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!

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