They say history never repeats. They’re wrong. Case in point this cool looking ’33 Ford roadster, built and owned by Peter Forster. This is Pete’s second time round at this thing called hot rodding, and yes, his first modified set of wheels was also a ’33 Ford roadster. But that was when he wore a younger mans clothes and no mortgage. Pete explains…
“I was a young 17 year old high school student and I became obsessed with hot rods. During this time I purchased a 1933 sports coupe, or parts thereof, to build my own hot rod for when I finally got my licence. I liked reading Hot Rod magazine, and I used to say I’m going to build one of those when I’m old enough,” he recalls fondly.
Like many young Aussie gear heads of the day Pete fuelled his obsession by reading American hot rodding magazines, which often featured fenderless coupes and roadsters predominantly from the Ford stable. Pete remembers back in the day, rod fodder was a hell of a lot more plentiful and it didn’t take him long to track down a suitable project. “I had kept my eye on this ’33 B model coupe that had been in town for a long time. The weekend after I left school I tracked it down, bought it and started to work on it the same day.”
While Pete tinkered away on his new toy, word spread about his purchase and before long he had a visit from another young fellow who was doing just the same.
“This guy got wind of what I had,” Pete explains, “so he turns up and introduces himself as Rod Hadfield and tells me about the project he was working on. He also mentions this crashed roadster that he knew of and if I would be interested in taking a look. He only lived about 20 miles up the road so I went for a squiz and saw that the chassis was pretty twisted up on the roadster, but the body was good and the motor still ran. I ended up doing a deal on the roadster body and put it on my chassis. I sold off the coupe and got down to building my new California inspired roadster.”
From that simple meeting of two like-minded enthusiasts, Pete lucked out on two occasions. Firstly, before the roadster came to grief it had already been mildly rodded, undeniably accelerating his current project. Secondly, he and Rod struck a friendship that they sill enjoy today.
After just twelve months of backyard engineering with help from his family and friends, Pete had his first hot rod; a heavily channelled ’33 hiboy sporting a triple carbed flatty, sectioned deuce grill and semi chromed firewall fully exposed to the world. Just the hot ticket for any young dude about to celebrate his 18th birthday.
As those formable years rushed by, Pete also developed a passion for motorbikes that are still very much a part of his life today. With three years of hijinx and mayhem behind the wheel of the ’33, Pete realised that the engine (among other things) was in need of rebuild. Due to the combined costs to upgrade the roadster and his newfound freedom on two wheels, he sold his hot rod and got on with life.
Other than making a beach buggy out of a VW, that was Peter’s only hot rod building experience until now. That’s a long time between drinks, 45 years to be exact. He openly admits his new enthusiasm towards an old Ford is son Ben’s fault! Check out issue #156 for our tour of Ben’s garage and you’ll understand.
Like many home hot rod builders, Pete’s explanation for an absence of old tin in the garage is completely understandable.
“Owning a business and dairy farm didn’t leave much cash or time in the kitty for toys and what little of both that could be saved was set aside for playing with bikes.”
With the Victorian farm now sold and the Forsters relocating to join their son in Perth, the time to revisit those irrepressible days of the past looked very inviting. Even before his dad had set up house in the far west the father and son duo had located and bought the beginnings of his next rodded roadster.
“The original body came from John “Ferret” Ferrier’s private stash. Some parts we found out had been rodded in the past but it is an original Geelong body and chassis. It had a 1951 Ford rear end with parallel leaf springs that hung way out the back, bit like the arse end of a bull terrier,” Ben says.
“We had the roadster drafted into a concept image giving us a clear direction to stick to until the end. The only thing that is different to the image are the rear cycle fenders and the disappearing blower that ended up on Ben’s coupe! Pete quips, “it had to be channelled but not quite as much as the first one.
The hood still needs to be done but it’s pretty much finished. “Reading Hot Rod and seeing what was being built in the Californian climate, a roadster was always at the forefront of my mind when it came to build my own. WA has a similar climate, which made the decision easier,” he concludes.
Just to get it straight, while Pete was really excited to recapture the essence of his old roadster, he never set out to recreate it. A few of the signature components that made his original rod unique, such as the padded dash, were incorporated in the new build but it was never to be a clone. And to anyone wondering if it was an attempt to rekindle his youth he is quick to remark; “that’s just a bit of crap, but it’s a good excuse to buy something.”
Although the body and chassis was one original unit it was in dire need of a major resurrection. The roached out doors were replaced with new steel reproductions, but the American roadster versions didn’t fit the Aussie body. Rather than mess up the new doors they decided to make the cowl fit them. With the assistance of Craig Clements they stretched the lower section of the cowl and rear quarters to meet the doors. The filled cowl vent was part of the previously rodded body mods but the remainder of the original sheet metal required numerous patch panels and a complete steel-out. A new floor was fabricated and installed along with new rear wheel wells, deck lid gutters and Brookville deck lid. When the cloud of welding and grinding dust cleared all repairs were lead wiped and file finished.
Now ready for paint, the inside of the body was treated to a coating of metallic silver whilst the exterior was brush clear coated by Pete, Ben, Alan Smart and whom ever was around drinking at the time. The cold bare metal appearance of the ’33 is warmed by rich burgundy two-pack covering the chassis and Wheel Vintique wire wheels from Antique Tyres.
Drew from Northside Motor Trimming is responsible for the timeless tuck and roll trim, stitched in distressed leather over a Glide seat and custom made dash. Colour matching Jaguar loop pile carpet further enhances the classy interior, which extends into the dickie seat compartment.
“I had the car before we moved to Perth and was never inclined to build it along the lines of the belly button rods with 350/350 combo and new everything,” Pete says firmly. For this old school hot rod the perfect motor choice was as simple as the body style decision and a Ford 8BA Flathead was repositioned between the stock rails. Hopping up the flatty is a combination of Isky Jnr cam, Navarro finned heads and twin carb intake with same number Stromberg 97s. A Mallory crab-style dizzy sparks the fire and centre dump headers exit through a pair of ceramic coated Smithys for a sweet vintage note.
Straying from the old parts box for just a tick, Pete mated the classic mill with a modern gearbox pilfered from a Toyota Supra using a Landcruiser clutch and a Mike Davidson Flatattack adaptor kit. “It’s a better car than my first one and the five speed box makes it a much better driver. The adapter from Mike’s side valve made it so easy to fit and good use of the torque,” he says.
Out back a 1951 Cusso diff is suspended under the stepped frame by a triangulated four bar and coilovers, rotating 3.73 gears and stock brakes. Nestled under the gorgeous ’33 grill shell is a buggy sprung, dropped and polished I beam from So-Cal Speed Shop, hairpins and disc brakes. Traditional stuff right? The Unisteer half rack will keep ’em guessing.
Home wiring with old fashioned charm was made easy using a Keep-it-Clean cloth wrapped harness from Armadale Auto Parts, but it’s the clever use of unusual items like the English headlights which make this roadster unique. Pete was given just one about 30 years ago by his brother in law, and after searching through swap meets he found a pair with non-matching lenses. One was marked fog-master and one with drive-master. His existing one miraculously matched one of the two. On another swap expedition, Pete stumbled upon a second pair with even or odd lenses and at last count he has enough for three more cars or plenty of spares if necessary. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the lenses have a concave profile, almost mimicking the distinctive, one year only ’33 Ford grill design.
“It’s easy to just go out and buy a new light and bolt it on but we like to do things just a little bit different!” grins Pete.
With over four decades separating his first and second hot rod at age 64, Peter has no plans to sell this one anytime soon and would really like to keep it in the family. A perfect example of an heirloom worth treasuring, if you ask me.
Apart from son Ben (instigation to accomplishment) Peter would like to thank Al and the Armadale Auto Parts team, Craig at Stickshift Hot Rods, Blacky at FAB Electrical, Drew at Northside Motor Trimming, Norm at Aussie Desert Coolers, Leighton at H&L Glass, Ben at Antique Tyres Melbourne, Andy the lead slinger for tuition, Peter & John at M&D Auto Engineering, wife Trish for putting up with it and paying the bills, Oggie for SFA and the Cranksters.