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Hot Rodding's Golding Touch

Traditional rodding values are at the core of HGHR 

14.1.05.  There is little doubt that Jon Golding, hot rodder, car constructor, self-confessed scooter nut and proprietor of Home Grown Hot Rods, has played a significant role in raising the profile of street rodding in the UK over the last 10 years.

Jon, a former electrical engineer who found himself redundant 9 years ago, then channelled a long-standing automotive enthusiasm into his very first hot rod – a stunning, black 1932 three-window coupe, which he wheeled out in 1989, to much critical acclaim.  Today, with over 30 built or part-built cars to their name, Home Grown Hot Rods has made a significant impact on the UK street-rodding scene with products that really are as good, if not better, than their American-built counterparts. That might sound like a bold claim, but the proof, as is often observed, is in the eating.

So what makes the products of Home Grown Hot Rods so special?  It’s quite simple, really – Jon is a perfectionist, an enthusiast and a wonderfully skilled, trained engineer.  More than that, though, he has an enviable knack of building knockout cars using traditional-style components.  In the case of his ’32 Fords, this means using items like a dropped I-beam, Ford 9-inch rear, ‘quick change’ axles and more recently, steel Brookville bodies.   

Jon's latest personal project is this all-steel '32 pick-up

DRCReview went along to Home Grown Hot Rod’s Southend premises to take a closer look at the latest works of automotive art taking shape in their workshops and to talk to Jon – an engagingly unassuming guy – about his successful rodding business.

Q. Why do you think you have been able to succeed when other companies specialising in street rods have failed?   
JG. I think it’s because we offer a very personal service.  I build every car as if it were my own.  I’m enthusiastic about every car we work on, and get real pleasure from seeing each one come together.  The ‘32 roadster we’re just finishing was built as a demonstrator using a new Brookville steel body, but we’ve taken the same amount of time and care in putting that together as any other car we’ve built.  The funny thing is, someone walked into the shop, discovered the car could be for sale and bought it there and then – so now we need another demonstrator. 

Brookville-bodied demonstrator has just been sold

Q. You seem to be very busy?
JG. Yes, we have four cars to finish right now and a long list of customers waiting for us to start their projects.

Q. So why don’t you buy a bigger shop and employ more people?
JG. That’s not what we’re about.  People come to me because they want a personal service.  If they came here and found some trainee screwing their car together, they’d be less than impressed and I’d feel I was cheating my customers.  We keep it small and personal, which is just the way I like it.  The personal touch is one thing I’ve always endorsed – it’s what makes us unique.  I look after the chassis work and the construction side, and Andy, who has worked with me for the past seven years, handles all of the sheet metal work and body repairs, fits the panels, sorts the gaps and has some very useful little tricks up his sleeve.  Normally, I’m quite happy to give a 12-month guarantee on the cars we build because we know the components used work well.   

Hand fabricated carb stacks atop 350 Chevy

You seem to specialise in 1932 Fords.
JG. Yes, that’s no accident.  In my eyes, the 1932 Ford is the most beautiful car in the world.  We’re fully set up to build them, but that doesn’t mean we don’t touch anything else.  We’ve done a couple of Model A Fords in the past, and they are quite a bit more cost-effective to build, as the components are more readily available.  A Model A body is about half the price of a Model B.

Steel-bodied roadster mid-way through assembly

Q. How long does it take to build a car from start to finish?
JG. If we have all of the components here, then it’s a pretty straightforward process, taking a matter of weeks.  We invest a lot of time and care in ensuring everything fits as it should, that the parts look right and are finished properly.  For instance, we could just bolt the body on the chassis rails, but we spend countless hours on the rails to ensure they are straight and ripple-free.  That’s what people don’t see, and perhaps where some find it difficult to justify the expense, but if you want a car to look right, it needs to be done.

Q. Is there a typical sort of customer for cars like this?
JG. Not really.  We build cars for all sorts of people of all ages.  Some of my customers are in their 20s and 30s, while at the other extreme, we’re just completing a car for a 59-year-old rodder.  I think we appeal to customers of all ages, who want something different.

You want louvres?

Home Grown Hots Rods is a unique place to visit.  When you tour the super-clean workshop, you really feel as if you are somewhere special – it’s a slice of “Kalifornia Kool” in deepest Essex.  Every month or so, Jon Golding raises the shutter doors and out rolls another piece of exquisite automotive art.  For any self-respecting street rodder, this is an inspirational place to visit – but beware, even the briefest of visits could result in damaging consequences for your cheque book.   

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