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Pagan Pleasure

Gorgeous rake, perfect wheel/tyre fit and outstanding paint all add to the visual impact


Here at DRCReview we are constantly amazed by the inventiveness and skill of rodders who continue to raise the bar with regards to street rod construction in the UK.  The hobby is now on an altogether higher plane and it’s thanks to people like Brackpacker  Dave Sturgess.  His fresh-out-of-the-box, Gold Kandy 3 window coupe has all of the hallmarks of a Pro-build, but with the exception of the paint and interior, it’s all come together in Dave’s garage in Earley, Berkshire.


As many UK rodding enthusiasts may recall, Dave has been around the hot rod scene since the late 70s and gives credit to Pete Fowler and Keith Atkinson for spurring him on in the early days.  His first car, a Chevy powered Austin 10, was eventually sold to an enthusiast in Belgium to make way for a ‘34 sedan which he purchased from Simon Lane in 1989 as a body and chassis project.  The hi-tech powder green ‘34 hit the road in 1992 and was used extensively by Dave as a family hot rod over the following 8 years.


Dave elected to keep the exterior of his stock-height '32 nice and simple.  A 46 inch I-beam helps get the nose down. 


Clearly, Dave has considerable experience of screwing together a hot rod, but it’s not always been that easy.  “When we all lived in Bracknell our garages had no power and it was a bit mad really trying to put a car together,” he reflects. Thankfully those early problems are a thing of the past and Dave’s latest creation has come together in the  more comfortable confines of his double garage - not too far from the sofa!.  It might surprise you though, to learn that this project has been on the go (on and off) since 2000, when Dave began accumulating parts intended as the basis for a budget ’32 Roadster build.


“I wanted to keep the ‘34 and build something else, but I didn’t have enough space to have the two.  So I sold the ‘34 to start a ‘32, which moved on from budget-rod to a more considered long-term project,” adds Dave.  “I kind of regret selling the ’34 (which also found a home overseas) but keeping it as well was never really an option at the time.”


“I then changed my mind about the body style and bought an unchopped Chris Boyle Rodline coupe body and an original ‘32 frame. I think the body is really good, but one thing I didn’t like was how the cowl went uphill from the windscreen to the hood, instead of flowing into the hood line, so I cut the firewall at the sides, pulled the centre section down until the angle was right, and then glassed it back together in the new position. The body came with the doors hung, and I only needed to shim the body where it mounts to the chassis to ensure a perfect door fit.   I had two attempts at making acceptable window winding mechanisms.  Rodline don’t stock anything so it’s a matter of making it up as you go along.  I used Mini winder mechanisms fitted to my own design of steel & aluminium frame.  In retrospect, I think I could have done it without cutting away so much of the original inner door skin, but having said that, they work perfectly well.”



Check out how the exhaust has been neatly tucked up out of the way

The Kandy paintwork has a surreal glow in sunlight

Dave had Brasscraft make the beautiful chromed opening front screen surround on original-style hinges with a new weatherproof seal, before turning his attention to the fenders.  The original fibreglass items supplied with the body were apparently not the best fitting – “the rear ones seemed to be from a roadster body, they didn’t follow the contours of the wheel arch, whilst the front fenders must have warped,” says Dave.  It was about this time that reproduction steel fenders were becoming widely available and  Dave ordered up a set from Jon Golding.  When they arrived, the rears just bolted on a treat but the steel rear frame horn covers needed to be cut to match them.  The new front fenders needed some therapy to fit the frame where they met the running boards and were reshaped so that the beading at the front continued all the way around.  They mount up to Bob Drake reproduction running boards.


More therapy was needed in the chassis department, which now has a Model A front cross-member and is fully boxed using a Chris Boyle kit.  Dave notched the frame front and rear to clear the front leaf spring and rear axle respectively  and added a 46inch Magnum I beam axle with So Cal hairpins, a Vega steering box, 40s Ford spindles and a TCI GM front disc brake kit.  “Because it’s a low car with fenders you don’t really see the front brakes and I prefer the extra stopping power of discs over drums anytime,” says Dave.  Mind you, he didn’t stop there (if you’ll excuse the pun) and went to the trouble of fitting an MBM power brake servo, which required reprofiling of the brake pedal and the actuating rod.  To ensure there would always be sufficient pressure in the system he added residual valves in the stainless brake lines - 2psi at the front and 10psi in the rear which stop the brake fluid from draining back into the master cylinder.  The final tweak was a Willwood proportioning valve to ensure just the right amount of brake bias front to back. At the rear is a Mustang 8inch LSD axle with drum brakes, located via a Pete & Jakes four-bar set-up, Panhard rod and Aldan coilovers.  A Deuce Factory sway bar keeps body roll to a minimum.

What you don't see is all of the lovely chassis detail under the body.  Fortunately for us, Dave had been keeping record of the progress

Brake servo, oil cooler (again tucked out of the way) and polished stainless steel exhaust all evident in this shot

This shot goes to prove that you can have a wicked rake and plenty of ground clearance too


As for rolling stock, Dave decided from the outset on a traditional theme with steel wheels (5inch front, 6inch x 15inch  rear) wrapped with Firestone crossplies.  “I did originally fit 8inch wide rims at the back but the sidewall bulge just didn’t look right,” says Dave.  Ford hub caps of ’46 vintage and dress rings complete the look.


Motivation for the coupe is pretty straightforward hot rod practice.  Dave had always rebuilt his motors in the past, but the low price of crate motors meant it really was a no-brainer.  The factory fresh 350 has Moon valve covers and air cleaner, plus an Edelbrock manifold and carburettor.  John Reid supplied the HPC coated headers and these mount to a 2 3/8inch diameter stainless steel exhaust system fabricated by Dave and incorporating twin Edelbrock mufflers.  “I tacked it all in position and had friend Frank Cooke weld it up for me,” says Dave.  It was then polished to perfection by PJS Polishing who also handled all of the chroming.   One thing you might have noticed about the exhaust system is how neatly it has been tucked out of the way, so in side profile you don’t see it at all –“it’s all deliberate,” says Dave.  Backing up the Chevy small block is a matching 350 transmission, which Dave took apart and rebuilt with a shift kit, B&M converter, transmission cooler and Lokar shifter. He installed the Painless wiring loom, wired up the entire car, added Classic Instruments with an electrical speedometer, a Limeworks column, So Cal switchgear and a 40s Ford wheel.


Fit and forget crate motor was dropped into the frame with a few dress-up goodies

Finding a local company both capable and confident enough to handle specialist paint finishes was no mean feat, but fortunately Dave knew of Wokingham-based Bodytone (0119 978 7269) who had experience of custom finishes including House of Kolor paints - used to great effect on Andy Robinson’s Pro Mod Studebaker.  Having found the company, he now just needed the colour!  “It was originally going to be black, then maybe a purple pearl,” says Dave.  Eventually he settled on House of Kolor Pagan Gold Kandy - a truly fabulous shade - with an off white firewall and floor pan. 


After preparing all the panels, Bodytone proprietor Tony Gabriel had Darren Denton lay down the gold base coat and build-up the translucent layers of candy topped with two-pack clear lacquer.  Dave remembers the job required much more paint than a normal metallic, and he reckons that the layers of candy needed to be laid down quickly (within 30 mins) to stop the paint from wrinkling between coats – all nail-biting stuff no doubt!  Darren also needed to ensure that the Kandy was laid down the same way and that coverage was consistent.  It’s testament to Bodytone’s refinishing skills that the car looks so good wherever you look and whatever the light, but the icing on the cake is the surreal glow in strong sunlight. As you can imagine, Dave is really chuffed with the end result.


Easy does it!  Carefully lowering the body on the chassis after painting - phew!! 

Having established such a high standard of engineering and finish throughout the whole car from chassis construction to paint, Dave realised the interior would have to be something special too. Here he knew the best name for the job and yes you guessed it, that name was Neil Tadman.  “I had already chosen the colour (pearl white vinyl) and had fitted a Glide seat but other than it was bare when I drove the car up to Neil’s workshop over the winter and left it with him.  He asked me how big I wanted the pleats for the tuck and roll, we looked at some of the work he’d done previously, threw around a few ideas and then I let him design it. Neil and Ian both worked on the car, they had it for a total of about seven weeks and I think they’ve done an absolutely fantastic job.  I couldn’t recommend them highly enough.”


Neil fitted speakers in hidden panels and also tucked the base unit out of sight. In the trunk, the oval panel behind the seat hides a custom shelf for storage and there are other access panels subtly hidden where you can store tools and such like.  Of course it’s got Neil’s trademark headlining in there too.  As for the carpet, Dave wanted something more practical than the white, especially as he planned to use the car as often as possible, so German square weave in black was selected and fitted. 


Another Neil Tadman interior masterclass

His trademark front shelf......

..... and headlining.  It's another knockout blow wherever you look

Trunk has hidden shelf behind oval panel and further stowage areas tucked away out of view


Once back home, there was just one final job Dave had in mind for his coupe  – a spot of subtle pinstriping to accent the grille shell and trunk  plus a pinstriped coachline running the length of the car.  Neil Melliard laid down the subtle licks in deep red outlined in white to his usual high standard.


The style of this car is very much in the spirit of the 60s - it has a resto-rod feel, with stock components such as lights, bumpers and trim used throughout the exterior build. Only the glowing gold paintwork, wide whites with hub caps – plus that fabulous rake and subtle striping shout hot rod.  “I love the way it’s turned out,” says Dave.  “You know I like radical ‘32s, but it’s hard to beat the original Ford lines.” 


Neil Melliard handled the striping- to his usual high standard

One thing is for sure, Dave’s coupe will undoubtedly prove to be one of the hot rodding highlights of 2007 – it’s just so good.  And don’t think this car will be laid up between rod runs either  -“Somehow we’ve done 600 miles in it already,” he adds. “As far as I am concerned, the idea of having a car like this is to drive it – it’s not a piece of furniture.”


Finally, Dave would like to thank Tony, Darren and all of the staff at Bodytone, Neil and Ian at Neil’s Auto Interiors and Neil Melliard, all of whom have made highly significant contributions to this undoubtedly beautiful and understated hot rod.

Story: Andy Kirk
Photos: Andy Kirk & Dave Sturgess

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