Sunday, June 23, 2024


After putting away the roller, brushes and drop sheets for the last time, John Gall decided to reward himself with a retirement present worthy of a four-decade tenure as a painting contractor. Something he and his wife Kerryn could enjoy together and share with their grandchildren whenever the mood struck, resulting in this elegant Model 40 more door that became a third-time lucky deal but paid high dividends in the end. 

“We are not really a classic car or hot rod people per se, but a mate of mine who was one of my apprentices mucked about with them for about 30 years, and I guess that got me interested,” declares John. “I said if I ever had one of our own, it would be a four-door. The 1934 looked like a real sedan without a sloping back or anything… a bit like Bonnie and Clyde car!”

With their newfound freedom, the Galls began looking for a suitable project to keep John occupied. They soon discovered that their desired model was a little thin on the ground in our country. Thankfully, they didn’t give up on the hunt.

“I was only interested in a steel car, and we looked around, but they are not that easy to find unless they have already been completed,” he confesses. “I didn’t know where I was going, and then we lucked out on this ‘34 in Lismore, which became too much for the elderly owner to accomplish. It was just a body, engine and chassis on wheels with loads of parts inside. There was a pub directly across the lane from his house, so maybe that was too much temptation! We had a look and brought it home.”

After hauling the rusty gold back to their hometown, Rockhampton, John dissected his project into two piles of parts: keep and not keep. 

“All the fenders were fibreglass, and the grille looked homemade,” he quips. “My intention was to rebuild it myself with help from my old apprentice. I pulled it apart, and he sand-blasted and primed it, but then I had an accident that affected my foot, which made it difficult to put in long hours. There’s a shop in town that I contracted for assistance who had me looking for a Holden HR front end, old brakes, diff and so forth… but I didn’t really want to go down that path. I wanted power steering and an independent front end, but he wasn’t interested, so we parted ways.”

Kerryn adds, “We wanted the car to look old on the outside but new on the inside.” 

After selling the accumulated unwanted parts, John began compiling his own component list by researching the vast aftermarket industry and studying dedicated magazines. New steel fenders from United Pacific and Bob Drake running boards from the USA were stashed alongside an Aussie IFS from RodTech and ‘34 grille handcrafted in Ballarat.  

“We were recommended to another guy in Ayr, so we took the car to him and handed over some cash. He promised the world, but nothing progressed, so I took it back,” laments John. 

 “Then John’s health deteriorated, but he was adamant that he would finish it while he could enjoy it!” added Kerryn. “Reading through Cruzin Magazine, we saw an article about Bob and Musharella Puglisi’s pickup that we really liked and took note of Cahills Speed Shop, who built it. He said, “I’m going to ring that guy!” And I said you do that. He did and left a message. Darren returned the call when he could, which was nice, and said it wouldn’t be a problem.”

“John and Kerryn saw an article in Cruzin magazine on a build we had previously done, and the look and stance were exactly what John had pictured,” Darren Cahill recalls. “Their brief was for the vehicle to still look like a 1934 Ford from the outside but have the drive and appointments of a modern car.”

“We sent them a heap of photos, and Darren replied with an estimate, but they couldn’t fit us in for a few months,” John continued. “When the time was ready, we trailered the car from Rocky and stopped at Maryborough on the way to look at a hot rod show, and then we headed to Cahills Speed Shop. We dropped the car off and said there you go… see you later!” 

In typical Cahill fashion, the body and chassis were swiftly separated, and the skilled team got cracking on adding a custom mandrel bend tube K-member and boxing plate to the original rails before installing the supplied quality IFS. Out back, a Ford 9” is positioned with four bars and coil-over shocks, also from Rod-Tech. A quartet of disc brake rotors are clamped by a duo of GM Commodore and Camaro callipers brought into play by a Toprodz under-dash pedal assembly.   

“I bought a driveable 1999 Fairmont Ghia from the wreckers for the four-speed gearbox, which also had a 302,” reveals John. “I had an LS engine for it but wasn’t allowed.”

“I wanted a Ford in a Ford!” affirms Kerryn. 

Whilst Russells Automatics were entrusted with reviving the four-speed for active duty, Mason Cahill blew the FoMoco mill apart, sending the block to Acers Engine Reconditioning in Yatala for machining. Now displacing 347cubes, the fresh bores are filled with JE slugs that pivot on SCAT rods and crank. Comp Cams compose the bump and grind whilst a Holley Sniper injects fun fluids into the fresh Aeroflow heads, who also made the brilliant braided lines. Ceramic-coated block hugger headers and polished finned accessories add a touch of glam to the detailed powerhouse. 

From the get-go, John and Kerryn had a firm vision for their retirement fund Ford. Colour choice was a prerequisite, but wheel selection was a different concern.   

“We were keen to simulate the look of the original wheels and found a mob in the USA called True Spoke. I gave all the info to Darren and said, ‘ Here, you deal with it,’” jibes John. “They were a little late arriving, but when they did, they were excellent quality.” 

“The chrome work is outstanding,” adds Darren. “The tyres were chosen for their ride quality and to give the car the big and little look!”

John also sourced and imported a new timber kit for the roof insert and even crafted some missing brackets to assist installation. Taking one step further, Cahill’s not only fulfilled this task but permanently filled the factory void with a trimmed turret from an XY Falcon station wagon. Then, it was skinned with vinyl to replicate the original appearance without the leaks, adding strength to the 90-year-old Henry Ford steel.  

Darren also remarks that other than recessing the firewall and trans tunnel to accommodate the new power plant, the original USA body is virtually unmodified. Once all panels were repaired where necessary and aligned with the fenders, hood, and grille, Elite Kustom Paintworks carefully caressed the entire sheet metal ensemble back into shape in preparation for the Autumn Bronze two-pack clear over base exterior finish. 

“Everybody has creams, oranges, blacks and all that,” explains John. “We thought of going with an original colour, but we just loved that pickup, and you mentioned the colour in the article. We finally got a formula through one of my paint reps, sprayed it on some metal and sat it in our lounge room for a while. We both agreed we had to go with that and a black roof insert.”

By now, all our readers would know that interiors at CSS are Deb’s domain, where she continues to excel at her craft.  

“John is very particular about colours and wanted the feel and performance of leather,” Deb enlightens. “He and Kerryn had some inspo pics from the internet, and we sat and chatted about making changes to make it more their own. They chose the Mink leather (a lighter shade of the Puglisi ‘34 pickup seats), and German square weave was their initial choice of carpet, but the BMW natural plush material was a better match. The seat medallions are from Krist Kustoms in the US, which I added for interest. They also really wanted ducted A/C through the centre console and drink holders. They loved the look of the Santana Interior flip-out drink holders and approved the purchase from the US.” 

“We didn’t want tuck and roll, but we did want Apple CarPlay for maps and a reversing camera,” adds Kerryn. “Darren and Deb kept us regularly informed, and they would send photos all the way through. We changed our minds a couple of times about colour and went for a lighter shade of leather. Deb sent us a sample, and we trusted her judgement.”

Delving inside the meticulously executed cabin space, the sedan’s sumptuous interior is sensory overload, with all requested elements catered for and more. From the stylish’ 40s-era tiller to satellite navigation, the bespoke beauty is a showroom worthy of any exotic vehicle in dealerships today.

Whilst Deb’s blend of stitched Mink dyed leather and Dinamaica suede appears seamless, employee Paul Newcombe also deserves high praise for not only crafting the centre console and under-dash panel but also accomplishing the elaborate wiring mission with judicious expertise. 

“Paul was a central cog in the wheel of the entire build,” commends Darren. 

Scheduled to debut at the Sydney Hot Rod and Custom Auto Expo, the stunning sedan was pipped at the post due to unforeseen paint delays, down but not out. Darren chose the Mackay Motor Show to unveil the ‘34 to its very excited owners. 

“We hadn’t seen it finished until then,” Kerryn affirms. “My heart was racing, and I thought I was going to cry, and John was holding onto my hand really tight. When we got to sit in it… that was fabulous. There were some beautiful cars there so we didn’t even think about winning anything. When it got Top Hot Rod, it was like, wow… a genuine surprise.” 

“We didn’t know any difference between show cars or not,” concedes John. “We thought all hot rods were show cars… but now we understand the differences. We just built a hot rod that we could drive that we liked.”   

“John and Kerryn were fabulous to work with and their vision was clear and concise. We have become friends throughout the project, and we loved helping them unveil their car at the show,” adds Darren. 

“We take the grandkids through the drive-thru after school pickup, and they love it. We missed having the car at the Sydney Hot Rod show, so Darren organised for it to be unveiled closer to home. They are absolutely lovely people and great to deal with. The car drives fantastic, and it’s exactly what we wanted. After 40 years of hard work and sun as a painting contractor, this was his retirement present that we love and enjoy,” concludes Kerryn.

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