IF YOU’RE going to paint a car pink then it better have the balls to back it up. Joe Gatt’s got no doubt about his manliness when it’s time to cruise his car and with a motor that’s hung like 553 horses, that’s fair enough.
This article was first published in the September 2011 issue of Street Machine
That said, he admits his wife, Helen, had something to do with the colour choice: “I took her to House Of Kolor to look at the paint, which was a mistake,” he laughs, “and she’s going through the bloody books and she wanted something the same colour as her nails. But it came up very good and I was surprised myself.”
It’s a good thing Joe does like the colour because there’s as much of it underneath the car as there is on top, even though it was built to be driven.
The car was originally finished with completely smooth sides but it was too plain, so door handles were added and Fastlane fabricated custom portholes
“To me it’s no use to leave it behind a window — I’ve already done 9000km in it,” Joe says. That’s in less than a year. There are plenty of hot rods that don’t travel that far in a decade!
It’s testament to the smart design and build quality of the car that Joe has put so many miles on it. Built largely at Fastlane Speed Shop in Ballarat by Daniel Cassar and his crew, it’s not the first tough car in Joe’s garage but it is his first rod.
An extra half a coupe resulted in this matching trailer for those long road trips
“Joe didn’t know a lot about the hot rod side of things but he liked the car that I built myself, the HICLAS roadster [SM, Feb ’05],” Daniel says. “He liked the style but he wanted a ’34 coupe. He said to me: ‘If you can build the car along those lines but just give me a choice along the way, I’ll be happy.’ It was a matter of showing him three or four choices, whether it was the wheels, paint or upholstery colours, he had the final say.”
In most cases Joe went for the more expensive and shinier options, and for that, we thank him. There’s plenty to look at — polished stainless exhaust, four-bar rear, trans pan and calipers all contrasting nicely against the HOK Hot Pink Pearl. Basically, if it’s not shiny, it’s pink. Unless it’s rubber.
Keeping the hot rod company is a ’65 Pontiac that’s tubbed and powered by a big-block Chev sporting an under-bonnet blower. Waiting its turn is a ’55 Mercury that will also cop a major horsepower injection.
Bob Fisher built the 350 Chev that’s pushing out an impressive 553hp at the flywheel. More than enough to tow a block of flats
“I’m 60 years old but I still like the sporty stuff,” he says. “I’m not into original stuff too much.”
No surprise, then, that Joe opted for a fairly stout combination in the engine bay. The 350 Chev was massaged by none other than Bob Fisher, who’s renowned for expertise on blowers, and it clearly shows in this engine. Making 500-plus horsepower with just 350 cubes is pretty impressive.
A stout engine needs a stout bottom end and the Eagle 4340 rods and crank make sure of that. SRP 8.5:1 blower pistons make the bang after the mixture gets squeezed through Edelbrock RPM heads by the 6/71 blower. Up top are a pair of 650 Holley double pumpers and making sure small birds and low-flying aircraft don’t get sucked into the engine is a K&N filter.
A fair bit of thought went into how the motor sat and where it would end up, as Joe wanted a scoop but nothing too over the top.
The undercarriage was built as nicely as the top but may not look as flash after 9000km!
“The car being on airbags, you couldn’t lower the engine any further, so the height of the scoop was determined by that. We made it as low and as close to the engine as we could. The engine would go a lot better with a BDS scoop but the car’s driven not raced,” Daniel says.
A fully manualised Paul Rogers transmission backs it up, so there’re no problems in that department and the diff is a tough-as-nails nine-inch with 31-spline billet axles and Strange Pro Iron centre. Even the tailshaft has been fitted with Strange ends, so even though this car doesn’t get raced, it’s built tough — which probably helps on those crappy Victorian roads.
Airride Shockwave bags on all four corners allow Joe to set the car for cruising and towing, or in the weeds for power parking
When it was time for wheels, Daniel showed Joe a few options and he picked Billet Specialties SLC65 rims. They ordered an even half-dozen. Why? Well, the trailer needed wheels as well!
An extra half a car was ordered from Deuce Customs and the boys at Fastlane got busy constructing a matching trailer. About the only difference, apart from the missing front half, is that the trailer doesn’t have airbags. The ’34 has a reasonable boot but if you like long-haul road trips, it’s nice to be able to take a few of the comforts of home. And there’s no problem towing a trailer with all those ponies champing at the bit.
Hidden behind the panels are all the bits and pieces for the airbag suspension, air con and stereo. Thanks to some impressive packaging, there’s still a boot!
Creature comforts abound inside the car as well. Seats from a late-model Honda were modified and the headrests were binned. A set of custom door panels was created and the whole lot was covered in beige leather by Cool Trim.
Billet Specialties wheel, Lokar shifter and gauges from Classic Instruments make for a classy and modern interior, featuring air con, cruise, fast glass and a killer stereo. Seats are modified Honda units
A quick glance inside and you’ll spot the steering wheel and tilt column from Billet Specialties, the Classic Instruments gauges, Lokar shifter and the outlets for the Vintage Air air con. As you’d expect, there’s very little room under the dash of a 1930s Ford, so Fastlane mounted the air con unit in the boot. Cool air is routed via the centre console while the windscreen demisters go up and over the roof. Very cool — or warm — depending on the time of year.
What’s really great about Joe’s hot rod is the fact that he gets out and uses it, so make sure you have a good look at these photos because the next time you see it, it’ll probably be covered in bugs or — gasp! — maybe even have a stone chip or two.
1934 FORD COUPE
Colour: House Of Kolor Hot Pink Pearl
Brand: Chevrolet 350ci
Induction: Holley 650DP x2 on Bob Fisher 6/71 and Weiand intake
Heads: Edelbrock RPM
Conrods: Eagle 4340
Lifters: Comp Cams solid
Pistons: SRP blower, 8.5:1
Crank: Eagle 4340
Oil pump: High volume
Sump: High Energy seven-litre
Fuel pump: Mallory 140gph
Cooling: D&D radiator, 14in SPAL fan
Exhaust: Four-into-one extractors, three-inch mandrel-bent, Hooker mufflers
Ignition: Ignition Developments, MSD 6AL
Dyno: 553hp at flywheel
Gearbox: Paul Rogers T400 fully manualised
Diff: Nine-inch, 31-spline billet axles, Strange Pro Iron centre
Converter: Dominator 2500 stall
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Springs: Shockwave Airride (f&r)
Mods: Rod-Tech stainless IFS, Lakes Rod Parts stainless four-bar rear with Panhard bar
Steering: Rack & pinion
Brakes: Falcon (f), Commodore (r)
Calipers: Commodore (f), Nissan (r)
RIMS & RUBBER
Wheels: Billet Specialties SLC65 17x7 (f), 18x8 (r)
Tyres: 205/45/17 (f), 245/45/18 (r)
Fastlane Speed Shop, Invisible Car Bras, Dalton Automotives
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Street Machine is the bible of Aussie modified auto culture, celebrating wild muscle cars, customs and hot rods – and the incredible humans who create them.
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