GRAFTERS: Custom Corsair
’80s High-rise icon returns to the road.
Car restoration always has been the domain of vintage and classic cars — the epic task of painstakingly putting them back to standard. But as the generations of people involved has shifted towards younger blood, we’re increasingly seeing much newer cars given the full-resto treatment. Right now, it’s entered a different and almost bizarre phase — the restoration of iconic custom cars.
One is the Corsair you see before you. Originally built back in the late ’70s and finished around 1983, it was one that literally blew everyone’s minds. This was the work of Tom Newman from Sudbury in Suffolk — a person that had masses of influence on many people that are still in the scene. People like Gary Tripp, whose achievements are equally infamous — he built the 24-valve Mk2 Cortina we featured back in September 2007, as well as undertaking the restoration of another iconic custom — Lemon Squash. Gary is the perfect man to tackle the restoration of Tom Newman’s iconic high rider — a style that was incredibly popular in the history of the British custom scene. Perhaps overtaken by the gasser-look, the high rider theme still isn’t dead – think Henry Hirise, which again has been recently restored.
Tom’s Corsair was incredibly well-engineered and won dozens of trophies, not to mention its fair share of magazine features, which have been invaluable in Gary’s painstaking task of exact replication of how the car was. Sadly, the Corsair’s subsequent past hasn’t been kind to it. Lots of parts were missing, but it’s survived and will live to fight another day — and Gary’s just the man to sort it.
“LUCKILY, THE DISTINCTIVE BONNET PUNCHED FULL OF LOUVRES IS THE ORIGINAL ONE”
How bad was the car?
It had been rescued byTreve Flamank who is well known for saving plenty of historic rods and customs and he’d started on the restoration — the chassis Tom built is separate from the Corsair’s monocoque and that had been sent for powdercoating. It all went a bit wrong with the paint — it had been done by a local body shop, but they’d simply painted over what was there, plus it was covered in runs, grit and general dirt. On top of that, it was completely the wrong colour. Originally, it was a Porsche shade of light blue but the nearest they reckoned they could get was Fiat Mint Green — miles away from the original.
How much was missing?
Mostly it was all there, just details missing. Thankfully the engine’s OK but it was lacking some of the vital bits. I’ve found another Offenhauser inlet manifold along with a 390 Holley plus it was a bit of a tricky task finding an Accel coil — the bright yellow thing that is so prominent. It’s funny how things that were once so commonplace are now hard to find. I haven’t fired the engine up yet and I’m hoping it’ll be OK and run fine but if it needs a rebuild well, that’s what it’ll get!
You’ve redone a lot of the bodywork?
It needed stripping right back to bare metal, which revealed loads of rust scabs — the roof was so bad, I had to grit blast it gently! I’ve also replaced the door bottoms and made them fit the sills properly — the gaps are now much better than they ever have been. I’ve also done the lip of the bootlid,
the lower rear quarters, lower front wings and rear valence. Luckily, the bonnet punched full of louvres and the bootlid are the originals. They’d also rehung the flip front on another frame, then powdercoated that but it wasn’t right. They’d re-hinged it in totally the wrong place, so it’s been cut up and replicated as per Tom’s original.
What was the source of reference?
Luckily, the car had been featured in many magazines, so I was able to find out what the missing parts were, like the radiator which got me completely stumped as it was missing.Turns out it’s a Mk3 Zodiac.There’s loads more examples — the shifter is Jag but stripped right back to bare essentials. With the mag photos, I’ve been able to replicate plenty of it. What is surprising is what you can still get — I’ve found a company that can reproduce the Pro-Trac rear tyres, though luckily, the Centreline wheels are still with the car.
Is it exactly asTom built the car?
Mostly, but not quite — there’s stuff I’ve updated like the fuel pump. Originally, it had a twin electric SU pump set-up from a Jag, which was very neatly plumbed in across the back of the car with polished hard lines. These were missing and I’ve replicated it to put it back, but Jag pumps aren’t exactly state-of-the-art now, so it’ll be a dummy set-up and a new small pump will be used but hidden behind the tank. There were bits of the alloy panelling missing too, which I’ve remade although the driving position looks a bit of a challenge, especially on long runs — bearing in mind I live in Cornwall! So I’ll alter it slightly to give me more legroom.
How much have you replicated?
This was very much a show car — there were areas like the wiring which were incredibly neat. Tom made a hinged panel as part of the transmission tunnel, which was chromed but that’s now tarnished and the plating ruined. I could strip it back and rechrome it but it’s easier to remake it in aluminium and polish it. I’ve also added bits, too. He’d filled all the interior with drilled holes using a hole cutter, adding to the street racer image. There are parts like the dash top that needed re-making and I’ve used the opportunity to add yet more drillings to enhance what’s there.
And the paintwork?
It will be the original colour — I have some examples I can get scanned so I’ll get it matched. The signwriting will be replicated although I’ll alter the back script slightly — the ABBA reference is probably a bit too much to bear right now! It’s strange, most people think the car is called Winner Takes It All, as that was what was written so boldly on the back, but that was simply a script put on the car by Tom because it cleaned up every trophy in its day. The actual name is Obsession because it took Tom four years to build — the name was originally written on the bonnet but you couldn’t see it when the bonnet was flipped! It will be put back…
Car: 1965 Corsair two-door Start condition: Attempt at restoration Condition now: Tail end of bodywork ready for paint Time taken so far: 6 months Estimated time of completion: Early 2019
Name: GaryTripp Age: 55 Job: Fabricator
Gary’s aiming to put the Corsair back to how it was first built by Tom Newman — and that includes the wheelie bars.
The driving position looks challenging... but Gary’s still planning on taking it to shows across the UK. The Rover V8 sits well back in the chassis. Gary’s not had it running yet, and is crossing his fingers that it’s OK. Classic high rider chassis features leaf springs on the front... Simple rear roll hoop is more for show than safety. Note drilled door panel and C-pillar.