Wednesday, May 22, 2024


Fresh from relinquishing the day to day operations of his successful Hopper Stoppers business (which he still owns), Peter Koning was free to explore other facets of our hobby including a 20,000 mile trip across the USA in his ‘owner built’ ’36 Chevy sedan and is currently an integral cog in the Victorian TAC machine.

Peter’s aspiration for open air cruising was directly influenced from building a ‘37 Chevy convertible for a friend back in the late 90s. Long after the seed was planted he purchased this Ford Cabriolet from Gary Humphries in 2006, which Gary relocated from Argentina two years earlier. One of the benefits of these foreign Fords is that the driving position is Aussie friendly RHD, and this one included a new chassis in the deal, outfitted with Jag front and rear suspension by Greg Jones. 

“For a long time I wanted a mid 30s convertible with wind up windows and  I really liked this body type. I felt that it would look good with art deco styling,” said Peter. 

Although the rolling package is highly desirable due to the rarity of the body style (Peter believes there are only 10 in Australia), Peter is quick to admit that the genuine Henry Ford sheet metal had seen better days. The rough original tin would consume many hours of labour to fulfil its new owners emphatic vision of art deco elegance with a hint of Fagoni and Falaschi flair. 

“I have always believed that you plan from the start and stick to it!” 

Putting his money where his mouth is, Peter drew his blue print for the desired apparition and teamed up with ‘Kustom Kar Kandy’ artist Alex Szman to pen the finally exterior combination akin to coachbuilt cars of the 30s. 

With the details squared away it was time to roll up the sleeves and attack the tin. When Peter was satisfied, he had replaced the entire floor, installed new rear wheel arches, spliced in new inner and outer lower boot lid (fabbed by Keith Love at Tin West), new EMS beaver panel and cut and replaced all four wheel arches in the mudguards. He also added smooth new running boards and chopped the stock windshield posts 90mm. All firewall sins were eradicated with a Direct Sheetmetal replacement recessed into the stock cowl. While he was in the cut-n-smooth mood Peter also de-burred the bonnet frame of any unnecessary protrusions and excess metal. 

Complementing the revised split screen a new dash was also sourced from Direct Sheetmetal and installed under altered roof irons and bows to really reinforce the hot rod element of this classy convertible. Once glass was chopped to match the new profile and the Glide seat was positioned over the strengthened body, the entire ensemble was blown apart and shipped to Cam and Adam at Wyndham Accident Centre. Enthused by Peter’s bodywork skills, Cam took over the hammer and dolly continuing to massage the precious metal to a level beyond factory spec. It was then the other dynamic duos turn, Adam, who perfectly applied the two-tone design in Rolls Royce Bordeaux and Vanilla two pack PPG. “This was one of a half dozen designs which Alex did that incorporates a painted sweep and spear, similar to the famous Delage and Delahaye custom cars of the 30s,” Peter explains, “Adam did a great job replicating the slash in Ford Hermitage Burgundy.” 

Underneath the colour-coded convert the Jag equipped Lilow chassis still comanded its fair share of attention. Ensuring even body gaps stay true, the boxed rails are separated by twin row tubular X members keeping torsional twist to a minimum. Both XJ6 suspension components were narrowed three inches with a Commodore rack and pinion now receiving direction by a Flaming River column. 

Lifting the smoothed clamshell bonnet reveals a surprising inclusion to this 30s inspired build. Peter opted for reliability and performance over period perfect aesthetics by selecting a Chevy Vortec 350 fresh from the crate. As his ’36 Chevy runs a TPI small block and an LT1 powers his ’32 Vicky, he’s no stranger to high-tech power plants and considering the amount of miles he regularly clocks up, who can blame him. Boasting 330 horses from a multipoint EFI atop a Holley Avenger intake the new mill is also dressed to kill. Custom headers were bent by Exhaust Bros and the serpentine pulley system spins everything effortlessly, including air-conditioning.

Techtrans of Hoppers Crossing were given the nod to beef up the T700 four speed auto with a Street & Performance lock up torque converter, while gear selection is by a Lokar ‘Deco’ floor shift. Setting the rolling art piece in motion are Diamond Back whitewalls wrapped 15×6 and 15×8 ½ wheels, crowned with a quartet of re-popped ’52 Cadillac caps.  Halting the horses, XJ6 rotors on all four corners are activated via a HQ Holden master cylinder and were completely rebuilt by…. Hopper Stoppers of course.

Folding back the altered original ragtop trimmed in ‘Stayfast’ burgundy is comparable to opening Pandora’s box, revealing sumptuous burgundy leather and plush carpet highlighted by cream piping. The bejewelled dash features a So-Cal Fender pearl insert housing a nickel gauge cluster and matching pod mounted tacho. Peter takes control of his new toy by the neat PearlCraft finished banjo steering wheel while occupants are treated with controlled climate conditions, power windows and state of the art sound system. Pat Mesiti of Sunshine Motor Trimming played particular attention to the stunning door cards and armrests creating a perfect rendition to the revered era style. Pat’s quality workmanship was extended into the boot space, as one would expect of this high calibre creation. 

Finessing the finer details of the concept crescendo Peter broke open the bubble wrap on his deco dedicated parts collection and started the final assembly including; ’41 Willys headlights, ’39 Lincoln taillights, alloy ribbed Briz bumpers with matching rear view mirrors and the piste de resistance… subtle fine lines by the talented Ryan Ford.

After six years of ownership and a mammoth amount of work, Peter Koning was about to hit the road in his own open car. Not just any convertible but a modern interpretation of the art deco definition; beauty and strength in arduous times.

But more importantly, a superb example of… “sticking to the plan”.


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