STREET SMARTS – LES NAGY 1927 FORD ROADSTER

Let’s rewind to the 1970s. Les Nagy is a young guy driving around Adelaide in an FB Holden. He admits that he knew nothing about cars at the time, but that didn’t stop him laying down his hard earned folding on a tough looking, big block 70 ½ Camaro. Turns out that Les bought himself a monster, a 10 second street car with the best of everything. “I ran an 11.3 all over the place,” he recalls. “It had so much grunt and chewed juice like you wouldn’t believe.” Selling off the RHS cylinder heads, intake and carb paid for the parts and labour to rebuild the engine into a more streetable version. 

That experience taught Les a valuable lesson about street cars. He loves to drive and that means that a street car should be streetable. He also loves to race, progressing from Superkarts to circuit racing to drag racing. Those in the know might recall his factory-sponsored Mitsubishi Magna with supercharged 3.5 litre V6, which he still owns. Whilst he’s shelved his racing activities these days he still has cars around him which can satisfy the need should it arise.  

The Camaro served well as an introduction to the hot rod and muscle car scene, but fast forward to the present and Les found himself bored with popular models and styles. “What can I build that nobody else has got,” he asked himself and the answer came to him as he ogled a friend’s competition T altered.

“A friend of mine, Kevin Schurrs was building a ’27 roadster-bodied altered. I watched it getting built, it was killer. Before it was finished he got the shits and sold it all off, but I revved him about helping me build a street version of it.” Kevin relented and with Les’s enthusiasm on the rev limiter, they set about building a chassis based around 75mm x 50mm frame rails. Les happily admits he over-engineered the chassis, it’s just how he does things. “It was built in a jig, TIG welded by a certified welder, no short cuts. It’s dead straight, dead square… race car mentality.”

Les and Kev didn’t just churn out another flimsy altered body and plonk it on the frame, instead they redesigned it, made a fresh mould (from about 8 pieces) and created this stylised and extra stiff one piece body. “It’s custom made for street use so it’s strong, has more leg room, plus there are profiles that we’ve altered and added. The guards are more rounded on top, the cowl has been lengthened, there are no doors and the whole shell is one piece. If I wanted to do an annual tidy up, all I have to do is remove ten stainless steel bolts, unbolt the extractors, slide out the hoop and the body will lift clean off. I can drive the car with the body off, everything is independent of it.”

If you’re expecting a powerhouse engine then we’ll have to let you down easy. “I could have gone Hemi and all the gear, but I’m a small block guy and I wanted to build something that was totally me.” The 355 cube small block still packs some good gear as a result of Les’ old racing partners, like American Auto Parts. “If every one had a friend like Don at AAP, the world would be a better place. He helped me go racing with engines and parts, he got me started,” remarks Les. “In fact a lot of businesses have contributed to this car,” he adds thankfully.

When it came to achieving the race car look, Les nailed it, or at least the best he could in keeping within the requirements of the law and practicality. The Garlit’s faux injection, bigs and littles, roll bar and rear wing all contribute to the cause. Les added the wing to sustain the overall wedge look of the car, if need be he can replace it with a luggage rack should an overnighter be on the cards. The imposing radiator is angled back for the same reason, it’s been built around a HQ core, tilted 90 degrees. A catch can is integrated in the lower section, a drain plug allows him to release any overflow. Les made the whole thing out of Cornflake boxes before taking it to Shane at Thunder Road to replicate in aluminium. Shane also built the fabricated 9” rear. “I’d love to put some 18” x 33” tyres under the back,” Les admits.

The race theme continues into the interior with carbon fibre dash, competition style switch panel and Racepak data display. Diamond tuft-style stitching is inlaid into red leather adorning the seat and side panels. Tyron Nagy is the trimmer, if the name is familiar that’s because it’s Les’ son. “He’s grown up around the cars, he’s my little buddy,” says a proud father, “Even as a young guy he always wanted to be a trimmer.” Tyron did his apprenticeship on the Gold Coast at Precise Trim, building a rotary-powered Gemini in those same years that netted him a swag of trophies, including for trim. Since those days he’s trimmed countless rods and street cars and now partners in another venture.

Thanks to hardware like the Rod Tech independent front end and top shelf brakes, the roadster is equally at home through the curves as it is on the highway. Ancillaries include LED tail lights and Harley Davidson headlights, the latter mounted on brackets Les made from leaf springs. “I chose the Harley Davidson high efficiency 5” headlights because they were modern and sleek, I didn’t want anything too bulky.” The smooth exterior is complemented by the recessed licence plate and profiled exhaust outlets. The fuel tank was custom built to fit between the rails, 69 litres was the maximum size they could get it leaving room for exhaust and suspension. We like the small wind wings mounted to the windscreen posts, so does Les as they keep the wind out of his face.

The car has inspired the boys to keep building, Kevin has a smooth contemporary-style version on the go, and Les is stepping even further outside the square with a spitfire-inspired variant.

BY GAVIN KELSO, PHOTOS BY DANIEL WARD. FULL FEATURE CRUZIN MAGAZINE #157.

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