Saturday, June 22, 2024


Growing up on acreage in the beautiful Murwillumbah hills, Rhys Kaehler often strayed from home to his Nan’s house, situated on the same property, not to visit grandma but to sneak under her house and play in the old car that his dad was storing there. “One of my most fondest memories of home was pretending to drive and just playing in that old car when we were kids,” he says.  

Before Rhys was born, back in 1980, his dad Alan, had located the remains of a 1929 Chev tourer abandoned behind an old shed, which he purchased as a future project.  As the years went on he built plenty of rods but the old Chevy just sat untouched and obscured from prying eyes.  

When young Rhys turned 16 his attention towards his old play toy changed and he soon became interested in it for different reasons. “When dad said I could start building it if I wanted to, I jumped at the chance and we got stuck in.”

After dragging the ’29 out into the harsh light of day a plan was conceived to transform the tourer remains into a ratty roadster pickup on a budget. Starting with the original cowl, front guards, bonnet, doors, dash and windscreen a rear tub section was sourced from Peter Jackson ‘Old Era Services’ who also supplied the valance panels and running boards. Before shipping the new tub was lengthened 200mm behind the door to provide a little extra legroom for Rhys and passengers. 

Included with the Chevy sheet metal purchase Alan scored an original ’29 frame that the boys put to good use, creating a box section between the rear rails to accommodate the new pickup bed from David ‘Shorty’ Smith.  Shorty tweaked the Model A bed to suit the Chevy chassis with outstanding results. Rhys confesses that the rear guards are repos and were the only pieces on it not original steel until the new one-piece hood top created by Dion Wilcox from the Kustom Shop. With a repaired and re-plated original grill shell all the major body components were accounted for and the chassis was next on the agenda.

The stock frame now sports a Holden HR front end with HQ stubs and out back an LSD diff donated by a VN Commodore rests on L300 springs. The main point of difference about this sweet little Chevy is the straight six now on permanent display with hood sides the deleted. As any P plater knows, a hot sounding V8 was never in the equation when this rod was being screwed together, so a humble 202 Holden was slipped between the rails ahead of the un-butchered firewall. Rhys explains that the 1929 Chev was the first bowtie to be fitted with a factory six so it kinda made sense with his current license status. 

But just because two more pistons was not an option that doesn’t mean the old red mill had to be a sleeper! Starting with an original crank and block, it now features blue motor rods, 11-1 flat top slugs, Stage 3 Yella Terra head, roller rockers and a Stage 6 comp cam. Aussiespeed supplied the finned alloy rocker cover to clear the roller rockers adding great looks along with good speed. A Lynx intake manifold is fed by a 2bbl 500 carby while HPC coated X2 headers exit into a single 2 ½” bowtie tipped pipe. 

Now aged 25 and devoid of engine size limitations, father and son explored the idea of swapping in a bent eight block but along with the extra two slugs come an awful lot of unnecessary firewall and floor fabrication, new engine mounts and the unforeseen elements that always crop up. “Stuff it!” they thought.

“I love the way it sounds and after clocking up 10,000 km in the first year on the road and taking out the grass driving events at the 2013 ASRF Nationals in QLD with track time in between, I’m not disappointed one little bit!” he says. 

Backing up the stout 202 is a Tri-matic auto outfitted with V8 gears, shift kit and just recently, a Lokar shifter. Rhys assures me that an even crankier six slugger is in the build destined for a future début with triple SUs. 

As mentioned earlier this was going to be a rat rod build but as the pickup started to take shape, Rhys just couldn’t do it and finished the exterior in deep luscious black highlighted with a sprinkling of chrome. Inside the extended cockpit a tasteful arraignment of red leather adds a welcome splash of colour to the all black interior that is well appointed and uncluttered. 

Taking just two and a half years to complete Rhys has enjoyed many miles at the wheel of his favorite childhood memory and has never looked back.

Rhys would like to thank Owen Noble, Gary and Laurie Coates, Brett Bowley, Peter Fritsch, Antique Tyres, Cookies Custom Pipes and a special thank you to his family.


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