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If you think the bright red, three window coupe owned by Phil Mallas looks familiar, then you’d be right. It was first featured in Custom Car in 2000 and looked a little different then. On the outside was a three piece hood, a plastic grille surround and fuel tank cover with recessed number plate aperture, body coloured running boards and slightly lower profile rear tyres.
Of course, trends change over the years but Phil had always visioned a more traditional flavour for the car and last year embarked on reworking its appearance. Off came the three piece hood to be replaced with a four piece item by Rootlieb. “There’s an interesting story here,” reveals Phil. “I ordered up stock hood sides and received examples with three rows of louvers punched out instead. I spoke with Rootlieb about their mistake and they sent me through replacements free of charge – all the way from the US. How about that for customer service.”
Addition of front bumper necessitated less rake at the front
Phil also ditched the fibreglass front grille in favour of a quality reproduction item from Bob Drake. “I’d always wanted a stock chromed grille, it’s such a lovely piece”, he adds. Further brightwork came with the addition of a stock window surround which he chopped and had chrome plated, and the addition of original style, chromed bumpers front and rear. The rear being mounted on shortened irons to bring it much closer to the body than standard. He went for a less shiny solution in the headlight department with painted bowl ’34 commercial items. These lights are shallower than the stock passenger car alternatives and come with primered as opposed to polished stainless bowls.
Lots of lovely louvres in the aluminium boot lid
Adding further classic hot rod appeal are the louvered hood top sections by Rootlieb and a heavily punched out aluminium boot lid outer skin. The original running boards have also gone in favour of Lobeck's V8 Shop items, complete with vulcanised rubber covers. Phil retained the polished Torq Thrusts Ds which were fitted to the car back in 1999 (14x6 on the front and 15x 8½ on the rear) but changed the tyres to higher profile 235/75R15 on the back. The front end needed to be raised after fitting the bumper as it protrudes much further forward than the peak of the grille, thus increasing the overhang from the centreline of the wheels. In an attempt to avoid any unpleasant encounters with speed bumps, slightly longer aluminium Protech coil overs were fitted and that seems to have solved the problem.
Phil's coupe sits so nice on those ARE wheels - just right!
The overall exterior transformation is bang on and certainly elevates the appeal of the car both in quality and appearance. But what’s underneath that beautiful Ferrari Rosso Corsa paint job?
Phil started out with a chopped (2.7/8 inch) ’34 Corner body and chassis rails as long ago as 1989. He purchased all of the main body components as individual items and then began piecing them all together at home. Handily, Phil’s good friend Louis Turner (his ’34 coupe was featured last week) is a joiner and was entrusted with the task of fitting out the shell in hardwood. Phil then went over adding additional metal strengthening where required and the hidden door hinges.
'39 Ford tail lights are utilisedl
From the outset, Phil had decided to build as much as he could of the car himself. Utilising the Chris Boyle chassis which had been set up for Jaguar independent suspension, Phil purchased a used XJ-6 unit, had the driveshafts shortened and fitted it to a replacement cross member with urethane isolating bushes, in an attempt to reduce road noise feedback. Off course, the Jaguar unit comes complete with inboard rear discs and remains a great packaging solution even though it has now fallen out of favour with traditionalist hot rodders.
Phil and Louis Turner use their cars come rain or shine
At the front, the chassis was originally set up for Cortina suspension but this was ditched in favour of Chris Boyle’s fabricated tubular ‘A’ arm suspension with coil over shock absorbers. Apparently, these were newly introduced items that had not been fully productionised, but Phil took the concept and made it work in his ’34 by modifying the Cortina cross member to take the A arms whilst retaining the Cortina’s geometry. He then made up a neat rack and pinion steering solution using parts from a Mk1 Ford Fiesta. As for stopping power, in went a pair of Ford Granada discs but not before the hubs had been CNC machined specifically to adapt to the five stud ARE wheels selected. A Mk1 Fiesta servo unit and a Cortina Mk5 estate car master cylinder were added to arrive at a system with acceptable line pressure and pedal travel.
Engine bay now has period dress-up items and the 350 Chevy has a hot cam
The engine compartment also received a slight revamp in the form of traditional Edelbrock valve covers, Moon breather / PCV covers and a mushroom air cleaner, which replaced the ball-milled items originally fitted to the 350 Chevrolet lump.
“The car was built in phases to spread costs,” recalls Phil. “I always wanted a traditional look but couldn’t get there first time around.”
Illustrating the fact that Phil can turn his hand to most things, he laid down the Ferrari Rosso Corsa paint in cellulose. Eight years on the coupe still looks immaculate. “It requires a bit more maintenance than a two-pack finish but considering its age it is still as vibrant as the day it was painted, especially out in the sun, which is how I always wanted it to look", says Phil. “I remember after it was painted, my wife Susan and I spent a whole week colour sanding it on the drive before going over it with rubbing compound and a buffer. That’s when the finish really came to life.”
Hard to believe the paintwork is eight years old
Inside, the coupe is unchanged from its original appearance with a semi-billet influence which Phil says he will slowly change to match the exterior as funds allow. However, Phil’s a big fan of the Vauxhall Astra GTE Recaro bucket seats he fitted and would not want to sacrifice the comfort they afford, purely for a more traditional look. They were slightly reshaped and covered in grey leather and there’s matching leather for the door trims, grey velour for the headlining and deep pile carpets.
Individual Recaro bucket seats have proven to be immensely comfortable
Not immediately obvious is a four-point roll bar fitted behind the driver with the main hoop secured to the chassis and additional bracing going through the boot to the rear of the chassis. As well as providing additional safety in the unlikely event of a roll, this item also serves as the mounting points for the three-point seat belts, which, neatly, have their inertia reels tucked out of sight into the boot.
Banjo wheel on Brookville column
There are aluminium billet style door handles which Phil says he’ll be changing soon, a set of VDO Night Design instruments in a custom five gauge aluminium surround and a Lecarra banjo steering wheel atop a Brookville steering column.
So in eight years of driving, has he come across any major problems with the car? “The only thing I’ve had to do is replace the transmission pan gasket. It leaked oil which dripped on to the exhaust. Louis was following behind and said it looked just like an F1 car engine explosion - there was so much smoke. I was relieved to find it was just the gasket that had gone. Other than that it’s been a dream to own and drive.”
Phil loves to drive his coupe and has racked up thousands of miles
“The major highlights have been taking the car to Europe on numerous occasions, the longest journey being to a Swedish hot rod meeting which ended up at around 1,700 miles for the round trip. Shortly we’ll be off to France again for the Euro Nationals and we’re going out in advance to take in more of the country before arriving at the event. “
We reckon Phil’s done a great job of slowly evolving his coupe and it’s clear that there’s more to come. We’re already looking forward to the next chapter.
Story & Photos: Andy Kirk
A pair of fabulous coupes