1936 Dodge Coupe - Mo Bernal

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1936 Dodge Business Coupe
Mo Bernal of Santa Rosa, CA
When it comes to perspective in art, it generally refers to the representation of three-dimensional objects or space in two dimensional artworks. Ask any artist, they will tell you that perspective values process, communication, and understanding. It doesn’t matter what type of artist they are, photographers, painters, illustrators, or even tattoo artists, they all value these same concepts.
Hailing originally from Central Phoenix (now Northern California) Mo Bernal, owner of “Anchor Rose Tattoo” and “Avenue Tattoo” in Santa Rosa, CA took all the artistic principles he knew and threw them into the stunning ’36 Dodge you see below that he affectionately calls “Blood Money”.
Like so many of us, Mo came from a car family, and has always been into the cars from the 30’s and 40’s. “My Dad had cars growing up, some of my earliest memories are of his ’57 Chevy convertible that he had in the early 60’s and from there I was hooked”. Mo first dove into the car scene when he lived in Arizona playing with VW’s and at the time, he had a Baja bug. “Sonoma County had a huge car scene back then, and in that area, everyone knows each other, and everyone is family. When it came to cruising, the lowrider guys cruised one side of the strip, the car guys cruised on the other side of the strip, and the VW guys just kind of found their way in middle, there was something for everyone. I would mingle between both crowds because I like everything.” With that being said, Mo has certainly had his fair share of cars besides the ’36, he has also built a ’54 F100 panel and a ’40 Chevy coupe amongst others.
Now, if you’ve made it this far in the story, between the Baja bug, a ’54 Ford panel, and a ’36 Dodge taildragger, you can tell that Mo likes to be different. He isn’t afraid to push the boundaries and be different (I’m willing to be that a lot of that comes from being an artist). This wasn’t an accident though; Mo did take a lot of time after acquiring the car to learn and understand exactly what he wanted this car to be. He looked at the length of the hood of the Dodge and knew that it was longer than other cars of the era and he knew that with the right stance, combined with the art deco design, the overall profile of the car would be superior to that of the other cars of the same vintage.
So how did it all happen? Craigslist of course! Mo had just recently sold a car and had money burning a hole in his pocket (we can all relate to that). Mo didn’t really know what he was looking for, but he has always had a passion for cars from the 30’s and 40’s but wasn’t sure if he would find a “keeper” or something that he could quickly flip for a profit. His friend sent him a link for this Dodge business coupe which Mo admits he saw 6 months prior and really couldn’t figure out why the car hadn’t sold because the price was right, and it had good bones. Granted it was a full 80’s street rod then, fully equipped with a 2-tone paint scheme, reverse rake, baby moons, and exhaust dumps in front of the rear fenders. Aside from that however, it had all the goodies, Heidt’s mustang II up front, a strong 408 stroker mill, 727 trans, 8 ¾ rearend, it was all Mopar, and it was SOLID! It was so solid that Mo even thought (for a nano second) that this would be a good candidate for someone to restore to stock. “I can appreciate any car, but personally, I don’t drive stock cars”.
After Mo contacted the seller, he found out why the car hadn’t sold in those 6 months since the first time he saw it. “the seller was difficult to work with, I learned that he was selling it for his elderly father who couldn’t drive it anymore and his mother was forcing the sale out of spite because she hated the car. It didn’t seem like the son really wanted to get rid of it. Finally, after what seemed to be a pretty sketchy transaction, Mo learned more about the car and its previous owner John Fogerty and became pretty good friends with him. To the point when while doing the build, they would send him parts they thought he might want or need that they found in the garage.
The Dodge did get passed around to several owners, but Mo learned that the car was originally sold in San Francisco and has been a Bay area car its entire life. “John did a lot of the work himself; it had a lot of good parts, but some things needed to be addressed. It had a VW interior in it, he made the headliner and the door panels, but even still, it was a good car minus a few things”. Mo started addressing his concerns with the steering and a few other issues but quickly realized it was going to get out of hand and needed to call in the pros. Bring in the heavy artillery, Danny Dorsett of Dorsett Speed Shop in Santa Rosa, CA who Mo credits with the build. Dorsett Speed Shop is a family run business who has been creating automotive art and speed for generations and they were well prepared to bring Mo’s ideas to life with the build.
Now as for Mo, he really likes the drivetrain, as with all his cars, he wants them to sound good and have power (you hear the car before you see the car, am I right?). Luckily his Dodge already had the 408 strokers in it he detailed it nicely with fresh gold paint, Edelbrock valve covers and high-rise intake which atop sits a Holley 750 carb. The 408 gets its spark from an MSD HEI which exits through Hedman block hugger headers and dumps into glass pack mufflers before exiting out the tailpipes.
The chassis is a stock frame with a “monster notch” as Mo calls it delivering comfort from the Heidt’s mustang II and two link rear suspension which pairs nicely with the Airlift Performance 3H airbag kit. Disc brakes for stopping power, a manual rack for steering, and when it come to delivering performance to the road, Mo reached out to Wheel Vintiques for a set of period artillery styled wheels wrapped in BF Goodrich Silvertown whitewalls.
Now let’s talk about the body modifications, as you can see this one is far from when it rolled out of factory in 1936. “I always wanted a chopped car and knew that if I chopped this one, with the long nose, it would make a great sled!”. Mo decided on a tasteful and elegant chop to enhance the original style of the car which culminated in a 4 1/2” haircut, removing reveal lines on the a-pillar and canting the b-pillar which was an idea that Mo brought in giving a nod to the styling of his ’40 Chevy. Last but not least, the rear “split window” finds itself beautifully placed in the roof geometry which Mo says is actually rear ¼ glass from a 1948 Plymouth 4 door sedan. Finally, the door handles were shaved, rear fenders were widened 2”. Impeccable stainless work was done by Verna Camara at Dorsett Speed Shop and the grille (which went missing long before Mo bought the car) was custom fabbed by the very talented Menges Twins.
When it came to that color, that was easy to decide on. Mo’s favorite color is burgundy, and he knew that is what he wanted. Although he admits that he is not a fan of new car colors, this particular shade he really liked which came from Toyota and if you ever get the opportunity to see this car in person, get on your belly and look underneath the car. The dedication didn’t stop on just the top side, arguably the underside of the car rivals the top in terms of cleanliness and detailing.
When it came to the interior, it had to compliment the exterior and with the beautiful oxblood upholstery, I believe that it does! Mo opted for color matching the headliner, ’66 Mustang buckets, door panels, trunk upholstery and carpets done by Paco. The dash is stock featuring a wide array of Stewart Warner gauges and the floor is accented with a Lokar shifter. The steering column is a polished Ididit topped with a Mooneyes Banjo although Mo says that is temporary and will be changed in the near future.
Now with all those details, don’t think that Mo’s Dodge is a trailer queen. Mo built his car to drive and drive it he does. It is driven regularly and can commonly be seen parked out in front of one of his tattoo shops. Mo says it’s a great conversation piece to meet new people who just want to learn more about the car. He admits that his favorite part of the build was hunting down parts and meeting people, starting friendships. His original dream came to reality when he was awarded Top 3 Early Customs 2023 award at the Santa Maria Cruising Nationals which is his favorite show and Mo says it was an honor to receive an award such as this at a show with such a high caliber of cars being shown. 
Mo was able to achieve the perfect blend of style and performance as well as giving a fitting tribute to the original styling of a beautiful automobile all while staying outside of the cookie cutter mold. I’m sure there are a few of the nay sayers out there who may think “Why a Dodge?” all I can say is “Why Not?”.
5 Window D-2 Business Coupe modified with a 4-1/2” Chop
Custom Stainless Steel grille by Menges Twins Speed Shop. Creston, CA
Stock Fenders with Rear fenders widened 2”
Rear Split Window Quarter Glass from 1948 Plymouth 4 Door Sedan
Shaved Door Handles
Stock Headlights & Taillights with glass modified by Verna Camara
Stock 1936 Dodge bumpers
DCM Classics Exterior Mirrors
Body Work by Jorge Vega. Santa Rosa, CA
Axalta Challenger Toyota Burgundy single-stage paint
Paintwork by Pedro Rodriguez of PRG Auto Body. Windsor, CA
Oxblood leather upholstery by Pacos Upholstery. Roseville, CA
1966 Mustang Bucket Seats
Stock 1936 Dodge Dash
Stewart Warner Gauges
Mooneyes Banjo Steering Wheel
Polished Ididit Steering Column
Lokar Floor Shifter
Stock 1936 Dodge frame with C-Notch & 2-link kit in rear
Dodge 8-3/4” Rear End
Stock Fuel Tank
Chassis Fabrication by Dorsett Speed Shop. Santa Rosa, CA
Front & Rear Air Suspension with AirLift Performance 3H
Heidts Mustang II Suspension Front Kit with Manual Rack & Pinion
Suspension Work by Dorsett Speed Shop. Santa Rosa, CA
Front & Rear: Disc brakes
15” x 6" Wheel Vintiques Artillery wheels with 15” Dodge hubcaps wrapped in 185/70r15 BF Goodrich Silvertown Radial whitewall tires
408 Stroker engine; Gold paint color
Original Mopar Heads
Edelbrock Valve Covers
Edelbrock high-rise intake with Holley 750 4 Barrel Carburetor
Edelbrock Air Cleaner
MSD HEI Ignition
Hedman Block Hugger Headers
Santa Rosa Driveline
Engine Work by Dorsett Speed Shop. Santa Rosa, CA
727 Mopar 3-Speed Manual Transmission
 Glasspack Mufflers - Exhaust Work by A1A Muffler. Santa Rosa, CA
Stereo system with Audiofrog Amplifiers, Control and DC Audio Subwoofers
American Autowire Wiring Harness
Stainless Trim by Verna Camara & Daniel Dorsett. Dorsett Speed Shop of Santa Rosa, CA
West Coast Kustoms : Cruisin Nationals 2023 : Top 3 Early Custom
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  • Fantastic build! Great photos and well written story.

    Todd on
  • Killer photos and article

    Daniel on

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