THERE are plenty of guys out there that dream of having a cool hot rod and a killer custom in their garage. Dale French is one of those guys that has made his dream come true. While the Chev was something he brought in pretty much as is from the US — so that he had something to cruise while building the hot rod — the ’32 three-window is all Dale’s handiwork, with some help from a few good mates of course.
This article was first published in Street Machine's Hot Rod magazine #13, 2014
“I’d seen the Chev on the HAMB and then seen it on eBay for sale and a friend of mine got in touch with the bloke. We struck up a deal and it was on its way. It’s been in the country almost three years now,” Dale says.
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The paint on the Chev is PPG Ruby Slipper and flips to a colour-wheel opposite green when the light hits it a certain way. Smoothed handles and badges, airbags all round and a set of spider caps and you’re cruising in style
As far as US customs go, it’s got the usual — killer paint, fancy trim, slammed and a flat black engine bay with minimal detailing, but it’s no slouch: “Yeah, it’s a 383 stroker. The paint’s starting to show its age a little bit, the trim’s nice and that’s all they worry about — the bits that you see. If it’s hidden, they don’t worry too much about it.
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They’ve shaved the badges and door handles, it’s got electric poppers for the doors. I was very lucky with this car, all I’ve had to do was change the diff centre from a locker to an LSD because it was just ridiculous to drive around local traffic.”
A couple of people worked on the interior with All Day Classics doing the seats and door panels while the unmistakeable style of Fat Lucky’s is all over the gold-flecked carpet and floor mats
One doesn’t just jump into a 50s custom — usually — without some kind of automotive history and previous ownership of old cars. Dale had owned a nice HG Kingswood wagon a few years back but through years of reading hot rod magazines and surfing the web, he got the itch to build a 60s-style hot rod coupe.
“Originally the dash had an awesome Day of the Dead mural on it, but it was gone when I got it, it was just satin black. I was spewin’,” says Dale. He soon sorted it out with some of Grandma’s lace tablecloth and gold metalflake
Not content to just be stuck in the shed building and miss out on all the fun, Dale purchased a neat ’48 Ford pickup from Adrian Perri. At some point he stumbled across the Chev and the rest — as they say — is history. “I’m definitely not into high-tech stuff, just simple and smart, I guess,” Dale says.
Dale chose Radir Tri-Ribs right from the start, but opted for the as-cast finish on the centres. Wide whites from Coker Classic add the required rubber rake and bringing up the rear are a pair of ’50 Pontiac taillights
Having fun in the other cars is probably part of the reason the build on the coupe took eight years, but there were other factors: “I had the wheels from the start and had that style in mind, but it was just going to run a small-block Chev, then I stumbled across the 348. My mate that painted it, Max McGinnis, he started talking me into making it a bit prettier than I’d planned on making it, before we knew it we were getting the manifold polished and brand new chrome carbies.”
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There’s quite a contrast between the polished, chromed and painted engine and the subdued, almost industrial paint finish on the body, which might seem familiar to you if you’ve got a Colorbond shed or tin roof: “It sort of just looks like a primer colour, for me, it just works. A bloke I know had an old Bedford truck painted in the same colour — he actually owns a Colorbond pressing company — I fell in love with it. His was gloss, but I picked a satin version.” It’s hard to describe the colour and it does change depending on the lighting source, but Dale’s description is that it’s an “olivey, sorta grey green.”
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There aren’t many better looking engines that the Chevy 348/409. Dale scored this one as a runner and apart from the six carbs and some flash paint, he hasn’t really touched it
It’s a complete contrast to the metallic green that’s on the engine block. “That was Max’s decision. It was just a tin he had kicking around in his workshop, he flipped the lid on it and said: ‘What do you reckon?’ I said, no — for a week — and then it just grew on me and I went with it. I’m stoked that I did,” Dale says. The same colour has been used to highlight the details in the finned Offenhauser rocker covers and the gearbox and tailshaft have been painted to match. The diff, on the other hand, is painted body colour: “I didn’t want it to stick out too much if you were driving behind and looking at it.”
Dale and Melissa’s boy Levi fits just fine in the boot, for now. Not long and he’ll be wanting his own hot rod
The wheels are Radir Tri-Ribs with satin finished centres and a polished rim which, in conjunction with the wide whitewalls, is not a common choice. These wheels are favourites amongst the 60s show rod and custom crowd fully polished.
Some of the jewellery on cars of the 30s is too nice to leave off. The graceful lines of the door handle and the simplicity of the cowl lights — which also light up the engine at night — are not often seen these days
The body is a fibreglass reproduction by Elvis at Rod Bods and features all of the factory-style lumps and bumps that other manufacturers prefer to leave off: “I wanted a cowl vent, exposed hinges and a stock looking firewall but it comes with a three inch chop. It was all steeled out and came with burst-proof locks. I bought the chassis ready to go — so all I had to do was bolt everything on to it — from Tudor Automotive in Airport West. When it was done I sent it up to Elvis. Because it’s got the three inch kick-up in the rear, I got him to fit the body over the chassis so that everything worked out,” Dale says.
The trim is timeless and tasteful with oxblood red vinyl covering the seats and door panels while matching carpet and mats cover the floor. There’s a perforated hoodlining, even a dome light, and a very nice touch are the old drive-in speaker grilles that have been colour matched to the vinyl and mounted in the kick panels — a much nicer solution than punching it full of holes or using a standard speaker grille.
The oxblood red trim is the work of master trimmer Pat Mesiti. A ’40 Ford wheel from Limeworks, Classic Instruments V8 Speedster gauges and a sky-scraping Lokar shifter are neat touches, but check out those old drive-in speaker grilles in the kick panels — killer!
As you can see by the arrow straight pleats and tautness of the trim, it’s the work of a master trimmer, none other than Pat Mesiti of Sunshine Motor Trimming. Even the inside of the firewall and the boot are trimmed with tuck and roll: “Pat had it as plain material and he asked me what I thought. I said: ‘It looks good.’ The next time I go there it’s got tuck and roll, he goes: ‘I didn’t like it, so I had to change it.’ It looks ten times better than it did.”
The column and wheel are from Limeworks and are a modern version of the classic ’40 Ford unit. It’s a little smaller than the original wheel to fit into the smaller confines of the ’32 body and the column is beautiful in its simplicity — no hazard flashers, windscreen wipers or high beam controls required. The stunning gauge set is a Classic Instruments V8 Speedster set, and while a brand new design, fit perfectly with the theme of the car.
The car was finished just in time for the 2013 Bright Rod Run where the car got quite a bit of interest — from the constabulary. Dale didn’t quite get time to get the fenders on the car and he came home with a new sticker on the windscreen, but they were far outweighed by the thumbs up and nods of appreciation he got while cruising the car around. And yes, we know there are no fenders on it in the photos — but that’s how a hi-boy should look.
1954 CHEVROLET 210 TWO-DOOR POST
Colour: PPG RUBY SLIPPER
Engine: 383 Chevy
Induction: Edelbrock Air-Gap with Edelbrock carb
Exhaust: Sampson headers, Flowmaster mufflers
Trim: White diamond stitch, black piping
Carpet: Gold fleck and custom mats by Fat Lucky’s
Gearbox: Turbo 350
Diff: 9-inch, LSD, Moser axles
Front end: Airbags, Fatman dropped spindles
Rear end: Airbags
Brakes: Four wheel discs
Rims: Steelies 15x6 (f&r) with Spider caps
Rubber: Wide white radials 215/75/15 (f&r)
Big thanks to my partner Melissa for all her patience. Max McGinnis at G&A Automotive and Tony
1932 FORD 3-WINDOW
Colour: COLORBOND BUSHLAND
Engine: 348 Chevy
Induction: Offenhauser with 6x97 Strombergs
Exhaust: Lakester headers, 2.25in pipes, Magnaflow mufflers
Seats: Home made
Trim: Oxblood vinyl
Steering wheel: ’40 Ford
Shifter: Lokar 32in
Gearbox: Turbo 350
Converter: 2500 stall
Diff: 9-inch, 31-spline axles
Front end: Dropped I-beam, tube shocks
Rear end: Triangulate four-bar, coil-overs
Brakes: XA Falcon m/c, Falcon discs (f), drums (r)
Steering: Limeworks column and Vega box
Rims: Radir Tri-Rib III 15x5 (f), 15x7 (r)
Rubber: Coker Classic wide white 5.60-15 (f), L78-15 (r)