WHEN I started building hot rods in the 70s you couldn’t buy much off the shelf,” explains Mt Gambier's Mark Fry. “If you needed it, you made it, plain and simple. I decided to build a rod that went back to basics, making as many components as possible — including the body — to prove that money doesn’t always make for a tough ride.” Sure, being the proprieter of a neat workshop (Custom Chassis Panel and Paint) has its advantages, but he started out like many of us, just tinkering in the backyard trying to assemble something cool. “My first rod was a channelled ’34 coupe with a ’32 grille. It was an old period Aussie hot rod that needed a full rebuild to get it back up to standard.
This article was first published in Street Machine's Hot Rod magazine #13, 2014
I learnt a heap as a young bloke through trial and error building that car and knew that my son Taylor was getting keen to have a go,” Mark says. Eleven years old is a dream age to start in anyone’s book, but when you’ve grown up surrounded by cool cars it’s easy to understand why he was so keen to hook in. “We decided on a cheap traditional style roadster as a fun project, you know, whitewalls and triple carbs and use the build to help mentor him along the way. It was to be based around a pair of ’31 chassis rails and we decided that everything was going to be built from scratch, including the body. Then things got a little out of hand [laughs].”
A swag of performance parts loitering in the shed got the boys thinking that maybe a fun drag car could be the go, and although the end result was far different, the build process stuck to the original plan of hand building 99 per cent. “We had a couple of diffs and a blower gathering dust so set to work on the new drag project. The aim was to still keep it a period piece by basing it on the low-slung drag rods of the 70s,” Mark says.
Huge Center Lines, a rear wing and wheelie bars leave no question as to the ’32’s intended use, with track time soon to be on the cards. The long, sleek and low profile of the ’32 was modelled off drag hot rods of the 70s
So the fabrication work began with a more appropriate chassis based around 5x2in C-section rails and RHS crossmembers that kick up 15 inches at the rear.
While the body is based around that of a ’32 roadster shell, the task of building it from zip allowed Mark and Taylor freedom to incorporate improvements and changes better suited to the project. The doors were lengthened three inches while the rear quarters also scored an extra three inches at the jamb areas. Five inches has been added to the tub area while the firewall has been recessed seven for improved engine clearance
Fabricated engine and transmission mounts were added along with a tubular front crossmember. This mounts a suicide-style, 4-inch drop tube axle dampened via Morris knee-action shocks and located via custom made batwings, hairpin rods and transverse leaf spring assembly. Steering duties are handled by a Ford box mounted in a side steer fashion that utilises custom made tie-rod arms and a custom built stainless steering column.
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Mark’s engineering prowess continued rearward with fabricated ladder bars and coil-over shocks used to suspend a shortened 9-inch diff running interim 3.55 gears. Front brakes are Ford ventilated discs running HQ calipers and mounted using ’39 stub axles, while the rears are Ford drums all actuated by custom pedals and an XA Falcon master cylinder. Satin finish Center Lines are the perfect accompaniment to the raw finish of the roadster and measure 15x3 at the front and a whopping 15x12 at the rear, shod with Michelin 135 and M/T 31.5/12.5 tyres respectively.
The enigne runs and drives at the moment, but once Bob Fisher applies his magic touch, there could be about 1000hp making its way down the driveline
The choice of donk was relatively easy with Mark and Taylor choosing to revive a Boss-spec 302 Windsor that originally saw service in Mark’s ex-Denis Oates chopped Morris Isis. Yes, seriously! The Windsor bottom-end was balanced and fitted with high-top forged pistons, while the good oil is contained in a polished, finned aluminium sump. A Crow cam and lifter combination were sourced with the ignition portion of the timing process sorted using a Mallory magneto. The Cleveland 2V closed chamber heads were ported and the Enderle Birdcatcher injection and blower mounted using a Fry-built custom Boss supercharger intake.
“An intake manifold couldn’t be found for the Boss combo so we built one from scratch. We had the same issue with the magneto drive so we made our own using a right-angle whipper snipper head which works a treat,” Mark says. A custom radiator and scratch built extractors sort the cooling and exhaust duties while an Enderle mechanical pump keeps the methanol supply up to scratch. A C4 trans is nestled behind the visually striking Boss combo and features shift-kitted internals and a 3200 Dominator convertor.
The thought of hand forming an entire bodyshell for most is daunting at best, but was one of the core undertakings with this father-son build. “We hand fabricated the body from 1200x2400 cold-rolled sheet steel. And I mean everything; the firewall, floorpan, dash and even the windscreen posts were made in the shed.”
The Fry-built theme continues inside the roadster with the roll cage, seats and shifter with linkages built from scratch: “I didn’t want anything to look like it came off a shelf."
Custom made door latches and hinges along with a wild rear wing complete the fabrication work, with the entire shell given a raw finish and coated in clear to protect their hard yakka. So with the rod all but finished, the Fry clan are keen to run some numbers and see how it performs. “It runs and drives but we’ll get my good friend Bob Fisher to cast his experienced eye over the tune. I said I was hoping for around the 4-500 hp mark just to make it a fun car for us to skid the tyres and race, but he just looked at me in astonishment and said: ‘You may want to double that figure, mate!’ so it should go alright.”
“We wanted to make the 2012 Port Fairy Rod Run but the engine locked up five weeks prior. It snapped the balancer clean off, jamming up the timing chain and bending five valves in the process. We put in a mad rush to get it repaired only to break the convertor two weeks out! We repaired the convertor and managed to make a grand entrance at 6am, waking the whole town in the process.”
The shifter started as an ornate knife which we modified to suit and it really gets people talking. “It originally had these large wings hanging off it too but we cut those away; I didn’t want to be catching my knee on one of those!”
“Taylor’s 17 now and his skills have come on in leaps and bounds,” Mark says proudly. “From an 11yo kid cleaning parts he’s now hand fabricating his own parts and panels and toying with blown and injected methanol engines! I really need to make a special mention and thanks to Taylor for his help with this roadster, and I look forward to building more cars with him in the future.”
“With customer cars they rarely see the work that goes into the body once all of the finishing and topcoats have been applied. Leaving the shell in a raw state not only adds to the aggressive attitude of the roadster but is the perfect advertisement for the quality of work that we do.”
1932 FORD ROADSTER
MARK & TAYLOR FRY
Make: Ford 302ci
Heads: 2V Cleveland closed chamber
Intake: Fry custom fabricated
Ignition: Mallory Magneto
Cooling: Custom radiator
Exhaust: Custom extractors
Gearbox: Ford C4 Automatic
Converter: 3200 stall
Diff: Shortened 9-inch, 3.55 gears
Front: 4in dropped I-beam, transverse leaf
Rear: Ladder bar
Shocks: Morris knee action (f), adjustable coilover (r)
Brakes: Ford ventilated disc, HQ calipers (f), Ford drums (r), XA master cylinder
Rims: Center Line Auto Drag 15x3 (f), 15x12 (r)
Rubber: Michelin 135 (f), M/T 31.5/12.5 (r)