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Garage Scene

As usual, there’s a lot of hot rodding activity going on in garages around the country right now.   Although we can’t hope to bring you details of everything that’s being pieced together behind closed doors, we can at least provide a snapshot of what new cars are likely to appear on the scene in the not too distant future.  If you’d like to tell us more about what you are building, then please drop us a line at: editorial at drcreview dot com.  In the meantime, here’s what we’ve discovered so far…….


Chris’s Hemi-powered pick-up

Chris Smith has been involved in the UK hot rod and custom scene since 1981, when he first built a low-rider Consul Capri, while his last car was a light blue, 1964 Volvo PV544, the large(ish) Swedish sedan looking not dissimilar to a ‘40 Ford.  Chris says he gets a lot of enjoyment from piecing together his hot rods and very much likes to have the right tools for the job, which is why you’ll find his immaculate, four-car garage equipped with its very own, equally spotless workshop.  A lathe, cutters, drills – you name it, Chris has it.  It’s a real hot rodder’s paradise!


Chris’s latest project – well, there are two, actually – involves steel ’32 pick-up and three-window coupe bodies.  The latter, described as an ex-race car, was found fairly recently on the East coast of the US, having languished in a garage for 15 years.

Chris has built his own chassis jig!


The pick-up (sourced on eBay in the UK) will come first, however, and is currently being built around So-Cal Speed Shop stepped/boxed rails, into which Chris is fitting more beefy cross-members to handle the additional power output of his chosen engine.  Friends Russ Pepper and Richard Green, at R&R Imports, were tasked with finding a 331 cu. in. Hemi in the US and having it rebuilt with trick components, including a pair of Hot Heads aluminium cylinder heads.  Once back in Blighty, the motor will be equipped with the Hilborn electronic fuel injection system that is shown mocked up on the Hemi block in the photos.  The rest of the car will feature a Winters quick-change with custom-made brackets and a dropped I-beam fitted with ’40 Ford drum brakes.  The plan is to get the rolling chassis built this year and Chris says he’s very much enjoying piecing it all together himself – he’s one lucky guy!

Check out those custom brackets - Winters quickchange isn't bad either!

The pick-up body will be the first one used

Another steel 3-window coupe surfaces in the UK

Chris purchased this Hemi and then found out the block was cracked


Buckland’s shop truck

Buckland Automotive Engineering, run by Adrian Smith, is perhaps best known for the radical Model A coupe and matching bike trailer built for Crazy Horse custom bike shop last year.  There’s no doubt the car, trailer and bike combination created quite a stir when they appeared on the scene, and Adrian tells us he hasn’t stopped since then with new projects.  One of those is a shop truck, being built to help showcase the company’s capabilities.  It is based on a hand-built, ’30-style roadster body, lengthened six inches, and with a matching pick-up bed, shortened by the same amount.  If you like what you see, you might be interested to know that these bodies and beds are available to order.

Unique steel body/bed available to order


The modified TCI chassis incorporates a Ford 9-inch rear and I-beam front axle, equipped with ‘40 Ford brakes and matching steel wheels shod with Firestone tyres.  Motivation comes from a 350 Chevy matched to a TH350 transmission.  Overall, the wheelbase is 107 inches compared with the original car’s 103.5inches.  It’s a subtle change, which appears to work well.  Adrian is hoping to have the pick-up ready for the summer, at which point, it should sport satin paint and sign writing.  Buckland Automotive Engineering is moving to new, bigger premises in Bedford, on June 1, to offer a more comprehensive in-house service to rodders.   In the meantime, the company can be contacted on 07768 058060.

This chassis was built for a customer with an independent front end


Dave’s ‘budget’ Roadster

As some may be aware, Dave Sturgess’s gorgeous, three-window coupe is currently on long-term loan to the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, as part of an exhibition devoted to hot rods and customs.  Of course, this left Dave with a bit of a dilemma, as he had a large space in his garage but no car to play with.  Well, that would have been the case, if he hadn’t purchased a budget ‘32 roadster towards the end of last year, on which he initially planned to carry out a light re-fettle before putting it back on the road at minimal expense.  It is probably fair to say, however, that Dave is a bit of a perfectionist, and it was therefore only a matter of time before he pulled the car apart to see how it could be improved.  As is often the case, things got a little out of hand and suddenly it became a full-on project.  The first job was to fit new cross-members in the Jerry Denning chassis and finish off boxing the chassis rails.  A pair of So-Cal Speed Shop hairpins has been grafted onto the Ford axle, while transverse leaf springs have been retained front and rear.  Ford wire wheels of ’35 vintage are fitted, along with an original dropped headlight bar, now equipped with a pair of replica Guide headlights, while ‘39 Ford tail lights bring up the rear.  The French-built, 24-stud flathead and matching three-speed manual transmission were removed to provide access to the chassis and these will be retained once they have been checked over and repainted.

It was all fibreglass - now it's all-steel


The biggest expense, however, was the new Brookville steel ’32 body, which replaces the previous fibreglass item!  Dave intends to graft in a stock firewall and has just fitted a So-Cal instrument panel.  Current interior plans call for a simple bench seat and not much else.  The Roadster will be painted in a satin shade once complete.

French flathead Ford awaits attention


Keith’s chopped Sedan

You may recall we took a look at Keith Atkinson’s amazing ’32 Sedan last May, when DRC Review ran a profile on this prolific hot rodder.  Unsurprisingly, a considerable amount of work has been carried out on the car since then, and it is now a full roller, with the body in place and ready for paint.  Keith says most of that progress can be attributed to Wayne Streams, who fabricated and fitted the new floorpan, fabricated a new firewall to match, lined up the grille shell and hood sides, reskinned the bottom of one door, fitted a custom rolled rear pan, mounted the rear lights on custom stands, equipped the spreader bars with invisible fixings, chopped down the garnish mouldings and windscreen surround to suit, and mounted the steering column and pedals. 

Rolled rear pan evident in this shot


Shortly, Keith will finish off the bodywork before stripping it down to be painted by Tracy Chantry.  It will then be time for wiring duties before the sedan is packed off to Essex for a Neil Tadman interior.  It will be painted in Keith’s favourite shade of “Atkinson orange” with detail pinstriping in black and white.

Some bloke from Bracknell turned up with his roadster!


Keith's sedan is starting to come together very nicely - thanks in no small part to the efforts of Wayne Streams



Valley Gas Model A

I must admit to feeling a little queasy at the sight of a lovely, stock Model A about to be hot rodded, but that sensation fades when it is in the hands of people who know what they are doing.  Valley Gas Speed Shop has turned out some very nice hot rods of late and the Model A in question looks destined to be another successful project.  In fact, the car was previously owned by shop proprietors, Jimmy and Ellie Hibbard, who were persuaded to part with it for what has turned out to be a very involved – and expensive – long-term project.

The unsuspecting victim - a lovely stock Model A

The steel 28/29 Model A body has been parted from the chassis, to which has been grafted complete Heidt’s independent front and rear suspension assemblies – a first in the UK, Ellie thinks.  Stopping power is provided by ventilated disc brakes (inboard at the rear) with servo assistance, while a 454 Chevy with matching TH400 transmission nestles between the chassis rails.  Spent gases from the rat motor exit via a custom, stainless steel Borla exhaust system.

Oh dear, what have they done!


The car is being built as a daily driver and will be equipped with modern creature comforts, such as air conditioning and satellite navigation.   It will be painted in House of Kolor black with a hit of red when out in the sun.  A full leather interior is also on the cards.


The customer also owns a Lamborghini, but Valley Gas reckons the Model A will be quicker down the drag strip and have offered to give him his money back should this prove not to be the case.  That’s some pledge!!

Sophisticated chassis is far from traditional

Heidt's rear end in place to match the front

The chopped body atop the custom chassis


Keith’s creative Roadster

As regular readers of DRC Review will know, we’ve also been following the progress of the ’32 roadsters Keith Baker is building – one for himself and the other, for Dave Belcher.  Keith is currently adding a few finishing touches to Dave’s car prior to painting it in dark blue pearl, and these neat details include a custom peaked grille, matching peaked spreader bar, hand-formed aluminium bonnet spear for the Duvall screen and shaped metal sections for the one-piece hood sides.  The Roadster features a 514 cu in Ford Motorsport engine pushing out 620hp on a single four-barrel carb, although Hilborn fuel injection is also being considered.

Peaked grille, custom windsreen spear and shaped hood side evident here 

Unique spreader bar has been fabricated


USAutomotive’s ’48 Chevy

This has to be one of the longest projects of all time.  USAutomotive purchased this ’48 Chevy Sedan Delivery back in 2000 and it has slowly come together in the capable hands of Burnham Autos.  Although the photos perhaps don’t show the full extent of the work carried out, a considerable amount of time and effort has gone into get the truck to its current state.  For starters the body has been acid dipped and the front fenders have been designed to fade away, rather than being linked to running boards.  The rears have been subtly widened too and the rear door uses a one-off, custom skin.

Jig used to help stop the body from flexing and for ease of painting


The original chassis has been boxed and incorporates a Mustang II front clip and a Hauser-built 9 inch Ford rear axle mounted on a triangular four-bar set-up.  Double adjustable shocks are employed all-round and are utilised in conjunction with air-ride suspension and custom-made cross-members for the GM 4L80E heavy duty transmission and GM Vortec LS design truck motor.  The later will eventually feature a Magnusson ‘roots type’ blower.  Baer 6-pot brake callipers with 14 inch rotors are used up front, while the whole show rides on 20 inch Torq Thrust wheels. The truck will be finished with a one-piece windscreen and flush fitting glass and will eventually be painted in USAutomotive’s distinctive two-tone blue and grey paintwork.

Freshly painted chassis awaits body

Running boards removed 


Subtle widening of rear fenders


Story: Andy Kirk & Graham Jones
Photos: various sources and Andy Kirk 

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