Sunday, July 14, 2024
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BLUE COLLAR COUPE – ROD-TECH ROD COLLINS 1933 FORD 5W COUPE

“The guy who I bought it off was the son-in-law of the old guy who was the mate of the original owner of that car.”

It’s OK if you need to read that a couple more times, but as Rod Collins points out, even in a population as large as the USA, it’s still a small world after all.

Rod is the brains and the brawn behind Rod-Tech, a South Australia company which has been manufacturing parts and assemblies for hot rods and street machines for more than 40 years, building a brand that is synonymous with quality. Of course, Rod didn’t just wake up one morning and start making car parts – an interest in engineering combined with a passion for old Fords amalgamated, channelling him into what would become a life-long career.

Rod owns a small stable of personal vehicles, among them a 1960s Mustang and the red 1933 Ford roadster that is regularly depicted in his company logo. 1933 Fords have become his street rod of choice, partly because of their ‘petite’ grille and stylish curved bonnet flutes. Whatever the reasons, the 1933 Ford coupe before you presents a pretty good argument.

“In the ‘70s everybody wanted a ‘34 Ford. I had a pile of ‘33 grilles and bonnets because they would pull their ‘33 front off and put ‘34 stuff on. I had a ‘33 sedan back in those days. Like a lot of other guys, I got married and sold a lot of stuff off, and then I got divorced and bought a lot of stuff back and paid three times the price. But I’ve just got a thing about ‘33s. I could build anything I want, but I like ‘33s.”

His desire to build an all steel ‘33 coupe led him to acquire a locally produced candidate, although he struggled with the anomalous styling of the Aussie version. 

“I never liked Aussie coupes and after I saw Shane Winnen’s (US-bodied) coupe, I abandoned building my own. I thought that one day I’ll come across a US body, but every time one cropped up in this country, I was always too slow.”

Rod’s hot rod checklist also insisted that it be unchopped and in great shape… no small feat!

“We found this in Portland, Oregon. I had not long come back from the States looking for one when Eric from Scandinavian Street Rods contacted me and said, ‘I’ve found you a car!’ He sent me some photos and the car was in bare metal in a guy’s climate controlled garage. It was stock roof, stock everything. It had been a street rod in the 50s, but we reckon it was rebuilt in the 70s ‘cos it had velour trim and Naugahyde and was coke bottle red with gold pinstriped black guards.”

The story goes that two friends had ‘33/’34 coupes back in the day and the one that was still around decided he wanted to build a hot rod coupe again. The project car they found turned out to be once owned by the second gent who had passed on.

“So the guy who was still around, his was chopped and channelled and he wanted to build another one before he stepped off the planet. They found this car in Texas, stripped it back to bare metal by hand, the doors and the body, and it was completely rust free and really straight. They made the decision to push it aside and they found another body which had already been chopped and got that.”

Rod did the deal, forking out around US$20k for basically a rolling body, sight unseen. That was in 2006.

“I paid more for this body than I could have bought a chopped body at the time. There were chopped bodies for sale everywhere over there. I like chopped cars, don’t get me wrong, but I wanted a stock one because I wanted it to be different.”

Life was good, until Rod gets a call from Geoff Mitford-Taylor of GMT Hot Rod Parts who spotted the car in Huntington Beach.

“He rings me up and says, ‘I saw your coupe, too bad about the door’. So I call up Eric and say what’s he on about? He says its nothing, it’s just got some filler in one door.”

As it turns out there was no cause for alarm, it was merely a smear of filler applied over a minor scrape. Body and paint ace, Romano Puntin of All Car Restorations, removed the rock-hard vintage bog, straightened the skin and had little else to do except iron out a few minor imperfections.

“I got everything with it, but it’s got brand new Steve’s Restorations guards on it. The guards were pretty good, but they’d been repaired a few times. I bought new tank cover, rear guards and front guards for around 3k US and they fitted fine. It’s got the original steel bonnet and inner guards.”

Rod’s instructions to Romano were simple… make it black.

“It’s a driver. It didn’t need to be a show quality paint job, but it had to be respectable, cos his name’s on it,” Rod reasons. 

Beneath it all is a framework direct from the workshops of Rod-Tech. While Rod-Tech no longer offers complete chassis, the equipment and the know-how have never left the building. Steering, suspension and brakes are all tried and trusted components from the Rod-Tech range, presented here in painted black or polished stainless.

“If you get underneath, it’s clean and tidy, almost showable, but I didn’t go to the enth degree. I like it to be nice, and it’s nice.”

Rod’s no hoon, but we get the feeling he doesn’t mind a little hustle in his hot rods, hence the fuel injected, full roller Windsor between the rails.

“It’s a 5 litre engine out of a Tickford XR8. We started with the block and the crank and changed everything else from there. I organised all the bits and a friend assembled it. It’s got a MOTEC computer, the injection was a complete set up. It took a little while to get it right, but it’s fine now.”

Of course, Rod made his own headers and exhaust which pass by a Tremec six speed manual and 31 spline nine inch diff to carefully concealed tips.

Inside is comfy and clean with plenty of evidence of use. Once Rod had completed the install of a handful of modern conveniences, custom dash, Glide seat and fabrication of the small centre console, he called upon Steve Baum of Stateside Trim to complete the package in tones of nougat and black. Most of the modern amenities are overlooked to the casual observer, with auxiliary electronics and accessories well concealed.

“The car’s got air conditioning, power steering, electric windows, but you can’t see much of it. I wanted people to look inside and say it’s just an early Ford.”

Rod says the coupe has been on the road for more than 5 years now, although street use is infrequent, admitting he drove it just seven times last year. Nonetheless, it felt good to finally put this old Ford under the spotlight at the Rod-Tech workshops at Clearview.

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