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Masters of Metal
On our travels this week, we decided to take a look at The Romance of Rust, Lance McCormack’s body/workshop in Ealing, West London, and follow up with a trip to Jon Golding’s Home Grown Hot Rods establishment, in Southend, to see how our project Model A was progressing, as well as get a general update on the company’s latest projects.
Here Lance gives us a glimpse of his latest project - one of several key parts in his workshop that will eventually comprise a British bobber. Metalflake blue tank, whitewalls and Lance's hallmark metalworking should make this a very special bike. We'll have a full report for you once completed.
It hadn’t struck me at first, but when you get to know both Jon and Lance, it becomes clear that this could easily be a tale of mods and rockers. One the one side, there’s noted builder of quality customs and a true British bike enthusiast whose premises are just a stone’s throw from that den of rocker iniquity, the Ace Café. On the other side, there’s Home Grown Hot Rods, based in scooter heaven – Southend on Sea. Then you discover that Jon shares the same passion for old Lambrettas as he does for beautifully constructed hot rods, and it rather sets the scene for a possible showdown between Lance’s in-progress, ‘60s-style bobber and Jon’s coolly minimalist Lambrettas. Maybe we can get them together for a race sometime in 2007.
R of R is tucked away just off the High Street in Ealing. Immaculate black Volvo Amazon after its £30,000-plus restoration and a lovely old Bentley awaits attention.
Lance, a former Rolls Royce apprentice and final inspector of cars at famed coachbuilders, Mulliner Park Ward, set up Romance of Rust in 1993, primarily to work on classic cars of all makes. It was the Planet Voodoo Mercury lead sled, however, that was the car that put the company on the map. It oozes quality and attention to detail, and showcases Lance’s metalworking talents in a way that perhaps no other car could. And of course there’s no cutting corners if you are painting a car in a dark shade – in this case, Lance’s special 'Voodoo Vert' mix, comprising green, black, blue and yellow pigments. Today, Lance still operates with classics, but they are largely of British, European and Scandinavian origin. Virtually overnight, and quite inadvertently, his company has become a specialist in the restoration of the Volvo Amazon, and amazingly, new parts to keep this classic Swede on the road are plentiful.
Here's another Amazon in for treatment - new rear wheel arches, replacement head, four branch manifold, fresh brakes, refinished wheels/hub caps and much more.
Apart from the Volvos, though, there's an Aston Martin DB6, being fitted with new sills, and a Mk2 Jaguar, undergoing major restoration – paintwork and interior trim.
Tucked away in a corner - is that really what I think it is?
From the DRCReview perspective, however, nestling in the back of the workshop is something altogether more interesting – a rare, steel-bodied, British-registered, 1932 Ford three-window coupe. The car has suffered the ravages of English tin worm, which has eaten away the floorpan and much of the lower bodywork, but it has already received a new lower rear panel and boot lid, and currently awaits further serious attention. Lance has neatly welded in a modified, cut-and-shut, ‘40 Ford dash panel, but it’s clear there is still a long way to go to get the body back in shape, let alone back on the road.
There's a long way to go to get this steel body back in shape, but what a find for owner Dean Micetich.
Its powered by a 1949 Cadillac 331 hooked up to a 1939 ford 3-speed and '40s Ford rear end.
As you take in the Romance of Rust premises, it becomes clear that Lance is as enamoured of automotive memorabilia as he is of the cars themselves. Dotted around the walls are posters, enamel signs, toys and the odd magazine. There’s a musical side to Lance too. He plays Alto Sax with a band called The Phantoms, and revealed he was once involved with the early punk movement too. Back in the workshop, naturally, there are all the usual tools you’d expect to find, but in addition, there’s a rather special old metalworking press nestled away on one side of the shop floor.
Check out that heart-shaped and drilled brake pedal.
The arrival of the Planet Voodoo Mercury, in 2003, clearly showcased Lance’s considerable metalworking skills, as well as his interest in American cars, in one fell swoop. “We did get quite a few American car customers after the debut of the Mercury,” he says, “but for one reason or another, we now seem to have a more European classic car clientele.”
What does Lance feel is special about what he does at the Romance of Rust, we asked. “I like to work with metal to create really unusual one-offs,” he replies. “At the moment, I’m making a Morgo-powered Triumph bobber, which features lots of lovely little detail touches.” Lance then showed us a heart-shaped foot pedal he had created for the bike, and explained how he had shaped it to give the piece a more integral and aesthetically pleasing appearance. “It’s that kind of work I particularly enjoy – creating something you wouldn’t expect to see.”
More bike bits for the project.
Traditional metalworking skills, such as hammer-forming and wheeling complex, double curvature panels, are all employed and help to make the company much more than just a general garage/workshop. In 2002, as enthusiasts may recall, Lance and a team of other individuals were commissioned by Channel 4's classic machinery restoration programme, Salvage Squad, to tackle such tasks as restoring classic cars and steam engines. Nowadays, Lance applies the knowledge gained from his experience to more diverse projects, such as architectural metalwork commissions. One particularly noteworthy job was the creation of a stainless steel drinks bar which can now be found in the Ace Café. www.romanceofrust.co.uk
On to Southend
Of course, we’ve visited Jon Golding’s hot rod emporium on a number of occasions, and these days we have special reason to keep in touch, as he’s been entrusted with the build of our Project Model A, owned by DRCReview’s Graham Jones.
We weren’t quite sure what to expect on arrival, although there is one near certainty about every visit to HGHR – there are always interesting projects on the go. In truth, the Model A looked as if it hadn’t moved on very much since our last visit, but underneath the gleaming green paintwork, Jon had been busy fitting the wiring and attending to other minor, but nonetheless important jobs, while awaiting the arrival of several components. Apparently, all of the bodywork should be in place before Christmas – at the moment, only the rear fenders have been bolted on – so if we get the chance to pop over again in the next couple of weeks to check on progress, we’ll post a few pictures. In the meantime, the next instalment of Back to the Future will deal with the very important job of fitting out the car’s interior – a task, which after due consideration, has been entrusted to Neil Tadman. Hopefully, all the stitching work will have been completed by the end of January, in which case, we should have something very close to a completed, running car.
Stock of components is steadily increasing at HGH - notably the number of Brookville bodies.
So what else was there to see? Jon has been an appointed agent for Brookville for a few years now, and the HGHR workshop is currently brimming with steel roadster bodies – two ’30/31 Model As, a ‘29 Model A and a ’32 Model B. Up on the mezzanine floor is yet another all-original, ’32 three-window coupe body – and here we thought these were rare! This car will apparently be built with a stock-height roof.
Here, Jon is experimenting with the seat frame height and attaching a firewall.
For all the workshop is a hot rodding Aladdin’s cave, the reception area is every bit as much a place to stand and drool. As well as containing one of the previously mentioned Model A bodies, there’s a 502 big block Chevy motor, awaiting installation in a customer’s car, and two highly polished Winters quickchange axles – a V8 hot rod version and a competition axle.
502 cu. in. Chevy motor ready to drop into a customer's car.
Back out in the workshop, there’s a new frame on the go, and a complete Model A rolling chassis with heavily modified rails. These have been widened and pinched at the back, and pinched and flattened at the front, so their profile exactly matches the shape of the body, with no overhanging panels. It’s quite a job, but all in a day’s work for Jon and HGHR’s metal magician, Andy Barry.
This may look just like another Model B chassis, but it has been heavily reworked to fit the contours of a Model A roadster body that will be placed on top - no mean feat!
Fully polished Winters Quickchange - beautiful!
Another traditional style chassis on the go. Not evident in this shot, but those welds are so neat!
Story & Photos: Andy Kirk & Graham Jones