RACE CAR REHAB

Finding good vintage metal these days is becoming harder and harder, especially locally built vintage metal! We’ve all poked our heads through cracks in barns, dreaming of a classic barn find, or strained our necks on those country drives trying to decipher what’s buried in amongst the scrub. We’ve also witnessed the remnants of old tin being dragged out of country tips, or rescued from the destruction of rural properties to make way for new developments, some in such poor condition that they offer little value other than a garden ornament. So what about something that spent time racing laps on a dirt oval track with 30 other maniacs, getting biffed and bashed from pillar to post before being abandoned to the back of someone’s property and forgotten about? Well that’s the story behind this Aussie built 1933 Ford coupe!

Ian Vaughan heralds from Geelong and has been in the rodding scene for most of his life. An active member of the Geelong Street Rodders, he’s always had a hankering for vintage tin, namely curvaceous ‘34s. The year was 2001 and ‘Vaughnie’, as he’s best known to his mates, was playing with a ’57 Chevy. Like all true car fanatics, he kept one eye on the classifieds and eventually spied what he’d been looking for; an Aussie built Ford coupe. He promptly headed up to Blackwood near Ballarat to investigate. A young guy had gotten hold of the ex-race car with dreams of building a hot rod of his own, but never quite completed the task. Looking over what was on offer, Ian saw the potential and took what was left of the old girl home. It was also somewhat of a homecoming for the battered coupe, built at the Ford plant in Geelong almost 80 years earlier.

She chilled in the corner of Ian’s garage until 2008 when he dragged her out, dusted her off and surveyed what lay ahead. There were no guards, no bonnet, no running boards, the rear quarters had been extensively cut out to make room for wide dirt track tires, the rear pan bashed up for clearance, the roof chopped but not completed, and it was basically beaten up from front to rear from years of racing! Considering that Aussie-built ’33 Ford coupes are a rare beast today, he correctly surmised that she was worth saving.

He started by sourcing all of the missing parts. A pair of front guards were located in South Australia, while the rear guards he scrounged off another project which is waiting in the wings in his shed. He hunted down a hood and sides to suit, and the build commenced. He began with the hacked out rear quarters, formed wider inner guards for bigger rubber, shaped and tacked up the skins and slowly worked his way forward. A mission was to get the factory suicide doors to fit as well as they had done before wartime on the dirt track. This required much metal massaging, cutting, grinding and welding to have them fitting snug in their jambs. The boot lid, which at this point was nothing but a decaying skin, required a complete prefabrication as did the fill panel leading up to the cab. Ian wanted to retain the factory dickie seat and constructed a tighter fitting unit for maximum leg room for his sons. After tidying up the four inch chop, the roof was filled with the skin from an XR Falcon station wagon. Once spun around, the curve of the XR roof was a perfect fit to the contours of the ‘33. He filled the spare wheel wells in the front fenders along with other sundry holes and by now the once abandoned coupe was showing signs of life.

After a mountain of metalwork, Ian wasn’t going to waste his time with the old chassis and hunted down an aftermarket replacement, or more to the truth, one came his way through a fellow club member. “There was an engineering teacher in Sydney that had a ’34 Ford sedan,” Ian tells the tale. “He had built a top of the range chassis to put under the sedan, but before he could someone pinched the ’34 and burnt it. He kept the burnt ’34 and the new chassis for a few years but lost interest, so Dave bought it but got rid of the body.” Turns out that Dave was too busy to build on the chassis, so Ian parted with another ‘34 sedan he’d been working on to buy the good chassis for this project.

In the best traditions of Australia hot rodding, Ian sourced many of the interior components from less loved classics. The steering column is XY Falcon, collapsible of course, the bench seat is an Austin base with a Valiant back, while the windscreen wipers and window winders were sourced from a Morris 1800. Mark Griffin of Griff’s Trim Shop in Ballarat was called upon to finish the lot in startling white vinyl with silver piping which extends all the way through to the dickey seat.

Ian’s not one to rest on his laurels and is already tinkering with the fresh build, changing bits and pieces here and there, but nothing that’s going to take her back to her sordid past. According to Ian, this is where she will call home for a long time.

These projects are rarely a one man show, Ian would like to thank his brother, Steve and Father, Roger, Troy Newton for priming duties, Shannon at Pro Finish Kustom Paint, Adrian Fry and Dom Stilatano. Last but not least is Ian’s wife, Paula for her patience and support while he spent three years in the garage restoring an old Ford that time forgot!

BY GREG FORSTER / CAPRICE PHOTO

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