When a group of hot rodders spends an extended period of time in one place. it's inevitably going to become a speed sanctuary, but we bet you haven't seen anything like this one
SHRINE TO SPEED
The depths of suburbia contain a home inhabited by a group of hot rodders — Woody, Colleen, Kevin, and Roger. While the driveway is, more often than not, inhabited by a handful of hot rods, there is absolutely no other indication that a hot rodding paradise unwinds over hundreds of square metres behind the neat little bungalow. Because of the sheer enormity of this collection, the only place to start this article is from the beginning. “I’ve been here since ’68 or ’69,” Woody remembers. “We didn’t have all these houses here; there were probably three or four houses on this street.” The residential suburb slowly developed around Woody’s temple of hot rodding, and, having been around for the past half-century, this essence of pure New Zealand nostalgia is still present in all of its bare-bones glory. Kevin has lived here for around 15 years, while Roger has been here for the past 35. “We’re just mates from 40-something years back,” Woody explains. It all started back in 1961, however, when Woody bought his first V8 — a ’35 Ford three-window coupe that he paid just £100 for. Living with his parents at the time, Woody parked the ’35 on the lawn, and eventually took it to the tip — as was the custom at the time — to be replaced with a ’34 Ford V8 sedan. “It had been channelled, and I had it for four weeks before I decided I didn’t like it, so got rid of it for a
’38 Ford V8 coupe and then a ’37,” he says. “Back then, those cars were just like Japanese cars are now.” Woody eventually purchased a ’28 Model A roadster pickup (RPU) in 1965, for the princely sum of £5, and he still owns it today. Of course, it looks and goes a little better than it did back then! It was fenderless and painted yellow back in the day, but it got rolled 40 years ago, requiring a full rebuild to the way it is now. Nearby is Roger’s ’31 Model A roadster, powered by a 272ci Ford Y-block and backed by a C4 auto and eight-inch diff. Roger first bought it in 1961, selling it and buying it back several times until 1967, when he bought it back for good. The Model A roadster sits with an unlikely companion — a flathead V8-powered forklift. “I used to work at Pioneer Auto Parts with Ron and Garth,” Woody explains, “and I ended up driving the forklift, as Ron got too old to drive it. It used to tow wagons at the railway, and Ron put the fork hoist on the back and converted it to a V8.” These machines of Woody’s are kept company by one of Kevin’s often-driven hot rods — a ’27 Essex, powered by a supercharged 350ci small block Chev. Proceeding into the first garage, we are greeted by a very rare machine — a ’38 Lincoln Zephyr originally owned by Ron Hogan, the father of Kiwi drag racing legend Garth Hogan. “I bought it for $350 back in ’73,” Woody recalls. “Kevin towed it back here, and I thought it was going to fall to bits on the trailer!” Not to be deterred, Woody enrolled in night school, where he learned all about metalworking and welded it back together. Equipped with rare
Hogan flathead V12 heads and inlet manifold, the Lincoln Zephyr is one of only about 26,000 made, and only around 90 New Zealand–new right-hand drive models were produced from 1937 to 1942. Deeper into the collection, in rather stark contrast to the screeds of modified parts and panels throughout the property, sits a Model A coupe in beautifully original condition, complete with original four-banger flathead. This is Kevin’s car, purchased off Chris Hornblow, who imported it from California in 2012. “I was looking at another Model A, but someone else bought it,” Kevin says. “Chris asked me if I was interested in Model As, and I told him I was, so he showed me a photo of this car on his phone, and we negotiated a price. I basically bought it off a tiny photo, and it’s better than I had hoped.” Nearby is another Model A, this one a truck owned by Roger. Woody used to have a place at Great Barrier Island, and the truck was used there as a runabout. It’s in fantastic condition, despite its life of hard labour in an unforgiving environment,
and retains its original four-cylinder engine. Beyond the house is a double garage, within which are even more mechanical goodies waiting to be worked on. The garage doubles as the workshop and is where Woody does all of his welding and Kevin does all of his milling and machining. Both have worked as truck mechanics, among varied careers that have included fabrication, engine building, and just about every engineering discipline imaginable. The walls are adorned with speed equipment, from heads and intake manifolds through to crankshafts and oil pans. The engines currently being worked on are a 292 Y-block on the engine stand, with Isky camshaft and oiling modifications. The cradle-mounted unit is a flathead with three-speed transmission for Woody’s ’35 Ford three-window coupe. That coupe takes pride of place — an all-steel car that he purchased off a friend, Dave. He is slowly working on shaping and welding in patch panels for the rusty body. The yellow Model A roadster behind it is based on a Brookville body and is being built in the traditional highboy style, although it is currently on the back-burner while Woody stacks a few more pennies to go towards it. Beside the half-finished roadster is a wild ’39 Ford sedan that has been chopped and tudorized. Its crazy appearance is more than backed up by its mechanical mojo, provided by a quad-carbed and 6V53-supercharged flathead V8, backed by a Toploader three-speed manual and Winters Quick Change diff. The gearbox is unique in that it runs an adapter, made by Grease Martin, allowing the use of a period-correct top-mount shifter. Standing guard at the garage entrance is a pair of Royal Enfield motorcycles, both of which Woody has used as daily commuters. However, both of these pale in comparison to the ’56 Norton parked in a corner — a motorbike Woody has owned for about 40 years and that he used to ride daily until he rebuilt it 15 years ago. Just outside the garage, Roger’s ’58 Ford Mainline awaits its return to glory. Having owned the pickup for around 40 years, Roger was forced to park it up 15 years ago after the clutch let go. Roger’s Mainline is kept company by his ’42 Lincoln sedan, on which Woody has performed a fair few rust repairs and has a fair few left to go! That’s not all the Lincolns, either. Deep within the labyrinth of lean-tos is a ’53 Lincoln Capri coupe owned by Woody’s partner, Colleen — a beautiful machine that Woody is currently working on by massaging one of the front fenders back into shape. Ahead of the big Lincoln is a bare Kiwi Connection chassis, which Woody is building into a ’32 Ford coupe for Roger. In the next bay sit a pair of Ford pickups, both of
which are owned by Kevin. The green Mainline is a bit of a beast, powered by a 545ci big block Ford. The other pickup is an immaculate ’57 Ford Ranchero that Kevin believes to be running the original 312ci Y-block, backed by an overdriven three-speed transmission. All that Kevin’s really done in the time he’s owned it is repaint it in its current white and orange two-tone guise. Several engines sit on the floor amid the eclectic vehicle arrangement, including a 317ci Lincoln V8 from Colleen’s Lincoln Capri, which is topped by an original 1953 Holley four-barrel carburettor and backed by a Hydra-Matic four-stage transmission. It is joined by a Pontiac straight-eight that Woody purchased for his ’46 Olds, believing it to be an Oldsmobile straight-eight, only to discover later that it was a Pontiac engine. There’s a bit of history behind Woody’s ’46 Oldsmobile. He bought it in 1967 but let it go after splitting up with his first wife, before being reunited with it several years down the track. In that time, someone had installed a non-running flathead six. The car had holes in the chassis for either a six or an eight, so Woody decided to buy an eight. Upon discovering he’d actually bought a Pontiac straight-eight, he fitted a 460ci big block Ford and C6 transmission instead. While the Olds still runs and drives, Woody acknowledges that he doesn’t drive it anywhere near as often as he used to. “I haven’t used it for about 10 years, but I used to drive it all the time,” he tells us. Driven rather more often than the Oldsmobile is Woody’s ’38 Ford sedan, which he bought in 1988 from Ajay’s Ford V8 Parts. The ’38 sedan is joined by a big Kawasaki nicknamed ‘Heavy Metal’ that Woody uses as a daily-driver — it’s big, grunty, and has lots of chrome, which is just the way Woody likes it. Even after half a century of hot rodding, this household shows no sign of letting up, and why should they? As that old cliché goes: they’ve lived it and breathed it, and they will forever. They are the real deal.
UPON DISCOVERING HE’D BOUGHT A PONTIAC MOTOR, HE FITTED A 460 FORD INSTEAD
1928 Ford Model A RPU Powered by a 292ci Ford Y-block with a C4 transmission and chromed nine-inch diff, Woody’s RPU is the most driven of his cars. The reliable package has enough power to handle the open road with ease, and Woody has driven it to Invercargill several times. “They all get driven every now and again, but this gets driven the furthest. I keep mucking around with the engine, and it seems to keep getting faster and faster,” Woody mentions. “It’s got about 12:1 compression, big valves, T-bird heads, triple carbs, and electronic ignition.”
Memento The ‘Dominion Motors’ signage over the garage is there for a reason. “I painted it on to remember the old man, my best mate,” Woody says. “He used to work at Dominion Motors in Newmarket.” Woody would help his father out every now and again, so it was little surprise that he ended up working with cars further down the track.
1938 Ford Sedan Woody’s ’38 Ford sedan is a beautifully running car in fantastic condition. All it needs is for Woody to install the window rubber kit he has for it, as the original rubbers have perished — they had a good run, though! It runs a Mercury flathead V8 with Offenhauser heads and dual-carb intake and a three-speed transmission. “The engine isn’t clean, because it’s been used,” Woody explains.
1927 Essex Kevin bought the ’27 Essex about a decade ago. “We were at the NSRA Nationals at Karapiro, and we saw it for sale. None of us thought anything of it,” he says. “Later on, I asked if anyone knew what that car Ron was selling was, and no one did. I called him up, and ended up buying it over the phone.” While the ’27 looks like a mild old rod, it’s a little more serious. The 350ci small block has been rebuilt and topped with a Weiand supercharger, and is backed by a TH350 transmission and Ford nine-inch diff.
1956 Ford Mainline “It was in a million bits when I got it from a friend in Otahuhu, Auckland — a chassis, body, and doors,” Kevin recalls about his ’56 Ford Mainline. “I was going to Y-block it, but plans got changed when I decided to put a  big block in it. Then I decided to bore and stroke it!” The big motor is backed by a C6 transmission and nineinch diff, and Kevin uses it for rod runs and the occasional quarter-mile pass.