They don’t come any cleaner than Brian Imlach’s Deluxe Rod Shop-built ’34 Chevy
LIKE every car that comes out of Deluxe Rod Shop, Brian Imlach’s ’34 Chevy sedan is beautifully designed and impeccably finished. But what I find fascinating about this car is how many cool little – and not so little – touches have been worked into it. They’re not obvious initially, because at first glance you see an unchopped four-door sedan, still wearing its hinges, mirrors and door handles, with the fenders as they left the factory. It’s most definitely worth a closer look.
By his own admission, Brian isn’t really a hot rod guy, although he is a GM guy with a couple of Monaros in the shed. But when a friend of his in Victoria mentioned he had an old car for sale, his ears pricked up. “I was yapping to him one day and he said, ‘My young bloke wants to move downstairs, so I’ve got to get rid of my eight-ball table and all my stuff and a bloody old car I’ve got down there,’” Brian explains. “He said it was a ’34 Chev, an all-steel, Aussie-built car that was started by [well-known Victorian hot rodder] Colin Bates. I thought, ‘I wouldn’t mind buying that; it’d be a bit of a challenge.’”
Brian got the car back to Tasmania, and, after having a closer look, realised he didn’t have the skill set to get the job done. So he headed back to Vic and started asking for recommendations on a good shop to do the build. “I had a chat to Ron Smith at Kustom Bitz and he put me on to Steve Alldrick at Deluxe and away it went. Six years later, here we are!”
Steve admits he got sidetracked a few times over that period as he finished off other cars. But keep in mind, he and the Deluxe team brought 10 brand-new builds to Summernats for 10 years straight, so it’s not like he was sitting around twiddling his thumbs. And to be frank, when you take a close look at all the handmade parts on this car, it’s amazing it only took six years.
When he first visited the shop, Brian was highly impressed with the standard of the workmanship, which was even higher than he thought he’d build the car to. “The more I looked at it, the more I thought we should do it properly, so I left Steve to virtually build the whole car,” says Brian. “For me, as a businessman, it’s all about trust. When you look at him, you can see he’s neat, he’s got passion, and his quality is second to none. The car has probably ended up way better than I had planned.”
What Brian delivered to Deluxe was a pretty decent start – a solid body, new chassis from Kustom Bitz featuring Lakes Hot Rod Parts front and rear ends, and a blown LS2.
“I warned Brian it would be a five-year project, because with a fendered sedan, you’re building four of everything: four guards inside
WHAT BRIAN DELIVERED TO DELUXE WAS A PRETTY DECENT START – A SOLID BODY, NEW CHASSIS FROM KUSTOM BITZ AND A BLOWN LS2
BEING A CHEV AND A FOUR-DOOR IS WHAT MADE IT UNIQUE. IF YOU BUILT JUST ANOTHER ’32 ROADSTER OR ’34 COUPE, IT’S ALL BEEN DONE TO DEATH
and out, four pieces of the bonnet inside and out, four doors inside and out,” says Steve. I guess that explains why so many people build hiboy roadsters!
“Being a Chev and being a four-door, that’s what made it unique,” Steve reckons. “If you built just another ’32 roadster or ’34 coupe, you could throw as many hours at it as you want and make all these beautiful parts, but at the end of the day, it’s all been done to death.” But that didn’t mean Steve wasn’t going to make a bunch of beautiful parts for this car; just study the pics.
Underneath the Chev is just as nice as on top, with the engine, trans and diff all polished and painted to perfection. The painted finish extends to the brake calipers and even the springs on the coil-overs, which are painted to match the exterior body colour. What might be a bit hard to pick up in the photos is that there are two main colours used throughout the car, with everything outside of the chassis rails painted the darker brown of the exterior, while everything inside the rails is painted to match the interior, which has more of a copper tone.
The first thing most people say when they see the car is, “I love the colour,” which is comforting to both owner and builder, because a lot of effort went into getting it just how they’d envisioned it. “I procrastinated for years over the colour,” Brian admits. “What would be different? What would be unique? What would make people say, ‘Wow! That’s a nice colour,’ when they saw it?”
Steve’s answer to Brian’s dilemma was to drag him to the PPG lab in Melbourne where they could mix up any colour they wanted. After eight hours of what Steve calls “finger painting”, they finally had something they were happy with. The only problem for Steve was getting the colour dark enough without making it go muddy. “The first impression people are going to get is inside a hall, so it had to pop,” Steve says. “The colour never changed in Brian’s mind; it was just a matter of getting it where he wanted it. It drove me crazy getting it right.”
That eight-hour stint at PPG turned out to be nothing compared with the time taken to actually paint the car, which spent two years blown apart while the intricate paint scheme was applied by Troy Kinsmore over flawless bodywork done by Mick Mccallum and Steve.
As beautiful as the outside of the car is, it’s the interior that really helps set it apart. The door panels are formed from 1.6mm aluminium, primed and then painted, even behind the leather insert. There’s no wood, no fibreglass, no filler; just beautifully shaped aluminium. The armrests and door pockets are all fabricated from alloy, then painted in the exterior colour for a bit of contrast. And check out the pattern on
the door trims; it matches the shape of the vent on the bonnet sides, which is carried through to the pattern on the seats.
More of Steve’s metal-shaping mastery can be seen on the seat backs and transmission cover, which incorporates the Mal Wood shifter for the T56 six-speed, some cup holders, and the controls for the a/c system. The soft parts of the trim were handled by Brendon Watts, who covered the Glide front seat and custom-made rear seat in leather and shaped the German box-weave carpet.
While COVID ruined plans for the Chev’s big debut at Motorex, it was ultimately unveiled at the 2021 Devonport Motor Expo, which was just as exciting for Brian, as he hadn’t seen the car in almost two years. Surrounded by family and friends, it was the perfect way for him and wife Maureen to enjoy the fruits of their six-year commitment to building one of the best hot rods in the country.
A few months later, the car went to the Hot Rod & Custom Auto Expo in Sydney and scooped the pool, winning Top Hot Rod, Top Sedan, Top Interior, Top Paint, Top Display, Top Undercarriage and Top Engine Bay. With a bit of luck and a successful vaccine rollout, Steve might be able to talk Brian into taking the car on tour to cover every state and territory. It has already done NSW and Tassie, so it just needs to hit Red Centrenats, ROCKYNATS and Summernats, then they can shoot across to Perth for the Hot Rod & Street Machine Spectacular. After that, maybe Brian will be able to hit the streets and cruise.
THE CAR SCOOPED THE POOL AT THE HOT ROD & CUSTOM AUTO EXPO, WINNING TOP HOT ROD, TOP SEDAN, TOP INTERIOR, TOP PAINT, TOP DISPLAY, TOP UNDERCARRIAGE AND TOP ENGINE BAY