Monday, May 20, 2024


It never ceases to amaze me how we aspire to own something truly special, struggle, save and work hard for years to achieve that goal, then have it slip away within seconds. Dylan Hayward’s endeavour to own and drive an old hot rod very nearly ended in tragedy, but I am happy to say that his brush with death resulted in creating this very cool roadster that defines the term individual. 

“I started building a 1934 Ford roadster when I was about 14 years old. I had collected just about everything to complete the car, but never really started to put it together. Then I got the ‘29 roadster from Norm Grogan, one of dad’s mates,” Dylan recalls. Apparently Norm bought it for his wife who drove it to the shops about twice. On one of those occasions when she returned to the car after shopping, a random person had the bonnet open to take a free look and she never really wanted to drive it after that!

“It sat in the shed for about 15 years until one day when my dad (John) was over at his place where he noticed it sitting. ‘Yeah I’m going to sell it one day,’ Norm said. Guess who bought it?”  

The original owner of the neat little roadster was Neil Stamp, only you wouldn’t recognise it by how it looks today. The story goes that Neil’s brother Keith actually found the car somewhere in Ballarat, where the body was leaning against a fence post and the remainder of the car had been fashioned into a pig feeder. At the time Neil was piecing together a tourer that he had bought off his brother in the late 60s, but that project went out the window after retrieving the roadster tin. After some time on the road, it was later sold to Norm. 

When Dylan acquired ownership in 1995, the historic ‘29 was in the same guise as featured in Australian Street Rodding magazine in 1977. The sweet Model A sported original fenders and running boards, front bumper with bumperettes out back, chromies, hot red paint and a warm 186 Holden slipped into the original frame.

At just 18 years of age, Dylan was living the dream until he failed to notice a Give Way sign and wrote his roadster off in 1999. Through the impact, Dylan sustained a cut to the head and a broken leg, and the ’29 was destroyed from the cowl forward. 

Once recovered, this tenacious teenager set about to rectify his mistake and rebuild his beloved roadster with what he could salvage. Thankfully the main body shell was repairable and he began in earnest, locating a new frame as a solid foundation for the resurrection. With respect for the roadster’s heritage, Dylan’s deliberate decision to retain the 186 is a praiseworthy and honourable gesture. For the chassis however he deviated from the original specs, choosing a ‘32 frame that would better suit his ride.

“While I was in hospital my parents would bring me in hot rod magazines. I never really liked hiboys before that, but I found a style that I really liked in those magazines and went with it,” he remembers.

Dylan is a car guy that’s been brought up with a passion for old cars. “My dad, John has a ‘39 Chevy convertible, that’s not alone in the shed,” he quips. “Dad tells me that when I was born, our only car was a ’34 roadster with a baby seat… so it’s grown from that. Dad got out of the scene for a while and when I started to bring some cars home, he got back into it.”

Dylan goes on to explain that he really admires the Art Deco features of the more extravagent pre-40 American cars, which is reflected in his choice of components.

“Most of the parts came from swap meets. I had a new old stock 1932 grill but I also had this Packard grill that I picked up from a swap. I just thought I would have a go and if it didn’t work, I only ruined an old grill. As I didn’t have a showy motor I was always going to have a top so I bartered some electrical work for a mate to roll me a new hood.”

Michael Main fabricated new sheet metal to suit the grill which has a total of eight inches deleted from its height. New grill bars were replicated from stainless steel as the originals were too pitted to be chromed. 

“The windshield was from Steve Sellers in the States. I really like the look and ordered one. I was patient and it finally arrived. It required a fair amount of finesse to get it to fit right, but I got it there and it looks killer.” 

Dressing up the new bonnet sides, a trio of aftermarket accents were added to each side. Dylan says that the cast alloy teardrops were available from Aussie speed shops back in the 50s and he just thought they were neat. Before settling on the very cool and sometimes controversial E&J headlights, Dylan tried three other types from different manufacturers. Once he made his choice, he then looked for the proverbial needle in the hay stack until he uncovered a genuine pair. The art deco eggs were then polished and fitted with new internals for life in the modern lane. “Sometimes Ebay is your friend. They had a buy now price that was too good to be true… so I hit enter!”

The remaining sheet metal is all Henry Ford steel with obvious repairs made to the cowl and driver’s door. “I was lucky,” he says without exaggeration, “if I was hit a foot further back it would have been a different story.”

The new ‘32 chassis was constructed by Deuce Customs and comprises of fresh rails and the original Model A front and rear crossmembers. The third member is located with a pair of ’46 radius rods and suspended by a Model A spring. The hairpin-equipped front end is pinched with a gradual taper and the body is slightly channelled at the rear. 1940 Ford brake shoes and Buick brake drums are employed to halt the lightweight roadster, as best they can. Out back, the old EJ Holden diff has been replaced with a pair of ‘40 Ford bells enveloping a quickchange centre to further enhance the traditional approach to the rebuild. “I did have an 8BA flatty to drop in but just couldn’t do it,” Dylan says with a wince.

Also damaged in the collision was the interior, forcing Dylan to replace the seat back with something he found in an abandoned Chevy. The seat bottom is the original that he had the unenviable task of scraping off the remnants of his own blood, before resurrecting it for driving duty. He reinstalled the door trims to complete the simple black on black cockpit. The cool shifter is fashioned from a ’36 Ford roadster that was turfed during a hot rod make over. He adapted it to work with the Holden three speed, even hand cutting the shift boot and matching emergency brake surrounds to complement the extraordinary dash. 

Dylan dissected a 1929 Reo gauge cluster, separating the original bezels that now extend across the ’32 dash panel. He then fitted a speedo and tach from Classic Instruments to the refurbished Reo facia and surrounded them with an engine turned panel. Dylan also chose Classic Instruments to reside behind the four exploded bezels, creating a vintage classic appearance with modern functionality. So-Cal switches complete the inventive ensemble. Tracking the restyled rod straight, the driver grips a ’40 Ford Deluxe steering wheel atop a Limeworks column, while gas is regulated by a neat accelerator pedal that is actually a 1934 Buick centre bumper guard.

Fuel containment is relocated to the rear of the small body shell in a hand made fuel tank that’s designed to follow the rear floor contour. The gas cap protruding through the upper beaver panel is the original that has been repositioned from the cowl, made necessary because of the custom vee’d windshield. The dicky seat grab rails are from the roadster’s previous life with additional stainless trim spears running between them pilfered from a Chevy Fleetline.

The hand formed front fenders started life as ‘36 Ford spare wheel covers. Dylan took his cycle fenders one step further by adding an inner skirt as a nod to the styling of early Indian motorcycles. Close inspection of this quirky component reveal that the rear fenders sport similar sheet metal, but are crafted from a 1932 Ford, providing a greater radius at 18 inches. Dylan also added a strip down the centre of each rear fender, widening them to suit the large Firestones that wrap ‘40 Ford rims dressed in Ford accessory hub caps. 

Dylan says that the well worn black exterior was just to keep the bare metal ’29 from rusting while undergoing the rebuild. Unintentionally that’s how it hit the road just over 12 months ago, and I feel it complements the overall appearance in spades. Plans for a complete repaint are still scheduled for the future but life and other projects just keep getting in his way. A ’32 Ford truck I-beam and reinstallation of the original split front wishbones will follow the new exterior finish sometime in the ensuing years.

Dylan would like to take this opportunity to thank his wife Megan “for letting me have my shed time to work on my cars.” 

For now Dylan is just happy tooling around in his old Ford as is. Refining items when time and money allow him to add another perfect piece of nostalgia, to his hot rod already steeped with history.

It's only fair to share…