A DI­A­MOND IN THE ROUGH

T First sight

New Zealand Classic Car - - Kits And Pieces -

A car with no name

The first big puz­zle was to iden­tify the car. The ear­li­est reg­is­tra­tion data that could be found called it a “1985 Cus­tom Built Ed­wards Puma”, and lo­cated it in Palmer­ston North. This in­for­ma­tion was found through the reg­is­tra­tion plate that re­mained on the car, but, due to its age, it is un­likely that this was the first time the ve­hi­cle had been reg­is­tered. The plot thick­ened. The body was too clean and too well made to have been a one-off, which im­plied that it was a kit car that had been pro­duced some­where in New Zealand or, pos­si­bly, im­ported from another coun­try.

His neigh­bour had said it was a Cantwell Puma, but Tris­tan quickly worked out that this was not the case, as the Puma was based on a Bri­tish kit car called the Ash­ley 750; that was a smaller car and used Ford 10 run­ning gear. The ve­hi­cle that Tris­tan had was wider, and the body de­sign was clearly dif­fer­ent — pos­si­bly in­flu­enced by an iconic car of the era, such as the Fer­rari 250GT; the Maserati A6; an Austin-healey; or even an early ver­sion of the AC Ace, which even­tu­ally evolved into that iconic kit car, the Co­bra. What Tris­tan was able to work out was that the car was (pos­si­bly) orig­i­nally built with a Holden 2261cc (138ci) mo­tor out of a 1957 Holden FE. The rusted gauges still in the dash­board were clearly out of a Holden FE.

Af­ter seven years of in­ten­sive re­search, he has still not been able to iden­tify it, so, for want of a bet­ter name, Tris­tan has de­cided to call the car the ‘TJ Ace’. Nat­u­rally, the last seven years have not just been spent try­ing to iden­tify the car. With the chas­sis and floor­pan hav­ing rusted away, Tris­tan de­cided to re­build it as a mod­ern retro-styled clas­sic.

Blood, sweat, and tears

The first big change was the de­ci­sion to lengthen the wheel­base by 380mm to pro­vide more leg room in what was a tight cock­pit. Most of the ex­tra length was used to in­crease the depth of the footwells by in­creas­ing the dis­tance be­tween the front wheels and the scut­tle. The orig­i­nal doors had been lost some­time in the car’s dis­tant past; con­se­quently, the de­ci­sion was made to use doors off another very well-known New Zealand car, the Al­mac Co­bra. They have cer­ti­fied hinges and latches, which Tris­tan hopes will an­swer any tricky ques­tions when it comes time to get the car checked out by a cer­ti­fier for road use.

A lot of el­bow grease, blood, sweat, and tears went into de­sign­ing and mak­ing the new door aper­tures. The new doors were not only smaller but also had a dif­fer­ent curve to the orig­i­nals, so the body had to be flared to suit. Tris­tan says that he could not have done it with­out the help of Dan and Grant of Tsunami Surf­boards. Sadly, Grant has since passed away, so will not see the fin­ished car.

Once the body was length­ened, a new chas­sis was de­signed and made by his good friend Rod Atkins of Spring­back Au­to­mo­tive / Rod­shop Cus­tom Fab­ri­ca­tions. Rod’s work­shop is sit­u­ated in the beau­ti­ful Ran­giora coun­try­side, and he has been a great help through­out Tris­tan’s build process, pro­vid­ing not only a great work­ing vista but also the tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise to go with Tris­tan’s en­thu­si­asm.

A strong plat­form chas­sis was con­structed us­ing the ever-re­li­able Mus­tang II sus­pen­sion at the front and a four-rod trail­ing-arm sus­pen­sion at the back, at­tached to a short­ened 1995 Mus­tang diff.

Un­der the bon­net and set well back is a fully re­con­di­tioned 4949cc Ford Wind­sor 302 V8 fed by a Hol­ley four-bar­rel car­bu­ret­tor, with the whole lot at­tached to a Mus­tang T5 fivespeed gear­box.

The States is the place to go for many af­ter­mar­ket parts, and the in­ter­net has made the world a very small place. The loom he ob­tained is clearly la­belled and came with all the fit­tings/con­nec­tions needed to fit it into a mod­ern scratch-built car. Wiring the car is the next job on Tris­tan’s to-do list, and, at this stage, he does not be­lieve that he will have any prob­lem with it.

Al­though Tris­tan has a long way to go, he is con­fi­dent that he will have the car on the road some­time in 2017. From what we could see of Tris­tan’s work so far, this will be an im­pres­sive car when it is fin­ished. Al­though he has done most of the work him­self, he has not been afraid to call in the ex­perts to as­sist at times when he has felt out of his depth.

Tris­tan still has a strong de­sire to dis­cover more of the car’s his­tory, so, if any­one read­ing this can help him out, please drop him a line at bull­bythe­horns12@hot­mail.com. We’re sure that he will ap­pre­ci­ate it.

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