After hanging up his race helmet, Graham Randall had idle hands and a ringing in his ears from wife Dianne that he would miss it… She was right.
Graham spent over a decade campaigning his Street Stock EL Falcon race car, which he first entered in 1990 and ultimately became a series champion and winner of the coveted 100-lap feature race during his competitive stint. Skills learned whilst building, competing and maintaining his race car were invaluable during the construction of this neat ’38 pickup, as was the parts inventory accumulated along the way.
Graham managed Glen Waverly Buses for 23 years and now slips behind the big wheel before and after the bell tolls delivering students safely to their destination. He was contemplating building a ’48 Ford pickup to keep his mind and body active in between school hours and weekends, when fate intercepted his direction. “I walked into a coffee shop one morning wearing a T-shirt with an old ’56 F truck on it and this guy stops me and says. ‘Are you into the old F-ee’s?… I got one!’ So I went to his house and he opens this container and inside is a 1938 cab that had been sand blasted and just waiting for one of his sons to take an interest in it. They never did and now it’s mine!” he quips. The real kicker from this story though is that it had been waiting in the container for 22 years. Burt Barker was only the second owner of the ’38 after his dad passed it down from purchasing it new back in the day.
Now Graham has played with many vehicles over the years but this is his first hot rod so its rap sheet reads a little different than most… with refreshing ingenuity. Relying purely on magazines and completed cars viewed at events, Graham applied his grass roots knowledge to construct the foundation for his new cab starting with a late ‘70s Ford Courier chassis. Once measured and de-burred he added a Mitsubishi front end, EL Falcon rear end on leaf springs and stuffed in a 351 Cleveland bent eight. The EL parts box was raided more times than any Quickie Mart for a host of components including brakes, booster, pedal assembly, rack and pinion steering, column and the list goes on. What wasn’t in the parts bin mostly came for the other big scroungers only store… the swap meet. Where money was saved by opting for used and pre-engineered items, the kitty could splurge on a bit of bling like the Boyds rolling stock.
But a cab doesn’t make a car, forcing Graham to fossick for the remaining sheet metal where good mate Tim Brennan was only too happy to accompany him on many swap meet encounters. Many would agree that the defining element of any automobile is their grille. Their personal automotive signature, that makes them unique for that particular production year and manufacturer. For the venerable 1938 many pilfered for its unusual ‘beer barrel’ version used in all sorts of crazy and contemporary combinations. Unfulfilled searches led Graham to Ernie Ford, a rusty relic saviour who provided the hard to get grille and bonnet sides. He even had the bonnet scripts and emblem that usually are the first to be souvenired. “He had removed them and wrapped them in plastic for safe keeping,” Graham said, with more than a hint of relieved joy in his voice. One piece that eluded Graham for five years was the stainless trim surrounding the grill perimeter. As this part is not listed in any aftermarket catalogue, much like unicorn horns, the frustrating search was ended by Ernie who came up trumps acquiring the unique mould in one of his many treasure hunts.
The front and rear guards were other swap meet scores but the big box that makes up a third of this car was completely hand formed by Graham and brother-in-law Mick. The industrious pair studied images found on the Internet and preceded to fabricate their own interpretation of a styleside tray with stellar results. Not wanting to clutter the rear with a bumper Graham hand formed the rear roll pan incorporating a recessed home for the licence plate. Repro original taillights keep tailgaters informed while Henry Ford stockers with H4 inserts illuminate the road ahead. Builder by trade Mick also put up his hand to knock together the good-looking timber tray liner in Merbau hardwood.
Satisfied with the overall appearance Graham swapped hats and readied the body for paint. I’m sure blue oval blood runs through this mans veins as his choice for colour is XY GT True Blue. Graham flowed the exterior colour indoor keeping the commercial integrity of the ex-log hauler intact whilst son Steven injected a touch of luxury to the once sparse interior. Operating his own business, S. Randall Motor Trimming, Steven covered a cut down XY front seat in luscious leather complimented by simple door trims. As most early commercial vehicles don’t come with a headliner he hand crafted one from scratch, which flows nicely into the matching bulkhead and sun visors. New twin large faced gauges are reminiscent of factory items but keep tabs on the healthy gas powered Clevo under the hood. Repro handles and window cranks keep the traditional look alive and the little Smiths heater keeps the feet warm during Victorian winter jaunts.
Only one day away from delivery of the trimmed out truck, tragedy stuck. Completely out of the blue Graham suffered a heart attack. A shocked and stunned Dianne rushed her husband to hospital where doctors performed a life saving double by-pass. Anyone that has had a brush with death often reflects about their life during recovery. Graham is no different. More importantly he was pissed that he didn’t get a chance to drive his completed pickup… oh and it was his 58th birthday.
After being put on hold by doctors orders Graham eventually got the old girl registered and on the road. His first port of call was a trip back to where this story started, a visit to Burt Barker. Burt was humbled that Graham had taken the time to return after all that time, and was overjoyed by having the old pickup parked in his backyard again. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your view, Burt passed away just two months later. I bet he still had the smile on his face from seeing his dad’s truck complete again.
Three years on and Graham’s still enjoying cruising with his Black Top club members in his true blue pickup and he finally got his ’48 that’s nearing completion as I write this.
They say that you can’t keep a good man down. Graham is the living proof.
BY DALE HABERFIELD, PHOTOS DALE HABERFIELD. FULL FEATURE CRUZIN #155, SEPTEMBER 2013.