Street Machine - - Dirty Stuff - WIL­LIAM PORKER

SOME­TIMES, dis­as­ters hap­pen that make you weep. Met this bloke who was still look­ing real sad at a swap meet, telling me he had put in a cou­ple of hard years on his Bel Air Chev, which had been sit­ting out in a west­ern pad­dock un­til he bought it and turned this into a street ma­chine. Fit­ted a worked big-block eight with a top-mount blower, hung discs all ’round and added Ford’s nine-inch rear axle, low­ered the sus­pen­sion un­til it was just le­gal, spent hours hid­ing all the wiring and sani­tised the en­gine bay. He chose candy ap­ple red for the colour, bought his wife a cou­ple of 50s-era out­fits to go with the age of the Chev, and al­most had the ma­chine ready for a rego in­spec­tion when they sud­denly had to move house.

Tem­po­rar­ily in­stalled in a tiny unit while a new house was be­ing built, the bloke had to load his shiny street ma­chine on a trailer and tow it to sit in a hayshed on his sis­ter’s farm. She raised horses and cat­tle; the shed had a roof and was en­closed on three sides. He was there ev­ery other week to check on the state of the Chev in its new ac­com­mo­da­tion, snug un­der a car cover and seem­ingly quite safe.

Months later, af­ter a new, lock­able three-bay shed had been built be­side the bloke’s new home, he towed the Chev’s trailer over and pre­pared to fire up the 454 eight in or­der to move his pride and joy to a cen­tral, con­crete­floored bay. Turned the key, noth­ing hap­pened. No noise.

So he went out and bought a new bat­tery. Made no dif­fer­ence. Then he rang his auto sparky mate who had done all the wiring and electrics, say­ing that ev­ery­thing was dead and could he come on over and have a look as to why this was so.

Gary fronted up, asked if there was fuel in the tank to feed the 454, ran a volt me­ter over the new bat­tery, which read 12.6 volts, and then told the owner guy to sit in the steer­ing seat and see if the en­gine would some­how crank over. He hit the key and held it; then there was black smoke and fire from in­side the en­gine bay, and the sparky fell off the trailer. There was in­stant panic and a rush to find a work­ing ex­tin­guisher that would kill this sud­den elec­tri­cal fire, but that took long min­utes and the candy ap­ple paint was al­ready blis­ter­ing. The worst was up in­side the left front mud­guard, where a fat bun­dle of in­su­lated wires had been run.

When all the scream­ing and shout­ing was over, they be­gan to have a se­ri­ous look as to why this fire had erupted so sud­denly. Didn’t take long. Rats. Starv­ing rats in­side the shed, de­cid­ing en masse that plas­tic-cov­ered wiring un­der the car cover of this Chev was quite tasty, so they gnawed at all that un­til cop­per wire was ex­posed and shifted to where bunches were touch­ing the steel of the body. This had ac­ti­vated and shorted when they had tried to start the big mill, fizzing through a plas­tic fuel line and cre­at­ing a fire that would take months to re­pair. And af­ter all this, some­how this bloke doesn’t like rats any­more!

Just as the Bel Air Chev man had fin­ished his story and walked away, I met an­other guy who was ready to re­late his own hor­rific tale.

He had put in many months work­ing with an en­thu­si­as­tic team to build a street ma­chine out of a res­cued Ford Skyliner. Built in the 1950s by Ford Amer­ica, these now-rare units were twotone con­vert­ibles built on the base chas­sis of the 272 V8-en­gined Cus­tom­lines, and only a hand­ful came out to Aus­tralia.

They worked long hours to keep this barn­find mainly orig­i­nal, in­stalling a 292 Ford truck eight, buy­ing in chrome side trims and stuff, and blow­ing on the right-colour paint.

The last job was to be a new hood and up­hol­stery. Al­though old-tech­nol­ogy vinyl had orig­i­nally cov­ered the bench seats, the team de­cided that ex­pen­sive Scot­tish leather was re­ally what the Skyliner needed.

So they paid the large lumps of money, and when the al­most back-to-orig­i­nal restora­tion was fin­ished, the cel­e­bra­tion was to take adults and kids on a day out to a lo­cal show. They all laughed on the rides, and the kids ate Dag­wood Dogs and fairy floss un­til they were stuffed and glad to go home in the evening.

Once home, Dad didn’t bother to roll up the win­dows and close up the new hood of the Skyliner be­cause it was late, and didn’t check on the con­vert­ible in­side its shed for a few days.

When he did go out to roll it into the sun­shine, prior to giv­ing the paint and chrome a tub, one of his kids asked why there were all these holes across the leather of the rear seat. Panic sta­tions. There were new scat­ter­ings of 20-cent­piece-sized holes eaten clear through into the un­der­lay, just where the fairy-floss fin­gers of the kids had wiped across the ex­pen­sive Scot­tish leather hide.

Turns out hun­gry rats like sug­ary fairy floss, and had chewed away the leather with it!


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