Street Machine - - Blowin’ Gaskets -

WHEN it comes to keep­ing fo­cus solely on my project car, I am like a cop driving past the dough­nut store, dis­tracted by the prospect of in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion in­stead of con­cen­trat­ing on the task at hand. And I’m not the only one; dis­trac­tion and temp­ta­tion seem to plague any en­thu­si­ast with mul­ti­ple projects on the go, fan­ci­ful day­dreams tak­ing you away from what should be your pri­mary fo­cus: the in-pieces build that’s beg­ging for your at­ten­tion.

For me it’s the ’34 Ford three-win­dow coupe project sit­ting in the shed that pleads for my time and money. It’s an in­ten­sive build, as most hot rods are, and I’ve cho­sen to shoul­der the lion’s share of the work as an op­por­tu­nity to learn and know how to work on it once she’s a driving rod. The project is slow go­ing, and it’s as much a men­tal game as it is a phys­i­cal one.

What I have is a fan­tas­tic Henry Ford steel body, which I’ll be chop­ping and chan­nelling over the orig­i­nal ’34 chas­sis run­ning a ’34 straight-axle/split-’bones front end and a Win­ters quick-change third mem­ber sup­ported by a four-bar and an A-model spring. Up front I’m slot­ting in a 1954 331ci Hemi, which I’ll build my­self thanks to Mike Ro­hal at JH South­cott. Back­ing that will be a TH400 to help with quar­ter-mile shenani­gans. She’ll run cy­cle guards over the skinny 16-inch bigs ’n’ lit­tles; think a Rolling Bones lake-style coupe with­out the rust.

I haven’t laden my­self with a dead­line, but I make sure I’m al­ways mov­ing for­ward; whether it be a Tig-weld­ing course, re­search­ing the how-tos, or ac­tual work on the project. Day in, day out, the coupe is on my mind as I try to line up both the time and mo­ti­va­tion.

And then there’s the guilt. Are we meant to feel guilty for not work­ing on it, or guilty when we are? I just re­main per­ma­nently guilty to cover all my bases.

Chat­ting to fel­low en­thu­si­asts has my mind run­ning off on new tan­gents, men­tally mod­i­fy­ing cars that I should leave well alone. Take to­day for in­stance: As I re­searched Com­modore parts for a story I soon found my­self look­ing at the Walky Wheels site, dream­ing of their 19-inch VL Calais of­fer­ings for my own Calais. And be­fore that, I was


check­ing out Lowe Fabri­ca­tions bling for my VL’S en­gine bay – some­thing I’ve been eye­ing off since they first put the range out. Now this is all well and good, but there’s a story I should be writ­ing and in­stead I’m find­ing good­ies for a project that isn’t hap­pen­ing.

Of course, when I’m all set for a day of oneon-one time with the coupe, my daily driver – a 300,000km, V6-pow­ered VS Stato – be­gins to run like a trac­tor, there­fore slid­ing it­self into top pri­or­ity. Once the is­sue is fi­nally lo­cated and parts are pur­chased and re­placed, I find that my win­dow of op­por­tu­nity has again dis­ap­peared. Yet the time spent in the Stato’s en­gine bay has me pon­der­ing the mod­i­fi­ca­tions that could be car­ried out un­der the bon­net. Maybe an up­grade to the fac­tory su­per­charged set-up, but with a bit more punch. Or I could lob in a V8, with forced in­duc­tion to be in­tro­duced down the track. Dis­tracted much?

Be­ing that the coupe is in a shed shared with a busi­ness and other projects, some­times there’s just too much shiny paint in close prox­im­ity to al­low for the work to be done. And re­search­ing the ins and outs of chas­sis build­ing can be down­right mind-bend­ing when you’re not quite at that stage of your build. The re­sult is a se­ri­ous case of big-pic­ture-itis, where the ridicu­lous num­ber of jobs ahead be­comes over­whelm­ing. Sure, it’s im­por­tant to keep an eye on the over­all vi­sion, but to men­tally down­load ev­ery­thing that needs to be done is just too much. So, for my brain’s sake, I keep to the task at hand.

Then there’s the cash. Surely I should be pay­ing that bill or head­ing off to Europe like the Jone­ses, but nah. They can’t take their fancy hol­i­day down the quar­ter-mile, can they? That’s what floats my boat.

In an ef­fort to keep my fo­cus I love to vi­su­alise the end prod­uct: how it looks, how it feels and how it han­dles. I imag­ine cruis­ing the wideopen Aussie roads, tak­ing my coupe to the cor­ners of the na­tion to hang out at a show or give it a blat on far­away strips. My quad­car­bied 1954 Hemi won’t be pulling quick times or fast mph, but I plan on hav­ing a blast when it’s done.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, Googling ‘how to fit 19s to a VL with­out tub­bing’; yeah, that’s it.

TOP LEFT: The coupe as a com­plete road-go­ing ve­hi­cle. With­out go­ing into specifics, this con­fig­u­ra­tion wasn’t de­sir­able for me or the au­thor­i­ties, so now it’s get­ting the works. I feel slightly guilty about cut­ting it, but I’m not an un-chopped, fullfend­ered hot rod kinda gal, and af­ter all, I’m not build­ing this rod for any­one but my­selfABOVE: I’ve owned my low-kilo­me­tre 304ci VL Calais since I was 21, hav­ing owned a nat­u­rally as­pi­rated six-cylin­der ver­sion in the same two-tone be­fore that. So yeah, she’s un­der my skin and in my bloodLEFT: Ear­lier in the year I said good­bye to my ’55 Buick Su­per to make room, time and cash for my rod build. It wasn’t easy to let her go and she still tugs at my heart­stringsBE­LOW: What’s next? Well, ev­ery­thing! I’m cur­rently box­ing the chas­sis, then set­ting up the sus­pen­sion and driv­e­line for the al­limpor­tant pin­ion an­gle

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