Blue blood

F ord-badged ve­hi­cles are prom­i­nent in the range of projects cur­rently un­der­way at Cus­tom Me­tal­shapers Ltd in East Ta­maki. No­table in this are those small Bri­tish Fords that are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar for high- dol­lar restora­tions and re­pow­ers.

New Zealand Classic Car - - Behind the Garage Door -

This Mk1 Cortina is in for a full body restora­tion to rem­edy ex­ten­sive rust and col­li­sion dam­age. Ev­ery ex­te­rior panel will be re­moved and ei­ther re­paired or re­placed with hand­made or used parts, while the un­der­car­riage is strength­ened for the new drivetrain.

The Mk2 Es­cort van has had the rust re­moved and the bodyshell re­paired to a ham­mer-and-file fin­ish, al­low­ing the pro­ject to progress to the me­chan­i­cal trial-fit stage. It has a Lynn Rogers– pre­pared Ford 2.0-litre OHC mo­tor, and the drivetrain and brak­ing sys­tem have been up­rated to suit. The en­gine bay fea­tures a com­pletely cus­tom fit- out, with cus­tom touches ex­tend­ing to the ex­haust, elec­tri­cal sys­tem, and in­te­rior.

It’s not all Bri­tish stuff, though — this Fal­con XY has been in the same fam­ily for 40 years and, fol­low­ing a false start at an­other re­pair shop, is now at Cus­tom Me­tal­shapers for a to­tal body restora­tion. With rust and ex­ist­ing col­li­sion dam­age, a com­plete tear­down was re­quired for­ward of the fire­wall, with many newly pat­terned pan­els from Rare Spares in­cor­po­rated into the restora­tion. The next run of work will in­volve the fit­ment of four new door skins and a pair of outer sill pan­els, be­fore the rear guards are re­moved to elim­i­nate any re­main­ing rust.

Visit Cus­tom Me­tal­shapers’ web­site — cus­tom­met­al­ — to learn more about its ser­vices, and search ‘Cus­tom Me­tal­shapers’ on Face­book to see more on th­ese and other restora­tions.

Scal­ing the stairs of the con­trol tower at Cir­cuit Mon­tTrem­blant to col­lect lap-time sheets, I was sud­denly pushed to one side by a pair of sturdy min­ders. Mo­ments later, the then Cana­dian prime min­is­ter, Pierre Trudeau, brushed by me and all was ex­plained. Trudeau was there to drop the flag for the first of three For­mula 1 Grands Prix to be held at the beau­ti­ful race­track lo­cated out­side the vil­lage of Saint-jovite in the Lau­ren­tian Moun­tains.

It was Septem­ber 1968, and my first visit to Canada. A few days ear­lier, at Mclaren head­quar­ters at Colnbrook near Lon­don, di­rec­tor Teddy Mayer had briefed me that French was the first lan­guage in Que­bec — some­thing Rob Walker’s driver, Jo Sif­fert, did not re­al­ize when he parked his hire car at an air­port en­trance in Mon­treal. A Moun­tie asked him to move the car at once, and Jo re­torted with some rude re­marks in French, only to cop even ruder re­marks back in French.

Weeks ear­lier, I had ap­plied in writ­ing for Cana­dian Grand Prix press cre­den­tials, but the spon­sor, Play­ers, had hired a pub­lic re­la­tions com­pany which ef­fec­tively told me to bug­ger off when I lined up with other jour­nal­ists for the ap­pro­pri­ate pass. Luck­ily there was some Com­mon­wealth spirit among the lo­cal writ­ers stand­ing with me, and with their sup­port I even­tu­ally gained ac­cred­i­ta­tion.

Join­ing the F1 cir­cus

Ne­go­ti­at­ing cus­toms at Mon­treal air­port the day be­fore the race, I chat­ted with three Dun­lop tyre mo­tor-sport tech­ni­cians who were on the same flight from Lon­don. They im­me­di­ately of­fered me a lift to Saint-jovite, a 140-kilo­me­tre run on mainly tolled high­ways. One bonus in trav­el­ling alone is that you are more likely to be of­fered as­sis­tance.

I man­aged to snag a room at the charm­ing Mont Trem­blant log-cabin ho­tel, at which al­most all the Grand Prix teams lodged — For­mula 1 was akin to a tight-knit cir­cus 47 years ago, rather than the huge com­mer­cial en­ter­prise it is to­day. The way money has de­val­ued over the decades can be seen from the notes I made in my di­ary for Septem­ber 18, 1968 — al­though at the time, the daily room rate of US$10.50 plus 2.5 per cent sales tax seemed rather ex­pen­sive!

The weather was bak­ing hot, and I was in the ho­tel’s swim­ming pool lit­tle more than four hours af­ter ar­riv­ing in Canada. Dur­ing the next few days, pool­side be­fore and af­ter prac­tice was the place to be, and the lo­ca­tion for many bat­tles be­tween driv­ers and me­chan­ics. Chief pool pro­tag­o­nist was BRM team man­ager Tim Par­nell, son of Reg, who won the 1957 New Zealand Grand

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