BARE METAL BROTHERHOOD – DAMIEN LEWIS 1950 FORD SINGLE SPINNER

Moving away from his big block powered and tubbed XD Falcon, Damian has followed in his father’s footsteps and seized the keys to an old school Ford. A classic, 1950 single spinner to be precise, dripping with character and nostalgic charm. High-octane fluid flows freely through Damien’s veins passed on from his father who currently tools around in his neat, Cleveland-powered 1940 pickup. Several times a year the pair team up to campaign their ski race boat Outlaw, which boasts a healthy 8 litre 482 big block sucking back avgas like shotgunned beer at full noise.

When the desire to own a slammed shoebox became too much to ignore Damian surfed the HAMB website to help locate a suitable candidate and found exactly what he was looking for. Unfortunately it was sold only a matter of days prior to him contacting the seller. Although he was bummed with the news all was not lost as the phone conversation included the mention of a second spinner that maybe up for grabs, but it was only half done and the owner really wanted to complete the car first. Damian was on it like Loctite on a thread and before hanging up he had managed to talk the guy into at least sending him some images of the ’50 Ford. With the car in a bare metal state Damian could assess the fabrication standards with x-ray style vision and after a few more follow up photos and phone calls the deal was done.

The next big step for Damian was to import the vehicle from its American garage and hope it was all it was cracked up to be. With fingers crossed he took delivery of his new spinner and once home gave it a thorough inspection.

Although a lot of the hard work was already completed including the chop, frenched headlights, fabricated floor and lowered stance, many of the Franco Kustoms welds were only stitched and in need of completion. The entire interior consisted of a pair of Chevelle bucket seats and glass was non-existent. Stepping back to take in the full view of his purchase Damian became quickly aware that his new project required a lot of work to emulate his original vision. Luckily the original body and frame were in really good shape to begin with before the panel alterations had been performed and rust was very minimal. That was one huge plus for deciding to keep the car in its birthday suit, as using body filler is not an option.

The frame came fully kitted with a bagged system from AirRide complimented with Fat Man dropped front spindles and notched rear for ground hugging proportions while providing ample suspension travel. Closer inspection of the chassis revealed the need for the boxing plates to be redone, re-plumb the air lines and a general overall tidy up to bring it into Australian rego specs. Inside, the new floor was tunnelled accordingly with added clearance over the trans and driveshaft once the tank was depleted of air. Damian finished welding in the fresh sheet metal with the help of Richard and Nick from Mister Body Repairs. He also thanks them for making the doors and pillars one piece again. An unusual feature amongst the body mods was tubbing the rear wheel arches, necessitated by the need to safely lower the body over the tall whitewall Firestones. That in itself is an enormous amount of work but consider how much brain matter and colourful language was used trying to get the rear quarter windows to fully operate as per original. It’s a feat that Damian is unashamedly proud to show off.

With the bodywork proving to be a little more work than anticipated, Damian was relieved to find that the drive train that accompanied his tudor was in very good nick. The previously freshened 327 Chevy has provided enough trouble free ‘get up and go’ for him to believe the seller was true to his word about its condition. The Edelbrock equipped small block is more than enough for this shoebox to cruise anywhere in style and mated to a T-5 speed it’s easy on the wallet. A limited slip 8” out the back retains its original width and brakes making for a very affordable and reliable combination for this custom.

When all the welding, grinding and dirty stuff was out of the way most projects head for panel and paint prep, but with the paint duties set aside for stripe guru Matt Egan there was only need for an experienced man with a stick of lead and a lump of wood. Family friend Frank Hally relished the chance to show the young guns how it was done in his day and paddled his way around the body where warranted.  

The only thing stopping him now from hitting the asphalt was somewhere to park his hiney and the tired and worn buckets weren’t going to cut it. “I really like the early 60s show look that I saw in a few books from the States,” he exclaimed about the interior. So the search was on for suitable seating to complete the package and he really lucked out by answering an ad for a guy selling what seemed to be exactly what was missing. “This guy gutted a spinner and redid it with something… like… from a Commodore or something… yuk! I couldn’t believe it! It was just what I needed,” he recalls. Damian couldn’t haul it away quick enough and rushed the seats back home and started modifying the bases to conform to the new contours. The door trims were scratch built along with panels in the boot that now conceal the air tank for a clean appearance. Good mate Steve Gilchrist was entrusted to stitch the entire ensemble in white vinyl accented with black piping and short cut pile black carpet. The icing on the cake, or the fuzz on the bear is the installation of the thick white shag hoodliner. Inspired by early show worthy customs, Damian talked his mate Steve into adding the gorilla hair for maximum effect. “It gets every where,” he explains, “and I mean everywhere. Before you even start it sticks like shit to a blanket. When we finally finished, Steve and I hopped out of the car and we were covered from head to toe and coughing up fur balls. We looked like two abominable snowmen, but the final result was all worth it. Easy to do but just messy,” he concludes.

When the fur stopped flying the original column was painted to match the dash with a touch of metal flake to keep the show theme alive. Toss into the mix an assortment of flaked knob toppers, repopped cranks and handles, ’50 steering wheel and a shrunken head and voilà; instant time warp. All chopped cars need custom glass and Danny Celano at Onsite Windscreens, was clearly the right man for the job making precise pieces for the modified openings and garnish moulds. Damian gets the kudos for sticking his head in all the nooks and crannies to fit the painless wiring kit and Moon gauges.

The exterior finishing touches bring it all home with repro grill and hood emblem from Dennis Carpenter combined with stock chrome mouldings and tasteful striping. Damian believes adding the high gloss dummy spots and NOS 50’ Oldsmobile caps entice just enough sparkle to offset the brushed steel complexion, and I’m not arguing.

After two years hard labour he debuted the tudor at MotorEx 2012 to be a part of the Kavalcade of Kustoms and has since garnered King of Kustoms at John’s Rod and Custom Picnic.

The final question I put to Damian was whether he would paint the spinner at some point in the future? “Eventually,” he says, “but for now it gets a lot of attention as it is and we drive it anywhere with the kids and don’t have to worry about it.”

Just keep up the Gibbs oil brother and enjoy the ride.

Apart from the already mentioned people Damian would like to thank his family Alison, Jackson and Cooper for putting up with the build and his dad for always helping him out.

BY DALE HABERFIELD, PHOTOS BY MILLBROOK STUDIO. FULL FEATURE IN CRUZIN #155, AUGUST 2013.

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