Wednesday, June 19, 2024


The term ‘Gow Job’ describing early era vehicles that were generally pre WWII roadsters, stripped down with intent of improved performance is not a phrase readily used in Australia. This quirky tag pre-dates the popular hot rod moniker that also replaced commonly used slang like ‘soup-up’ and ‘hop-up’, that were a little easier to decipher. Where the term originates from is a blurred line between performance enhancing opium to scantly clad women, with either showing tangible merit. So-Cal Speed Shop founder Alex Xydias was once quoted saying “thank goodness that Hot Rod (the term) became popular otherwise we would have had Gow Job Magazine and the Gow Job Nationals, and that wouldn’t look very good today.”

But for guys like Phil Rielly and Paul Easthope they’re more than happy to revisit a time when building a hopped up old Ford was more about going nowhere fast and looking good while doing it! While both cars echo that golden era of bare bones home builders with big motors the components gathered to execute their personal interpretations of vintage hell raisers are both similar and completely different at the same time. We’ll start with Phil’s deuce roadster.

Phil Rielly 1932 Ford Roadster

Phil’s roadster is a direct descendent from his wilder days when he campaigned Hemi powered altereds and Fiat Topolinos during the late 60s and 70s, tearing up tracks around Adelaide, Castlereagh and even as far as Surfers Paradise. Booting a blown Chrysler to mid 8s at 170 mph back in the day was very respectable and something not easy to remove from your system. Competing with guys like Jimmy Walton, Graham Cowan and Bob Dunn were pretty special times including his last ever race at the inaugural drag meet in Tasmania. Overseas adventures to buy race engines and parts brought Phil into contact with American notables like Kelly Brown (2013 AMBR Track T) who invited Phil to join him at the 1979 Gatornationals where Kelly won Top Fuel honours while he was there.

Phil traded his piston rings for a gold band and hung up his firesuit in the early 80s, relegating his fun in the fast lane to scrapbook memories. 

Fast-forward to present day and Phil is remarried and enjoying a new chapter in the big book of life, soaking up the beautiful climate Australia’s west coast capital city has to offer. With support from wife Huong, Phil has rekindled the old flame that lay dormant in his soul for decades to build another Hemi powered car, but this time for the street. 

When he was just 13 years old Phil glued together a plastic model 1934 Ford closed cab pickup from AMT. At 15 he bought a ’34 Chevy coupe and fantasised about how cool it could be as a hot rod, but with no tools he didn’t get very far. While riding his bike he was frequently passed by a guy in a ’34 Chevy coupe sporting ’32 Ford grill shell and a flathead V8. 

“I think he was the president of the Eastern Districts Hot Rod Club at the time”, Phil recalls, “and eventually I joined the club and he would pick me up in that coupe on the way to the meetings. I later joined the Crusaders, built my first drag car at about 17 and went racing.”

Although he has fabricated and contested some very stout race cars this would be Phil’s very first hot rod, but not what he started out to build. About ten years ago when he decided to revisit his youth he bought a full scale version of that little AMT kit, an all steel 1934 closed cab pickup, but it was when he purchased a rolling chassis everything changed.

“I bought this ’32 frame thinking that if I throw a glass body on it and slip in a motor I can quickly put something together that I can sell to help fund the pickup project.” 

As we all know the best laid plans are often fraught with failure and Phil suffered the snowball effect. “It got outta hand,” he quips. Once the ‘cheap at the time’ chassis was in the garage his fabricating side took over and by the time he finished cutting out what he didn’t want to use he basically had bare rails and an independent front end. With the chassis now up to his standards and stretched 3” to accommodate an intended Hemi, he showed a mate a picture of his new accomplishment only to be presented with an image from a car show somewhere in America of a bonnet used as a sign at the front gate with the words saying “No highboys with independent front ends!” Peeved with that comment, the stainless IRS was cut out and replaced with a dropped forged I beam, So-Cal hairpins and a uni-steer arrangement. Phil openly admits the steering is not so traditional but nice to drive.

A Mustang 8” diff located by parallel four bars and a pan hard connects to a Turbo 350 fitted with a hi-stall converter. The only thing missing was a motor! Phil solved that problem by shoehorning in a 331Chrysler with six 94 Holley’s perched on Offenhauser log intakes, completely rebuilt by… you guessed it…Phil. The Donovan polished valve covers were (befittingly) originally screwed to a nostalgia top fueler wearing a sponsor’s name. Phil made new plates and had them engraved with “The Ghost of Muroc”, as a nod to the inspiration for the style he was emulating and placed them appropriately. He tells me that the vintage mill is pretty much stock but the cam does all the talking. The cam its self is another story… best told by Phil.

“While I was at a March meet in Bakersfield, I was wandering the trade aisles and stumbled upon the Crower stand. I ask the guy if they could still grind a cam for my old Hemi? Jerry McLaughlin was his name and he said, ‘yep, but you won’t find a good core!’ I said I bet I can and left it at that. I had bought a bunch of Hemi stuff from a guy in Arizona, and guess what? There was an old cam amongst the parts. My wife has two brothers and an Uncle in San Diego where we were headed next, and luckily… not far from the Crower shop.  I walked in and as I approached the counter the same guy looked up and said, ‘you’re that Aussie’, and I said yeah yeah, ‘did you get a core?’ he asked and I replied, yep and handed it to him. He stated carrying on and saying ‘wow… they are so hard to find and this is a really good one!’ I asked again if he could grind it and he replied, ‘I still have the patterns and profiles that was the hot set up that the kids were using back in the 60s, how long are you staying for? I told him only two days and that it would be great if he could post it to me. He told me to come back in the morning and he would have it done. True to his word he ground it overnight and it was lubed and boxed waiting for me the next day.” 

Many of the cool items such as the Moon tank, polished Moon timing cover, genuine sprint car steering wheel and Sid Shavers Bop Top are all pieces Phil has acquired from his visits to the States. Enjoyable times sifting through swap meets and catching up with good mate Woodie (Vic Wood) and his wife, who are now chairman and secretary of SEMA amongst other things. “I stay with him when I go over”, Phil says, “and I always get a kick out of cruising with him down to Bob’s Big Boy Burgers on a Friday night in one of his neat cars.”

In an effort to keep the roadster project simple and streamlined Phil chose to purchase a fibreglass reproduction body in the preferred style. After shopping around he contacted Elvis at Rod Bods Downunder who promptly shipped the roadster to the other side of Australia. With the new shell not requiring the arduous task of repairing decades of decaying bodywork Phil’s deuce was on the home straight. Sticking to his lakester theme the interior and trunk was fashioned from aluminium held in place by Dzus fasteners. Only the Glide seat was stitched in tuck and roll leather for a touch of luxury on the backside. 

As a retired motor mechanic Phil prides himself on the fact that the entire car was built in his two car garage with the only exception of the Washington Blue exterior that was expertly applied by Rod Busher and the boys at Exclusive Coatings in Fremantle. Shane Anderson gets the kudos for the limited trim work and a set of American Racing Torque Thrust five spokes complete the package. 

Phil’s intention of building a saleable hot rod for around 20k bit the dust early in this story and he confesses that it quickly more than doubled that figure to produce this tough little roadster, but the reward of blasting down the road in a Hemi powered topless highboy soon vaporises any misgivings toward the project. But Phil still has his original plan to readdress and build his childhood dream truck, so the roadster is up for sale… as planned. Only now the buyer will be getting one hell of a hot rod with inherited history. 

Paul Easthope 1930 Model A Coupe

In comparison to Phil’s repopped roadster this improved Model A coupe owned by his good mate Paul Easthope is all Henry Ford steel. This is Paul’s second home built hot rod so compared to his friend he is the old hand…tongue in cheek. Paul’s first foray into early iron was building a 1930 Model A roadster motivated by a 289 Windsor, C4 and 9”. Although he really enjoyed driving the topless Ford his desire to construct was greater than the commute. Throw in a dangling carrot from wife Nita like; “If you pay off the rental house you can do whatever you like!” and the roadster was gone. 

With house deeds framed for the future admiration it didn’t take Paul long to track down a new project to “do whatever he wanted”, and he located a suitable body through vintage tin dealer Pan Head Pete. The Model A coupe was part of a shipment from the states bound for Perth, and once it hit Aussie soil Paul snapped it up. The shell was in pretty reasonable shape but… “like most old A’s the bottom 6” needed to be replaced!” he states. It was also in desperate need of a chassis. 

Being time poor and learning from past experience Paul commissioned Ian Elison at LiLo Autotech to produce the perfect platform for his new old body. “I had a plan from the start” Paul explains, “and collected all the parts that I wanted to use and delivered it to Ian with instructions to provide room for a Hemi.” The ‘32 frame was stretched an extra 150mm from the front cowl mounting point which allows the big Chrysler to slip between the rails without the need to hack into the stock firewall.  As Ian already had a dummy block to fabricate an engine cradle Paul’s components list included a Tremec TKO 5 speed and spacer, dropped I beam with hairpins, front and rear buggy springs and a Winters Champ quick-change, to name but a few. Paul was over the moon when the completed chassis was delivered as the workmanship and welding was exceptional. “I hardly had to do any clean up (of the chassis) to have it ready for paint.” Paul remarks. 

With Ed helping out on body fabrication they whacked off the 85 year old roof and removed 21/2” of unnecessary steel to achieve a more desirable profile. When the grinders and welders were silenced Paul drew on his previous profession as a spray painter to prep the body for the suede blue paint. Why that colour, I asked? “Because there was no other hot rod with that colour in Perth”, was his answer. Fair nuff! After 16 years experience laying paint it was a no brainer for Paul to don the overalls and start spraying the PPG, but when family friend Geraldine raised her hand to coat the chassis, diff bells, front axle and all the fiddley bits for a nominal fee he didn’t hesitate to accept. “She did a great job and I thank her wholeheartedly,” Paul reveals.  

As the body was lowered onto the freshly painted frame Paul’s next big decision was who to trust with the rebuild of his Holy Grail motor. Understandably you don’t give a 392 Hemi to just anyone and he approached a reputable race engine builder who just couldn’t commit to it while the competition season was in full swing.  Under recommendation Paul sought out the experience of ex-drag racer Phil Reilly and by the time the engine was finished a new friendship was forged. By Phil’s own admission, he compares this Hemi to his own mildly worked stocker as a real ball tearer. “It’s built to perform and took a long time to get just right,” he says.

The A1 high nickel block was treated to steel H beam rods on a standard crank, Ross 10:1 pistons, the biggest solid cam available from Isky, a pair of Hot Heads alloy heads and matching single plane manifold topped with a 750 double pumper and MSD ignition. The handsome Lakes Headers were modified to exit inside the chassis rail providing an uninterrupted view of the beautiful deuce dimple. 

Just like Phil’s roadster the interior is race car oriented with Ed fabricating the majority of the trim in bare aluminium. A Limeworks column and wheel directs a HQ box to manoeuvre the PS Engineering 15×5 front wheels while matching 16x7s out back try their hardest to not break traction at the slightest stab of the throttle. The neat finned front disc brake arrangement is from the talented hands of Alan Fountain that’s complemented with finned rear drum covers. 

Plans to fill the gaping hole above the drivers head with a louvered panel is still in the works and nothing a raincoat can’t fix for now. Interestingly the deck lid louvers were punched all at once by a machine commonly used for venting electrical equipment. The perforated flat sheet was then massaged into shape to create the replacement panel. A Vintique ’32 grill shell and stainless insert takes pride of place in front of that mammoth mill while So-Cal headlights, reused from his old roadster, highlight moths at night time. 1946 Ford taillights flank the rear licence plate and a 70ltr fuel cell helps quench the Hemi’s thirsty behaviour.

Phil says that this is a real hot rod. It’s rough, jerky and quick! Paul’s take is that at 110kmp down the freeway it’s dream to drive. I just bet that it’s fun getting up to speed!

Other than the previously mentioned people Paul would like to thank Howie-wiring, Chris Maxwell, Gene Lawson-United Towing, a very special thank you to Phil Reilly and to his wife Nita, who believes he loves the car more than her.

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