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Bucking the trend

That's Adrian's blue coupe on the left, the custom pick-up in the middle and the Krazy A on the right


Adrian Smith founded Buckland Automotive in 2005, with the vision of producing hand-crafted and original hot rods.  Adrian says he was building cars back when he was a teenager, but took the decision to start his own business after the owner of a classic race car asked him to rebuild it.  “Suddenly I had a steady stream of work and haven’t looked back since,” he explains.


Adrian’s love of hot rods goes back many years, however, his heavily channelled Model A coupe, running whitewalls and flat blue paint, having been a regular sight at rod runs since debuting in 2001.  “It was that car that really put me on the map,” he adds.


It was the first steel hot rod he’d built, and the East Coast theme made it an instant stand-out.  Looking at it, you’d swear the car was chopped a tad too, but no, it’s all down to that heavy channel.  The traditional style is backed up with modern running gear (350 Chevy and matching auto ‘box), though the motor is dressed with six Holley 94s to help time warp it back to the 1950 and ‘60s.  This car is about more than just looks, however, as Adrian drives the wheels off it.  In fact, it seems to get everywhere, Adrian having racked up more miles in it than he’d care to remember.  Needless to say, it is also the perfect rolling advertisement for Buckland. 


Shop scene is decidedly busy!


Since setting up the business, a whole stream of cars has passed through Adrian’s hands, with a fair few having been hot rods – mostly Model A coupes.  First, there was the rebuild of a 1930s’ Ford – an original 60s Arizona hot rod – which was sympathetically put back together in period-correct style, complete with white tuck and roll interior, gold metalflake paint and whitewalls.  More recently, he completed a radical, five-window coupe for Krazy Horse custom bike shop owner, Paul Beamish.  It caused a real buzz within the hobby when it debuted in 2007, due to the many original features Adrian incorporated in the build, as well as the immaculate construction and finish.  Not surprisingly, it won Best in Show at the SINS 2007 car show in Antwerp, which seemed a fitting tribute considering all of the work that had gone into creating this striking rod.


Although Adrian is a fully qualified engineer, he freely admits that he couldn’t have achieved much of what Buckland has accomplished without the creativity and metal-working skills of Drew Ford.  The two began a working relationship 10 years ago, and the association is now stronger than ever, with Drew expertly rolling out custom metal panels in the workshop before your very eyes.  Incidentally, Drew was responsible for putting together the tasty chassis and custom trailer for the Krazy A hot rod of Paul Beamish.


Drew Ford's metal working skills have been utilised to the full


It’s just as well Adrian has such specialist skills on which to draw, as the company has embarked on its most ambitious project to date – and it’s not another Model A.  This time, it’s a radically chopped, steel ’34 Ford coupe, which just happens to belong to well-known rodder, Les Howlett - in fact, you may remember he owned, until recently, a very tasty, brown Model A we featured in back in March 2008.  The roadster was a deserving prize winner, but this time, you could say Les has gone for maximum impact with a radical, Bonneville-style racer, which will probably have the same presence as the Pierson Bros coupe and will be driven on the street.


Typical shop scene with plenty of activity going on.  That's Les Howlett's chopped '34 in the background  


The coupe incorporates a fully louvered roof and matching trunk lid, and there’s a blown flattie under the sculptured hood.  The real twist, though, is the raked LaSalle grille, which has been expertly grafted into place.  The chassis is drilled and the car will run on original-style, spoke wheels.  The amount of work that has gone into the build is already massive, and at the time of our visit the duo were frantically working to finish it in time to debut at the SNS Show, in April – good luck guys!     


Adrian turns his attention to Les's '34.  Much of the body had to be remade and there's still plenty to do before it reaches an acceptable Buckland standard  

Here you can see the drilled frame and the custom side panel with concave lower section


So what else is going on at the Buckland Automotive shop, you might ask?  Well, there was Mark Gee’s car for one - it’s what can only be described as the most amazingly straight, worm-free, stock-bodied 1932 Model B three-window coupe we’ve come across.  It was in for a sympathetic hot rod build, but will retain its paint and period features.  This car is so straight and in such good condition that we thought it must be glass.  How wrong we were!


The hand-fabricated body atop the shop pick-up truck


Other cars in for attention at the time of our recent visit included the SAM (Special Austin Mercury) Special, the car that helped establish Adrian’s company.  The car was originally built in the 1950s, but has been completely rebuilt and is now raced within VSCC rules.  Likewise, an equally rare Gregory V8 was also in for work.  This hand-built, one-off special, with a nose not dissimilar to an Allard, is from the same era as SAM and is another two-seater used for circuit racing.


“In addition to turning out hot rods, we love turning our hand to cars like this,” says Adrian. “With regards to rods, though, we like creating cars that are easy on the eye, but deep down, you just know how much work has gone into them.  It makes you feel good when you see what you’ve accomplished.”  


Buckland Automotive Engineering are based about a mile or two off the A421 near Bedford. Tel: 07768 058060 

Story: Andy Kirk
Photos: Adrian Smith


As you can see, it's an early Ford enthusiast's dream garage 

Customer's Model A now has a 2-litre Pinto motor fitted between the stock rails

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