ROAD TO RECOVERY

Having a cool shop truck to promote your business is nothing new, and standing out in a crowd whilst going about it is now a modern day challenge. Go to any car show and count the amount of commercials with signage and you’ll get where I’m coming from. Keep in mind that few of these alleged work trucks have no credentials, nonetheless they are popular because they’re cool.

With coupes, roadsters and now pickups commanding inflated prices on home soil, cruising with a bunch of mates in a slammed old wagon has become increasingly fashionable and represents a load of bang for your buck. Pick up something from Detroit’s most outrageous era and a righteous ride could be had for about a tenth of a Deuce coupe… real or repop.

This was the reasoning when Reece Christensen decided to purchase a promotional vehicle for his fledgling business, Bodyshop Paint Supplies in Bayswater. After earning his stripes as an automotive spray painter, he pursued alternative employment within the industry. Driven by determination it didn’t take too long for Reece to secure a rep position for Bodyshop Paint Supplies in Dandenong. Two years in, he heard on the grapevine about the possibility of the company establishing a new store in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne and raised his hand as a contender. Aged just 25, Reece had his hands on a lease for four walls and a dream. That was 10 years ago; he now employs 13 staff and is owner/director of one of seven individually owned businesses operating under the Bodyshop brand.

Along with his vison for the future of the business, Reece also conceived a plan to incorporate a promotional vehicle. Not just a stickered-up dual cab of Asian heritage, but a standout piece of early iron. “I wanted something different,” he recalls, “this is one of only 1,100 built making it pretty rare as well.”  As Reece’s profession is all about refinishing products designed to present automobiles at their upmost best, a patina’d pickup was never under consideration, but a big finned bowtie wagon would fit the bill perfectly.

This 1960 Chevy Biscayne sedan delivery was originally imported by Pete Townsend of Glenn Innes, who picked up the wagon after a fruitless search for a ‘62 Bel Air coupe. As fate would have it, as soon as he laid down the dough for the ’60 Biscayne, a bubble top materialized, regulating the wagon up for sale, pronto. As it turns out, everybody won as the rookie seized the day and took delivery of his… err… delivery.    

Unique in its own right, this particular delivery was manufactured for the US Postal Service and came equipped with just one bucket seat from the factory, maximising the interior for payload. Power was provided by an inline six cylinder and three speed gearbox. Reece quips that deliveries can be performed much quicker in its current form!

“It was never supposed to turn out quite this way,” he says without exaggeration. But we have all heard the snowball effect story many times and most of us seasoned gear heads understand. Nine years in the build was also another element that was not in the original plan either. “Building a business up from scratch and a divorce will do that!” he adds.

Once the big Biscayne arrived, its problem areas were determined and attacked. Although the body was in pretty fair shape for its age, the floors were shot and in desperate need of fresh steel, and the groovy turret lines were abruptly interrupted by an atrocious sunroof that was sealed by a perimeter of body filler. Steve Aldrick of Deluxe Rod Shop was given the task of shaping a replacement panel for the gaping hole in the ceiling, now devoid of the aforementioned accessory.

With the roof line restored, Reece was still struggling to nail down a competent body man to massage the Chev in readiness for a paint job commensurate to his high standards. “I wanted someone that would appreciate the Chevy’s rarity and curvaceous body lines and complete it to a first class level. I was also conscious of not singling out just one of my clients over another,” he says respectfully.

With that in mind, Reece enlisted the help of Peter Lamb who was a previous product supplier with a background in GM concept design, as well as a skilled panel beater. “I can paint and all my customers know I can paint, and I knew that the finished Chevy would have a million eyes going over it in fine detail. I knew he would do an awesome job and it would help him out in his new Melomotive business as well. I got it back from Pete in primer and spent a couple of months blocking it until I was happy that it was straight.”

Reece recalls one of the hardest parts of the project was choosing the colour. “I painted the car about 40 times in my head,” he relents. “I almost settled for black and a red interior, but that has been done to death. It was a visit to SEMA that changed my way of thinking when I observed cars like ‘Eleanor’ and the trend towards muted metallic. When I custom mixed the paint, I sprayed a test panel and was disappointed when it appeared brown. I left it half in the shade and half in the sun and walked past it for a few days. It grew on me and that’s it.”

View in varied light conditions, the custom hue changes from brown to full gold. “I knew what I wanted to create, but it really was a fluke how it turned out. I have fallen in love with it now.”

As the build continued to consume time like beer at an Australia Day BBQ, the long term plan evolved along with its owner. “Over the nine years, my tastes have changed from big bling wheels, hot paint and loud pipes to a more refined, modern style,” says Reece. While the mini tubbed factory chassis was outfitted with a quartet of air bags for overall stance, by the time he moved to the engine bay, the idea of a blown small block protruding through the hood had disappeared. Still feeling a need for speed, Reece commissioned Con and Andrew at C&A Autofashion to screw together a suitable power plant with beauty and some beast.

Starting with a humble Holden VY LS1 block, the boys built up the healthy mill with a host of custom machine work, high performance internals and topped it off with Harrop injection. While the set up worked perfectly in unison with the six speed Tremec gear box and narrowed nine inch diff, popping the humongous hood just didn’t visually excite Reece enough. After debuting the delivery at the Victorian Hot Rod Show in 2014, Con and Andrew were given the nod to go nuts and masterfully engineered and installed the current fuel mixing configuration of twin Garret GT Turbos and custom intake runners. He is now satisfied, both on looks and performance. Supplying fire to all the custom components was expertly performed by Scotty at SG Auto Electrical who assembled a custom wiring network cannibalised from a new VY Holden donor harness.

Inside the old work horse, things are equally exceptional. Thankfully by the time an interior was at the top of the project agenda (before the turbos) Reece’s revived style connected him with Emmanuel Bazzano at The Trim Shop. “Manny was like an artist using his hands as he tried to explain how he could do the trim. He had ideas from a concept book that others said was impossible but he really wanted to try. That just spurred him on. He said, ‘I need to do this in your seats’… and I just said I trust you. No one filled me with confidence like he did,” Reece remembers.

If you recall, this was a one seat wonder so, Emmanuel really started with a blank canvas and worked his magic to create a luxurious interior that is nothing short of stunning. Beige leather stitched seats are colour complemented by a massive suede headliner, while a palette of chocolate leather is brought into the mix to complete the mouth-watering ensemble of rich colours and textures.

“I painted the dash a couple of times but was never really happy with it,” Reece adds, “I said to Manny that I wanted him to wrap the entire dash in leather to which he replied get f#&%$d! I must have planted the seed though, because two weeks later he phoned and asked me to come and have a look at the car… and the dash was done. In the right light it is almost a perfect match to the exterior paint complete with metallic sparkle. It’s friggin awesome!”

Placing the finished Biscayne on the pavement are a set of genuine Body Coddington hoops that Reece purchased before the big man left us for the hot rod garage in the sky. To tone down the billet beauties, Reece prepped them for paint and sprayed them to match the exterior in a slightly darker shade. “They almost look like chocolate,” he quips. The final touch that he believes completes the delivery is the signwriting. Undeterred by constant advice to add a vinyl sticker, he was adamant to find the right person to adorn his business logo the traditional way… with a brush. The right person turned out to be Neville at Brushes Signarts. It’s a decision that he doesn’t regret and we applaud him for it.

It’s that attention to detail and his unrelenting determination to achieve his self-imposed standards that deliver one very special 1960 Chevy. Clearly Reece’s efforts weren’t overlooked by the judges at Meguiar’s MotorEx 2014 where it received Street Machine Pinnacle Award, Gold in Best Engine Bay, Silver in Best Engineering and Silver in Bodywork. “I really only entered it to highlight the guy’s workmanship who contributed. If I had picked up 3rd in Interior I would have been over the moon.” Not a bad haul for an old workshop delivery vehicle wouldn’t you say!

BY DALE HABERFIELD, PHOTOS BY GREG FORSTER / CAPRICE PHOTO
FEATURED CRUZIN #177

 

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