rearward off the fenders, even with the spare tire.
We just couldn’t bear hiding that 1936 Ford’s fender and curvaceous rear panel that led to the removal of the spare tire, and thus began yet another “one thing leads to another” modification sequence. After removing the spare, the taillights appeared to extend into another zip code, so the taillights had to go, replaced by a pair of 1940 Packard taillights (see the Feb. ’21 Modern Rodding). Since Ford decided to build the gas fill cap into the driver side taillight we must relocate the gas fill cap, but first we’ll install the new tank. Did we mention one thing leads to another?
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A quick check of Summit Racing’s website netted us a Tanks Inc. gas tank. We ordered a fuel tank sending unit for our future fuel gauge from Classic Instruments, so we were ready to make the fuel system new from front to back.
First and foremost: Work safely. Gasoline and gasoline vapors are very dangerous. Be certain to keep sparks, hot items, and electric motors away from the gas tank and fill neck. We had run our gas tank down to below a quarter tank knowing we would be draining the tank. Our first step was to remove the gasoline from the existing tank in the car.
How to Remove the Fuel Tank
A quick trip to Harbor Freight netted us a hand-operated transfer pump that was safe to use with gasoline. We also picked up a new 5-gallon gas can while we were there. The hand-operated transfer pump did just that; it quickly transferred the gasoline from the tank to our new gas can.
Next, we needed to remove the original threaded filler neck. Removing this threaded collar from the tank is a notoriously difficult task. We soaked the connection with PB Blaster penetrating oil for a couple days hoping to loosen things up. You can use a spanner wrench. We’ve heard of pipe wrenches being used, but we opted to use a chain-style strap wrench. It’s always nice when the hot rod gods smile on you.
Sure enough, with a little effort, our threaded collar was removed from the tank. Next, we went inside the car and removed the small panel in the floor that covers the fuel-tank sending unit and removed the single screw holding the gas gauge wire.
Rolling under the car on a creeper we were prepared to remove the four bolts that hold a 1936 Ford gas tank in place. As it turns out a previous owner figured Ford overbuilt his cars, so he only used three bolts to hold the tank in place. We removed the three bolts and commenced to wrestle the tank out of the car. While the tank does come out, we can tell you it is a tight fit and the wrestling match experience is enhanced by dirt falling in your face.
How to Install a Universal Sending Unit
With the old tank on the floor, we did a closer inspection. First this was not the original tank, rather it came from a boneyard, probably sometime in the ’50s when this car underwent an amateur restoration. We discovered typical junkyard yellow paint markings sending this tank to someone in either New York or New Jersey; we couldn’t quite make out the writing.
However, the original gas gauge sending unit had broken headless screws and the fuel pickup in the front of the tank had some epoxy sealant around it. The tank itself was remarkably clean inside for an 85-year-old gas tank. But after the assessment we were certain installing a new tank was a wise decision. The new tank varies from the original because it has a fuel fill outlet designed for a hose connection rather than the threaded original and the fuel pickup on top of the new tank as opposed the front fuel pickup on the original. Finally, the new tank also holds a couple of extra gallons as it is a bit deeper.
Before we could install our new tank, we had to adjust and install the Classic Instruments fuel gauge sending unit, following the instructions we had that set up and installed. We also had to install the fuel pickup and vent fitting in the tank. Once again, following the directions (I know, crazy as it seems, directions actually do help) we cut our custom fuel pick up to the proper length. The fitting also has a fuel return designed for modern-day fuel injection, but since we’re feeding a flat motor fed by a pair of Strombergs we cut the return length to the proper length but plugged that fitting on top. We connected 3/8-inch fuel line to the tank vent. We bought a ¼-inch pipe to ¼-inch hose fitting and installed it in the fuel pickup port.
This small hose fit our original metal fuel line in the car. We also ran a fuel-sending unit ground wire from the fuel gauge sending unit at this time. A pair of 1/8-inch rubber pads were cut and glued to the bottom of the gas tank mounting flanges with weatherstripping cement. These rubber pads are not required but our original tank had body webbing so we felt a rubber pad was a good idea.
With those connections completed we cleaned and painted the floor above the tank and when the paint was dry the second wrestling match began. Once we got the tank in place it fit perfectly. We decided maybe old Henry was onto something so we installed all four bolts this time.
We connected the ground wire to the chassis, routed the vent hose out by the filler neck, and then connected the fuel pickup hose to our existing fuel line under the car, adapting the 3/8-inch line down to the factory ¼-inch tubing.
And just like that we had a nice new fuel tank in our car, ready to feed clean gas to our brand-new, Summit Racing–sourced Stromberg carburetors. There was just one problem … since we had changed taillights, we actually had no way to fill the new tank. It was apparent the 1936 was taking on an early Westergard-style custom flavor with those Packard taillights, so we thought a gas fill door would be more appropriate than simply running a gas fill cap through the fender.
Did we mention one thing leads to another? Next time we’ll show you how we went about installing an oval gas door from Speedway Motors, so stay tuned. MR