GRAFTERS: Cus­tom Corsair

’80s High-rise icon re­turns to the road.

Classic Ford - - CONTENTS -

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.


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…

Words and Pho­tos Jon Hill

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.

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