RETRO ROD WITH BITE
In a world that seems to be becoming more and more beige, people like Mark Holdaway are a welcome relief. While many are becoming too afraid of the PC brigade to do anything remotely outside the box, Mark’s struggling to remember what the box looks like, seeing as he’s lived most of his life outside it. The main area in which Mark likes to be a nonconformist is with his cars. While he uses some amazingly rare and hard-to-find parts that traditionalists would give their left baby-maker for, he’s not one for sticking to a set traditional recipe. The 1932 roadster that Mark’s owned for the past three years is a great example of this. There’s no doubting that its retro look is bang on, but there’s a whole lot more to it than what you first see. Mark’s a born and bred hot rodder and general tinkerer, and his love of Ardun overhead-valve engines goes back to when they were first produced. In fact, he had a near encounter with purchasing some of the rare items way back in 1971 when he was an apprentice mechanic. While that chance escaped him, thanks to a less-than-scrupulous seller, the desire to acquire some only grew stronger as Mark became more immersed in the world of retro hot rodding. It was in 2014 that Mark got the chance of a lifetime — for the second time — and he wasn’t about to let go of it in a hurry. It came about while he was browsing eBay and stumbled across an uncompleted project 1932 Ford roadster. While any steel-bodied ’32 is cool, this one was on a whole different level. The car had been sold new in Melbourne, Australia, where it was hot rodded in the 1960s. Now for sale in Colorado by an Aussie hot rod fabricator, the car was about to get yet another country’s stamp in its passport. Back home in Mark’s shed, the roadster joined his collection of odd-ball engine-powered machines. However, unlike a few still in the build, it’d be pushed through the process from project to completed street cruiser rapidly. Having been hot rodded half a century before, the roadster needed plenty done, starting right from the chassis. Mark enlisted the help of Dave Sales at Jalopy Engineering to stitch in Shakey Rails boxing plates to the original chassis. Dave also turned his attention to the steering arms, which now work in conjunction with new spindles hung off a forged ’32 heavy front axle that was dropped four inches by Anson axles. With the plan being to build the car in a salt-flatsracer style, the rear end also received plenty of attention — most of it period correct, of course. A ’35 Ford V8 axle housing was sourced, and its tubes and axles fitted to a magnesium Halibrand Culver City quick-change centre. A Model A buggy spring holds it in place, while Houdaille hydraulic shocks keep the unwanted bounce to a minimum. Now out of the chassis, the engine was opened up for the first time in many, many years. Mark was even more impressed than he expected to be, finding it had been built, all those decades ago, as a race-style motor. He reassembled it using the bare minimum of new parts to keep the engine’s period mods. When those period parts and modifications include the valve pockets being filled and an offset ground forged crank being fitted, it’s easy to see why you wouldn’t mess with it. The ‘rarer than rocking-horse shit’ heads are casting
numbers 241 and 242, and work in conjunction with Ferguson billet roller rockers acting off a Bullet Racing cam. While Mark’s grand plan is to fit the genuine mechanical Hilborn injection system that he’s got, for now, the beautiful engine looks the part with a trio of Stromberg 97 carbs atop a Ken Austin manifold. Likewise, at some stage, the Mallory dual-point distributor will be replaced with a rare Vertex right-angle-drive magneto. The driveline was complex for the time, featuring a Mitchell 27-per-cent-overdrive / direct gear splitter in the torque tube. This effectively turns the ’39 three-speed box into a six-speed, offering perfect cruising ratios. As Mark is known to drive his cars rather than lock them away as garage showpieces, those cruising ratios were a vital part of the build, as was a non-shiny, non-perfect body. With this in mind, along with the salt-flats-racer theme, any rust repairs the body required were kept visible. Although the panel gaps were perfected, small dents were left alone. Mate Clive Hall helped Mark with the paint side of the build, with both guys laughing that they’d never before sanded off so much of a fresh paint job. The work included a two-pack red oxide primer being sprayed over primer and undercoat before being rubbed back and coated with a few layers of satin clear. Once Mark was happy with the look, Clive added the custom artwork — all done by hand, of course. The look works perfectly with the early smooth Halibrand magnesium wheels Mark managed to find — a find almost as impressive as that of the engine itself, as they’d only been on one car over the previous 40 years. They are now wrapped in 5.50x16 and 7.00x16 Stahl Sport tyres, and we’d say the look is bang on. Of course, with plenty more power available than the original banger motor supplied, the brakes needed to be upgraded, too, and now rely on Lincoln drums on all four corners along with a Falcon master cylinder.