Sunday, July 14, 2024
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GARAGE CRAWL – ARMADALE AUTO PARTS HOT ROD SHOP

With Covid-19 causing border closures at the drop of a cough, planning any future travel is risky. Add into the equation flights and the peril and cost escalates… and that’s just if you manage to complete your intended getaway without forced quarantine upon return. Whew! But recently I took a punt on visiting our far western shoreline as a commitment to a fellow rodder to feature his first ever, home-built hot rod and catch up with close friends for a long overdue frothy and fellowship. 

Loving the lines of this neat 1927 T roadster owned by loyal customer of the shop, Butch ‘The Duke’ Leitch. The nostalgic project began as a fiberglass shell on a ’32 style fabricated chassis by Trevor Breeze that was set up for traditional suspension.  Butch also supplied the So-Cal Speed Shop disc brake I beam front end and injected Ford V8 with four-speed auto for Craig to install between the pinched front frame rails. Alan explains that the late model EFI Windsor will be backdated with a carburettor and lakes headers for old school charm. So far AAP have installed the front and rear end, column and under dash brake pedal assembly, fabbed the trans tunnel and made the suicide doors operational.  

As our fearless leader rightly stated back in issue #226, a trip across the Nullarbor isn’t fulfilled without taking time to visit Alan Smart at Armadale Auto Parts in the southern suburb of Kelmscott to uncover what exciting builds are emerging from the Hot Rod Shop division. I also enquired how the inescapable pandemic is affecting our cherished lifestyle of fun with modified vehicles and vintage tin in the far west of Australia. 

“Our workshop continues to be busy, but retail has changed considerably,” Alan remarks straight off the bat. “Where our online sales were predominately eBay founded, now I receive orders and inquiries via Facebook and Instagram direct.”

1933 Plymouth 3W coupe was first completed as a stocker and then street rodded with a new chassis; IFS, four-bar rear, 427 Chevy, 9”, three speed auto, a/c and all the fruit… only the rego wasn’t ungraded accordingly. The rare coupe came to AAP with ailing brake issues which were remedied by correctly installing the proportioning valve (not backwards) and to achieve legal licencing, which Alan will see through to completion. Big block 427 and E&J headlights are just two surprising features of this uncommon coupe. 

Alan continues that one of the main issues in today’s retail world is obtaining stock, especially if a large chunk of your inventory and workshop supplies relies on imported parts. 

“It’s hard to get stock out of the USA. Not all companies, but some are more than six months away from filling orders. We are experiencing more enquires now that the economy has stabilised somewhat. Craig (Clements) is the man on the tools out back and I concentrate on counter sales, online orders, inventory for the store and workshop and help out when I can.  Even Australian suppliers are struggling so then we have to wait. Freight is also a major factor in the equation.” 

Alan’s own personal project ’59 Chevy delivery gets kicked in the corner often, so let’s take a look at it first for once! Avid readers will notice that even it’s progressed since last visit with all sheet metal reinstated (albeit temporary) and the Chevy crate 350 and Turbo 350 auto installed. The full nut and bolt resto has worked its way up to really only bodywork, paint and upholstery to finish. Features of the fully rebuilt chassis include a RHD conversion, aftermarket disc brakes, new master cylinder and booster, and HQ power steering. Modern amenities inside will consist of ’62 SS Impala bucket seats, Mooneye’s gauges, and fresh chrome will abound once unwrapped. 

Surviving in an ever evolving industry has made AAP a steadfast company amongst its peers, progressing from your garden variety auto parts supplier to destination shopping for world renowned brands such as Mooneyes, So-Cal Speed shop and Lucky 13 to name just three. AAP has been a lead distributor throughout Australia for these trusted companies for over a decade and as some brands have been consumed by the current circumstances of Covid complications, Alan continues to seek out suitable replacements to cater for buyer demand.  

“Store changes have been the inclusion of Jay Leno’s Garage car care products and our new partner in paint supplies, Concept Paints. When our previous partners began to dissolve, we looked at how best service our customers and continue to provide quality products that they return to purchase. With no huge car events it’s challenging to promote your products but both of these companies are proactive on social media and advertising. The Jay Leno range is increasingly becoming recognised as quality products and we are currently installing a full range of Concept Paint tints and mixing station.”  

Quirky pickup is a 1946 International that arrived as another chassis and cab combo with accompanying sheet metal, but nothing was attached.  “We had to fit all the panels, fabricate the bed, install air bags on the Jag front and refit Shock Wave air bags on the rear to get it down to where the client wanted it,” explains Alan.  AAP also installed the A/C, aftermarket column, shifter, hand brake, seat mounts, refitted the doors and fabricated new bonnet hinges amongst the huge list of modifications. Battery and fuel cell will be hidden in the long bed tray which may sport a spare wheel on one side, with a jerry can on the opposite modified as a storage box. LS V8 powered, this project will be engineered and licenced ready to drive once completed. Alan affirms that the unusual Inter is not destined to be a show car, but a unique auto for its owner. 

“So-Cal Speed Shop is experiencing a challenging time that will recover, but with how the USA is coping with Covid, it’s a struggle. Mooneyes have risen to the challenge and are tracking forward by thinking outside the box, catering for their loyal followers with creative merchandise, even using recent adversity in their artwork. We are also promoting some of our own T shirt designs that we will expand on in the future, exploring print on demand apparel for overseas customers which we will implement here at home as well.”

At the moment, Armadale Auto Parts has cars in waiting for the workshop and a steady flow of enquiries for the future.

“One thing that we are noticing is that Cars and Coffee events and smaller car shows are boasting a larger attendance now that people can’t travel as freely. Rather than fly to Bali or even interstate, people are buying collector cars such as classic Holdens and Fords, or committing to that hot rod project they always wanted. A new discounted rego scheme rolling out for modified vehicles from 2021 along with relaxed club rules with the 90 day scheme implementation, will also help us sustain for the future.”

As our interview is constantly put on pause for Alan to attend to customers, I take the time to browse the shop shelves and eventually spend some quality time out back, where a plethora of projects are underway.

If you like what you see and are keen to get in on the action or need some cool clobber, parts, paint, car care or advice… give Alan a call on 08 9495 1932 or check their website, Facebook or Instagram. For inspiration read on!

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