DOUG’S POP IS LIVING PROOF THAT YOU DON’T NEED OODLES OF CASH TO BUILD SOMETHING REALLY, REALLY COOL
FORD POP WITH PUNCH
Way back in 1998, it was all about big hair, shoulder pads, and remembering to feed your Tamagotchi before it died a slow and miserable death. However, such matters couldn’t have been further from the mind of Doug Hughes; his mind was filled with thoughts of the Ford Pop that he just had to have. Doug’s good friend Andy Small had just purchased a ’57 Chev to replace the Pop that now resides in Doug’s shed — ideal, as the American car scene never really buttered Doug’s scone. For him, it was all about British and Aussie tin, as he’d repowered a few Cortinas and Morries over the years, and, at the time, had a fairly serious Morris Minor ute project on the go. The Morris was being tubbed and prepared for the small block and transmission Doug already had
sitting under the bench in his workshop. It was making far slower progress than he wanted, so the Pop became a quicker option to get him on the road in a stupidly overpowered, totally impractical, small English two-door. Perfect! The Morrie was pushed aside and work on the Pop began in earnest. The T-bucket-style chassis was a piece of perfection built by Upper Hutt motoring legend Grahame Berry. Anyone and everyone in the know is familiar with Grahame’s work, and it seemed a shame to attack it with a gas torch, but that is exactly what Doug did. The rear was cut and pinched to accommodate a severely narrowed nine-inch rear end, to which a set of massive 15x15.5 Mickey Thompson meats was fitted, giving the Pop the aggressive stance Doug wanted. Up front, the ’80s front end was also chopped out, and, in its place, Doug stitched in a Mitsubishi L300 front end. All bodywork and modifications were handled by Doug in his shed. With emphasis on keeping the build to a budget, many a long night was spent toiling away to keep the costs down — right down to the — at the time — shiny Holden Aquamarine metallic paint. Yep, Doug squirted that on, too. To enable the body to fit over the huge rear rubber, Doug fabricated a set of wheel tubs and chopped out pretty much everything aft of the front seats to make the tubs fit under the compact body. He also chopped out the original firewall and bent up a new swaged item to clear the small block he had sitting under the bench. That engine is an interesting one. When Doug searched the engine numbers, he found that his 350ci small block was once a much-maligned 307ci ‘boat anchor’. As it turns out, the oddball engine was built by Russ Clarke way back in the Thunderpark days. We all know that old-school
drag racers are renowned for doing some crazy shit, and this is no exception. Fundamentally, the two blocks are remarkably similar, with the only real difference being the bore size. With this in mind, the block was bored out and sleeved to four inches, and, to the best of our knowledge, a complete 350-cube rotating assembly could be used — please feel free to correct us if we are wrong, though, as the internals are a bit of a mystery. The smog heads had their ports tickled up, and a set of roller rockers and stud girdle was used to keep things firmly in check. Finally, after a whirlwind 18-month rebuild, Doug was able to roll the Pop out of his shed under its own power and have some fun. For the next 15 years, the wheels were driven off the thing as Doug took every opportunity to enjoy his build. He even got chucked out of the All American Car day at Trentham Racecourse one year for not being American — really, Doug, what did you expect?! As time went by and as Doug’s family grew up, the old Pop began to look a little shabby. Two boys firmly bitten by the car bug, thanks to their dad, decided to give the old Pop a bit of a birthday and a new lease on life. Both Doug and the boys liked old-school gassers, so they decided to have a crack at making their own. Younger son Blair had a caged and four-linked Mk1 Escort and a VH Commodore, while older boy Joel, as well as working for Waiwhetu Auto Services — which came in extremely handy when it came time for the engine freshen-up — has a Mk1 Cortina and a ’66 Chev Nova wagon. Apple, tree, anyone? The Pop was quickly stripped by Doug and the lads. Joel dragged the motor into work and set about tearing it apart to see what state it was in after 15 years of abuse. Rather surprisingly, the only issues found were a couple of lobes munched off the cam; the bores were mint and a testament to the quality of the unconventional build old Russ had performed all those years ago. Just because he thought he should, Joel whacked in some rings, a fresh set of bearings, and some new lifters. As the cam was junk, it got binned and a new Kelford unit was slipped inside. To give the Pop that instantly recognizable gasser look, a tunnel ram and a pair of 450cfm squirters were thrown on top. Moving inside, a set of old-school buckets was a chance find off Trade Me, and a cluster of Veethree gauges found its way into the dash. Doug bent up and swaged a new transmission tunnel and some door cards out of stainless. Adding to the bare-basics race look of the time are some bright orange tints on the glass.
Being a budget build, a bare-metal restoration was never on the cards. The original hue was retained, albeit with a bit of a twist. A quick trip to a local haberdashery to purchase some lace curtaining resulted in the Pop’s flanks being adorned with some great-looking lace work, along with the car’s new name, ‘Popular Addiction’ — blasted on by Paul at Adsigns. Doug aged the aquamarine hue, and then fired off a coat or three of satin clear to get rid of the shine. To finish things off, Paul was commissioned to apply some period-correct decals. With these, plus the nosebleed stance, spoked pram wheels, and obligatory spun-alloy tank up front, this thing just screams gasser! The transformation complete, Doug and the boys spent the next couple of years cruising the streets, racing at the Port Road Drags and sliding sideways at local Days in the Dirt and Rampage events. It was at one such dirt event that things went a little pear-shaped. As is so often the case, catastrophe struck at the end of the day when the car was supposed to be on its way home. A friend twisted Doug’s arm to head out one more time for a passenger ride. As Doug rounded the final bend at full noise, sideways as always, the giant rears suddenly grabbed and shot the Pop sideways into the infield at Te Marua Speedway, launching the car into the air off the pole line, the end result being an upside-down gasser on a dirt speedway track. The damage was mostly cosmetic, with a few wobbles in the roof being the worst of it. However, it was enough for the Pop to be parked in the corner for a couple of years while Doug raced his VK Commodore circuit car instead. The boys eventually tired of seeing Dad’s car in the corner, so, with some healthy encouragement, Doug decided to drag it out and get it back on the road where it belonged. The roof was quickly bashed out and the other minor imperfections fixed. The last thing was for Paul to break out the crayons once more, stencilling “this way up” above the rear window. So far, Doug has respected that — let’s hope it stays that way!