Thursday, May 30, 2024


If you’ve ever been to Valla Park Rod Run, chances are that you know, or know of, Graeme Martin. Graeme has been to every Valla Park run which puts him into an elite group of about half a dozen hot rodders for whom the week long run is more habit than holiday. His car, a Glacier Blue Aussie-bodied ’34 Ford coupe, built hiboy style, has remained relatively unchanged for the thirty years it’s been on the road and is much as part of the family as his wife Roslyn and their two sons, Jason and Daryl.

Graeme’s entry into hot rodding came in the form of a 1934 Ford sedan in the late 1960s. He had the car for about six years until he scored a rusty coupe of the same genre at Inverell. “I became good mates with Terry Roma, a local rodder out there, he would tell us what was around,” recalls Graeme. The coupe was hardly a gem, missing about 8 inches of steel from the bottom up, but none the less it was a coupe and Graeme wasn’t afraid of a challenge. He dragged it home to his Gold Coast home and work began, the end result a nicely chopped ’34 which has been in the family for over 30 years. “It’s always been fun to drive and never let me down, the kids have grown up in it,” says Graeme.

He didn’t realise it at the time but the day he picked up his ’34 five window he laid eyes on the basis of his next major project, this ’49 Ford custom roadster. “When we first went to get the coupe there were these two Single Spinners sitting in the paddock. When we went back again 15 years ago, they’d been dumped way out of town in a creek bed along with a bunch of other old cars. We pulled out three bodies; one had been rolled on its roof but had a good chassis, another had a tree half growing out of it. We also grabbed the bonnet from a ute that was there because the sedan ones were stuffed.”

Hot rod buddy Steve Bonner had a tray back truck with a crane which made the task much easier, and the three sad Spinners sat in Graeme’s back yard for around five years until he started the new project in ernest. “I would gradually cut them up, keeping the good parts and getting rid of the junk. One of the neighbours would collect scrap metal, trade it for cash and donate it to hearing aid implants, that’s where most of it went.”

When Graeme did green light the project, he started with a ute frame which has sturdy K members instead of cross members as found on most sedan chassis. The original ’49 Ford suspension was reassigned to the junk pile, in its place is a Jaguar XJ6 Series III front end and a custom four bar rear made from ’78 Volvo upper and ’85 Toyota lower arms. Also at the rear is an XF Falcon Watts Linkage plus Airrirde self levelling bags all round ensure the ’49 drives great no matter who’s on board.

The bulk of the bodywork was handled by Greg Hardcastle of Curly’s Rod & Custom Shop. It’s extensive to say the least, in fact every body panel has been altered or reshaped in some way, many of the mods necessitated by the sectioned body; a full five inches at the front, progressing to a more delicate 1” at the rear. The roof is clearly missing and the front glass went with it, the top of the cowl was then extended to blend in to the top of the dash before work began on the new windscreen frame. Graeme used his cabinet making skills to create the windscreen posts in timber and aluminium before sending it off to have it cast in bronze. Final finish is brilliant chrome courtesy of the late Johnny Walker.

The hood is actually from a 1951 model, only because Graeme reckons they couldn’t get one of the bonnets they already had to hold their shape. They made it fit, lead filling the centre join in the process. The grille has of course been redesigned to suit the sectioned body, the front opening also opened up for more air flow to the radiator, but only a purist would pick the smaller twin spinner bullet in place of the original single spinner item. There’s a gaggle of other body mods, we’ve included Graeme’s original list for the detail guys.

Once Greg had taken it as far as he could go the Ford was handed over to Made You Look Kustoms for its two tone coating in House of Kolor hues, but not before serving four weeks in a molasses tank. Up top is HOK Passion Purple, below is a unique blend of HOK Exstro Purple. If you thought you saw a Chevy part you’d be correct, the stainless side mouldings are 1956 Chevy. Dragway built the custom billets, 17×7 and 17×8, now wrapped in Falken 205 and 235 40 Series rubber.

Graeme didn’t go overboard on the mechanicals, asking G.U.Motors to put together a mild 351 Cleveland. Both it and the C4 were painted to match the bottom half of the exterior. “The original plan was eight stack injection, maybe even a blower,” shrugs Graeme, admitting the latter option would have required a hole in the hood which he didn’t want. “I might still add injection,” he relents. Ceramic coated Ford headers feed into a twin 2 ½” system which winds itself through the K-members so that nothing hangs below the chassis.

It’s pure luxury inside with tan Ultra leather and Ostrich inlays over a pair of reshaped Mazda buckets and custom rear seat. We like the full length centre console, it houses the required controls but more importantly, cup holders for the VIPs in the back! Graeme opted to keep the original gauges, converting them to 12 volt. The billet steering wheel is a match for the wheels and mounts on a Coates column.
By the time Dallas at Daltrim received the car to trim, Graeme and Roslyn had relocated to Tasmania to serve their retirement so son Daryl was called upon to oversee the final details. “I had already made a drawing and mocked up the door cards, but Daryl made regular visits to make changes if the design wouldn’t work. The final details were all completed at Daryl’s place, I would fly up once a month and do a few days work on the car, thank you Daryl for being my gopher and letting me finish the car in your shed!”

Graeme gives the big thumbs up to those who have been involved, including Graeme Urquhart, Greg Whitemen, Ian Cameron, Col Chapman, Dion Wilcox, Pat Laub and Rob Kirk at Thunder Down Under. Also to Rod Dowley for his assistance and transporting the finished car down to Tasmania without a mark on it. And finally of course his wife Roslyn. “The car has been a long time coming,” admits Graeme, “but it would not have happened if Roslyn, had not given me the incentive and push to get it finished, so it really is her car.”


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