BARE METAL BROTHERHOOD – GEORGE NIKITAS 1934 FORD COUPE

George’s enthusiasm for old school rods was very infectious when we first met! Actually his general enthusiasm was infectious, period! This charismatic guy was quite surprised with the attention his old ’34 was receiving during the Kustom Nationals weekend and when we unearthed the secrets of its origins, the tables were turned, as it was I who was surprised more. But we’ll get to that soon!

George’s entry into the hot rod scene came with the purchase of a pretty well know car during the late 90s dubbed Razorback. The 700 horsepower ex-show car Model A coupe really struck a cord with the 20-something young lad and at the time the price was right for him to step up and lay his money down. As time progressed his taste for early iron became more defined with a desire to own a hot rod with less fuss and more soul. A rod with traditional styling that’s easy on the eyes and less time consuming to maintain. George had his eyes on such a car that he’d got to know through a friend and vowed to himself that if it ever came up for sale he was gonna buy it.  

Casually wandering through a car show one day he saw the desired car on display and along with its info board a ‘For Sale’ sign and mentally uttered, “what the hell”. Gritting his teeth he approached the owner and stated, “You’re selling the car?”… “Yep” was the reply. Without hesitation George retorted, “Take the sign off it and let’s talk business,” and he bought it there and then. The car was a real steel 1934 coupe, but not just any old coupe, one with near celebrity status and loads of history. The ’34 George had fallen for was the Aussie version of the California Kid, affectionately named The Kid, a coupe that had seen plenty of hot rod action from the late 50s and instantly recognisable with its current black and flamed paint scheme. 

During 8 years of ownership George discovered the old coupe had survived numerous guises since its first incarnation in ’57 and forgive me if the order may be a little fuzzy but it goes something like this; channelled not chopped, un-channelled chopped hiboy, then fully fendered and black, flamed and now as you see it here. George bought the ’34 to be a driver and that’s exactly what he’s done, enjoying every mile but as the years ticked buy so did its condition. The once infamous paint job was really starting to look sad and he approached a couple of panel beaters with intentions to extend its existence, but their recommendations to repaint the whole car didn’t excite him. “If I throw down $15 grand for a paint job that they will only guarantee not to react with the existing finish I’m right back to why I sold the Model A and worrying about where to park it,” he said. Watching him struggle with his decision, partner Keliesa chimed in with a completely new scenario. “She knew I really liked the salt lake racer look and suggested to go down that route and strip the paint, whip the guards off, go bare metal and change the rims… and I thought ‘you know what… she’s not wrong’, and now it’s great.”

With just two months out from the Kustom Nationals in Phillip Island George mustered the courage to strike the first blow and started to remove the ageing paint. Keliesa and step son Riley offered more than just their support culminating with all three up to their elbows in flaky paint. George proudly boasts that the entire project was completed in their home garage. When all material was removed the true identity of this old hot rod was bared to the world. George learned new skills along the way and tried his hand at lead wiping any rust areas as needed. Although many body parts were removed during this current transformation he kept things simple and retained the majority of the underpinnings including the original boxed frame and suspension. Buggy springs are a must to pull off the traditional look he envisaged and soon the front four bars will make way for a pair of Henry Ford wishbones to match the rear. Original Guide 682 headlights make a perfect statement up front and a pair of ’50 Pontiac tail lights illuminate the rear in place of the original fender mounted ’39 teardrops. Plans to slip a Y block under the stock hood are a ways off but George reiterates that, “Rome wasn’t built in a day!”

The sparse interior is just that… sparse. Anything that was old and cool stayed and the rest was kicked to the kerb. Left of the stock gauges and Stewart Warner tacho the glove box lid is signed by custom legend Barris, (also named George) after it was carted around the USA on a tour some years back to become a souvenir. Ironically the bat styled pinstripe predates the signature. Spooky! The simple rolling stock may be repro steelies but the caps are all class. “My mate had them on the wall at the time, and that’s all he had. Whatever I had at home went on the car, whatever I didn’t have at home… didn’t. We didn’t even know if they would fit, but we do now. A bit like back in the day, hot rodders used what ever they had not just go out and buy it,” he laughs.

As George rolled into the Grand Prix facility to face his peers one thought was racing through his head. “I thought I would really regret it, and honestly I thought I was going to go, ‘that’s the biggest f@#$-up I have ever done in my life’, but when I look back it’s the best thing I ever did. I just love the look from the rear with the tall Firestones and the profile of the Guide headlights. There are a few things I still want to do to finish it but for now you can park it anywhere, sit on the tyres and if I get sick of the bare metal I paint it flat with a bit of primmer and leave it at that! I don’t care about keeping an eye on the weather, I just jump in the car and drive it rain, hail or shine. It’s the only car I now own.”

Coincidently George met Damian around the same time as he decided to undertake the stripping and over the past year they have become quite good mates. Even more coincidental the two soon found out that they live just around the corner form each other making easy last minute cruises a snap decision. Coincidental? I think not. Like traditional style and cool cars, some things are just meant to be.

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

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