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Turner's Masterpiece

Our favourite angle - what a beautiful traditional-style hot rod complimented by the subtle paint, white detail and Louis's decision to use top components throughout the build 


If there was ever any doubt as to how contagious hot rodding can be, then you only have to spend 10 minutes chatting to Louis Turner and his good friend Phil Mallas and it’s clear that it runs through their veins.  

Louis debuted his lovely stock-height five-window coupe at the Billing fun run earlier this month along with Phil’s reworked chopped ‘34 coupe.  They drove down from Halifax having finished the gloss grey coupe the night before – “it was so last minute we didn’t even have the time to straighten up the back number plate,” jokes Louis.  Even so, Louis picked up a Top 10 Award for his efforts.  When chatting with them, you have to admire Louis and Phil’s very laid back approach to life and hot rodding – it’s a “if it’s done its done,” type of attitude, but by the same token, you then hear that they worked their socks off for three days with only five hours sleep each night to ensure the car was ready for Billing.  Clearly, when it matters, they are on the case!


“It all started when my wife, Brenda took me to see American Graffiti in 1977,” recalls Louis. Of course, this was at the height of what many remember as the jacked up era – and Louis soon became a key player, with a flamed Mk1 Capri complete with fur interior and obligatory custom sidepipes.  “I didn’t have any engineering knowledge back then; you picked it up as you went along.  I’m a joiner by trade so am use to making things, but in those early days I hadn’t worked with metal, other than what I’d picked up at school.


Louvered hood and boot lid all add to "the look" and there's a wicked rake for good measure too


Inspired by what he’d learnt with the Capri, Louis then moved onto a Ford Popular project which he recalls comprised the usual Jaguar rear with Vauxhall Viva front suspension.  “Mechanically, I copied what a lot of people had done and asked other rodders when I was stuck for answers. The Pop took about two years to build and I had it MoT’d on the Saturday before we drove it all the way to Belgium the same day.”  Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire.


“After selling the pop in 1996, I bought a Paul Haig Model A Coupe and chassis package (for those who are interested, it appears Paul was, until recently, a director of Huddersfield Town Football Club). It was one of the first coupes Paul made. I’d started work on the car but never finished it. We moved house in 1999, sold the Model A and after withdrawal symptoms set in, purchased a Chassis Works Model B coupe – a black and flamed highboy-style rod with Ford Cortina running gear. I removed the fenders, fitted whitewall tyres and a new interior. It was a nice reliable car which I drove for seven years, and in the meantime I slowly gathered ideas and components for my next project.



“Someone had been down to the now defunct rod shop ‘34 Corner and purchased a collection of parts and then left them outside for ten years. A friend of mine told me about them and I purchased the whole lot.  It was a rolling chassis with one of their fibreglass ‘34 coupe bodies on top. I remember it being something of a bargain, but if you look at it now, all that’s been retained are the chassis rails, the four-bar set up and the front axle.  The reason being that after acquiring a steel bodyshell a little later on, it sort of moved the goalposts for me,” say Louis. “It inspired me to build the car to a much higher standard.


 “The body came up for sale on e-bay.  I saw that it hadn’t reached its reserve and decided to contact the owner afterwards to see if we could strike up a deal.  When I saw it, it was exactly what I wanted – it needed work, it had been heavily channelled,  but it was an ideal starting point.



“That’s when I drew up my wish list of components to fit into a really worthwhile body.  The shell came from South Africa, The reason I know this is because the boot opening is parallel top to bottom, whereas on an American ’34 five window coupe, it is  5/8inch wider at the top.  I know this because I ordered up a brand new boot lid which I then had punched out with louvers by Steve’s Autos in Oregon and imported to the UK by Kerry Tate.  It was like Christmas when it arrived.  You have to remember that the rest of the body was still rough at this stage, but this boot lid was shiny new metal and I couldn’t wait to fit it in place.  After extracting it from the packaging and slowly lowering it into position, it soon became clear that it just wasn’t going to fit at the top.  I could have cried – it was the only pristine bit of metal on the car – and it didn’t fit.


“When I phoned and told Steves Autos about the problem they said they’d sold hundreds of boot lids without problem – then there was a pause and the guy said, “well, we did have a problem once with a car in Australia!  Why did Ford make the right hand drive cars different – it doesn’t make sense? 


Those beautiful polished Buick drums are a visual treat 


Louis and Phil both tackled the bodywork. Louis made new bottom sections for the doors – there’s about 7 inches of new metal from the base of the doors upwards.  He handled repairs to the  rear quarter panels and those to the inner wheel arches. “I was always a bit conscious of how the front grille would line-up, bearing in mind the car’s been channelled – and this proved to be a real challenge.  I sat the grille at the right angle with the cowl and it almost touched the floor. I laid back the grille shell and then set it 3.5/8 inches off the floor and  stood there looking at how I could make it work.  I got some masking tape and made the shape of a new hood which also had lower sides like those of a ’32 Ford.. I then transferred this into a sketch with dimensions and sent it off to Rootlieb for them to make up.  When they’d completed the custom design, it was again sent up to Steve’s Autos for louvering.   Kerry Tate brought it in - he brought in everything for me, which has been great.


After fettling the body, attention turned to the chassis which was set up for a Jaguar independent rear end.  Alterations were made, including the fitment of a new  cross-member for the gearbox. To complement the V.C.W big I beam axle and Pete & Jake’s four bar batwings he'd selected, Louis went for a Durant mono-leaf spring, S/S spring clamp and P & J shock absorbers.  He then splashed out on the braking system with a So Cal polished Buick drum set up and added a servo for good measure. 


Stainless exhaust can be uncorked for a bit of serious action and there's a Rochester Tri-Power system backing up the warmed over 350 motor


“I’d heard some bad reports about the use of coil springs on rear axles and after many conversations with other rodders decided to go the buggy sprung rear axle route,” says Louis.  “I bought a So Cal axle casing which they fitted with the appropriate  brackets before it was returned to Curries to be fitted with a Trac-Loc and 4.11 gears.  A lot of people thought I was a bit crazy going for 4.11s but they didn’t realise I was going for a 700R4 transmission. If you go onto the Hot Rod Works web site and use their on-line calculator, so long as you put in  parameters like rolling tyre circumference and the transmission gear ratios, it will advise you on the ideal final drive for the rear end.  It came back with 4:11, so that’s what it’s got!  Helping to suspend the axle are ladder bars and one of So Cals multi-leaf springs plus P & J shocks. For the last ‘push’ I gave the chassis to Kerry Tate to disassemble after he had pre-fitted the brake lines. He then painted the chassis and reassembled it with all new parts which were polished,  chromed or powder coated.



“Kerry bought the engine in for me from the ‘States.  He found it in Auto Trader in the US.  Someone had the motor built to order, but had never fitted it. In fact it had been sat unopened in a crate for 10 years!. When the guy advertised it, someone came along and identified it as a Ford, not a Chevy, so the owner got in touch with the shop that built it for him and they said “no problem, send it back and we’ll build you a Chevy”.  So that’s what they did and that’s the engine that Kerry brought in for me.  It’s got big valve heads,  a high energy Compertition Cam, roller rockers and a lightened and balanced bottom end.  I fancied a 383 stroker motor but when it came to it I thought I'd spend the money on a nice tri-carb set-up and Buick drums. 


“I went for the 700R4 gearbox because fourth gear is an overdrive and I was looking for good economy. So far it’s proving superb.  At  70mph the car is cruising at just 2000rpm, whereas in Phil’s coupe, which has a TH350, it’s pulling well over 3000rpm.  I came back from Billing on half a tank of gas and that’s about 150 miles – it runs of fresh air!  I reckon the triple Rochester carburetion helps here too.  I was told I’d get 25 mpg on a run and considerably less around town and I think that seems about right." 


Rare treaded piecrusts and Radirs help timewarp the appearance of the car


All told. The final push on the car lasted about 18 months. The two remaining jobs that were outsourced involved paint and interior.  Louis prepared the body, while the shell was transported locally to Trimcraft in Halifax for a liberal coating of Nissan Lapis grey.


Premier auto trim in Wigan were then entrusted with the interior retrim.   "I always had this idea of  black and white tuck and roll but decided to swap the colours around to what you’d normally see.  The reason being that for some reason I always end up scuffing the bottom off the doors, so rather than having this white I went for black so it wouldn’t show so much, and this then dictated where the white would go. The colours work well against the grey exterior and the original black-painted dash which is now equipped with white-faced Moon gauges and a pod mounted tachometer.



"I went for a Wise Guys bench seat because I like the fact that you get a folding armrest in the middle which stops you sliding around.  We reshaped the foams a bit to make them more traditional looking.  I’d always wanted a Lecarra steering wheel and managed to get hold of a Mark 10 wheel with a lovely billet horn ring. Mick Shepard came up trumps, giving me a few days before Billing to put the rest of the car back together.



"I had a wish list of components and I’ve been fortunate to have been able to get the parts I really wanted - like the Radirs on the back, those piecrust treaded DR3 slicks and the  ET Gassers on the front.  I tried to get a repro radiator grille from a supplier who promised to help, but nothing happened for months.  Then I tried Bob Drake in the US and much to my surprise they said  “we’ve got over 2000 in stock,” so we ordered two – one for me and one for Phil. 


New grille shell came in from Bob Drake


"At the end of the day I’ve always wanted a rod that’s as driveable as you could make it, which rides well, has good economy and plenty of power.  I’m pleased to say I’ve achieved all of those goals.  The Mustang 2 steering box is a bit heavy at low speed but otherwise I couldn’t be happier," concludes Louis. 

Story & Photos: Andy Kirk
Special thanks go to Louis and Phil for sparing the time for a chat and in finding such a great photo location.


Louis with his customary large grin - no wonder he's happy!

We'll be looking at Phil's lovely red coupe next week

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