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Milton Adey's iconic 1972 Ford Pinto drag car restored

By Simon Major | Photos: Mitch Hemming, 05 Apr 2020 Features

Milton Adey's iconic 1972 Ford Pinto drag car restored

Nostalgia stalward Dean Kubler breathes life into one of Australia's most iconic drag cars

THE custodians of Australia’s hot-car legacy are a small yet dedicated bunch, passionate about keeping the six decades’ worth of our local hot rod, street machine, panel van and drag racing history alive. Brisbane’s Dean Kubler is one of them, a bloke whose finger is definitely on the pulse when it comes to the importance of preserving classic builds of the past.

This article was first published in the February 2020 issue of Street Machine

Ford Pinto drag car

Shortly after the passing of drag racing stalwart and Summernats legend Milton ‘Milty’ Adey back in 2010, Dean learned that a mate had the remains of Milty’s old Super Stock ‘Hawkeye’ Pinto in his backyard. His love for nostalgia – along with nudging from his father, Ashley, who told him that he absolutely needed to restore this car – was just the prompting Dean needed to seal the deal.

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Ford Pinto drag car

Milton Adey and the ‘Hawkeye’ Pinto regularly competed in the SS/A class at both Surfers and Castlereagh throughout the 1980s. Milton gave back to the sport through his work for ANDRA and the development of the safety tech inspection process

“The Pinto arrived in Australia in the late 70s or early 80s as a tired USA race car,” Dean explains. “Milton had been campaigning his well-known Hawkeye 105E Anglia for a number of years by this stage, initially as a four-cylinder street car before evolving it into a 302-powered, roof-chopped, competition-only racer.”

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Ford Pinto drag car

Original Center Line Auto Drags were sourced to keep the visual restoration on-point, while the Ford Snow White hue and graphics were expertly recreated by Dean from era-correct photos and areas of the original paint scheme he discovered during the build

Milton was keen to step up his game within the drag racing ranks and had started work on a dragster chassis when he learned of a Pinto up for grabs near his hometown of Brisbane. Both the Anglia and dragster were sold off to fund this new purchase, and a fresh Hawkeye build commenced.

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Ford Pinto drag car side

The compact size and slippery shape of Ford’s Pinto made it a popular choice for both Yankee street machiners and drag racers to jam full of V8 goodness. I mean, who didn’t have a green Hot Wheels ‘Poison Pinto’ wagon as a kid?

Following a two-year makeover, the Pinto hit the strips of Surfers and Castlereagh throughout the 1980s, running a 10.22 best in SS/A class. Unfortunately, an accident en route to race at the final-ever Surfers meeting wrote off Milton’s tow car, a borrowed trailer and, sadly, the Hawkeye Pinto.

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Ford Pinto drag car rear

The wreck was eventually sold and the driveline transplanted into different cars over the years, while the roller floated from owner to owner, many of whom tried to resurrect the build and return it to its former glory. But it was all to no avail.

Ford Pinto drag car rear

“It was fair to say that the car was in pretty bad shape when I got it.” Dean says. “The Pinto was meant to be a relatively simple build, so I put my XL Falcon ute gasser project on hold and got busy. We stripped down what was left of the car, but sandblasting revealed a whole heap of pain ahead.”

Ford Pinto drag car front

By this stage, Dean had begun researching the car’s history and people came out of the woodwork supplying photos and information about both Milton and the Pinto. After rubbing through five layers of terrible paint schemes, Dean came across the remains of the original white hue with blue, red and yellow stripes, along with the Hawkeye graphics on the doors. It was a pivotal moment; Dean knew he was the custodian of a very special car with some real drag racing history, and it had to be presented just as Milton had done.

Ford Pinto drag car

Work began in earnest, with Dean and good mate Nik Bence whiling away the hours repairing and straightening the chassis and rollcage assembly, before coating it in a fresh splash of the original Milty-spec blue.

Ford Pinto drag car engine bay

Fabricated front A-arm suspension was refitted and matched by a ladder-bar rear, with both assemblies sprung by adjustable coil-over shocks. A factory nine-inch housing was drastically shortened to fit within the compact confines, while the original Pinto manual steering rack was retained, topped by a Dean-made steering column and a period ‘The 500’ wheel.

Ford Pinto drag car engine bay

The original 351-cube Cleveland donk was built by Geoff England and pushed Milty and Hawkeye to a 10.22sec best in SS/A. Dean has retained 351 power, but made some internal changes from the original spec to up the ante a little. “One of the hardest period items to find were the gold Moroso valve covers,” Dean says. “They’re just parts we took for granted many years ago”

A 351-cube Cleveland was the chosen donk back in the Pinto’s heyday, so Dean contacted Milton’s original engine builder, Geoff England, to pick his brain on a suitable replacement that balanced ample horsepower with the correct nostalgic appeal.

Ford Pinto drag car boot

The battery and fuel cell are nestled neatly between the whopping wheel tubs, making best use of what is left of the Pinto’s boot space 

An original Ford engine casting was HardBlok-filled and treated to a Scat crank and Eagle conrods that retain a 351ci capacity. A Comp Cams solid camshaft and lifter package activate Manley chrome-moly pushrods, which in turn transfer the action north to Harland Sharp rockers and Ferrea stainless valves nestled in Iskenderian valve springs. The latter three are housed in cast-iron, closed-chamber 4V cylinder heads that feature raised exhaust ports. An Edelbrock Torker intake and 835cfm Holley carb sit atop the package.

Ford Pinto drag car interior

It’s all business in the driver’s compartment, with an extensive rollcage and lone race seat filling most of the available real estate. The Hugo’s shifter is one of the few modern concessions Dean opted for when balancing the car’s history with intended strip time

The Clevo is backed by a Powerglide built by Custom Transmissions, sporting an Ultra-Bell SFI-rated bellhousing, Vasco input shaft, 10-clutch steel top gear and myriad billet internals, fronted with a 5000rpm stall converter from The Converter Shop.

Ford Pinto drag car interior

A custom tailshaft sends the action rearwards to the stumpy nine-inch housing, which has been treated to a Romac full spool, 4.55:1 gears and 35-spline Moser axles.

The Center Line Auto Drag rims (15x3.5 front and 15x12 rear) are true to Milty’s original vision and are clad in Moroso 560 and Hoosier 32x12.50 rubber respectively.

Ford Pinto drag car

To describe the Pinto’s body as ‘poor’ when Dean first acquired it is likely the understatement of the year – rusty, wrecked, crashed and bent would be more fitting. He invested countless hours to restore it to its former glory. “There was grass growing through it too,” he laughs. “The bodywork literally took years. I replaced the pillars and door skins, did a swag of fibreglass repairs and replaced the gearbox tunnel, along with then all the generic bodywork you do to prep a car for paint.”

Ford Pinto drag car

Although Dean earns a crust as a plant operator, you’ve probably realised by now that he’s a pretty handy guy who’ll turn his hand to anything – yep, he also laid down the Ford Snow White paint before recreating Hawkeye’s blue, yellow and red graphics, before flowing the lot with ample coats of clear. The original door lettering and ancillary stickers were recreated, and Milton’s name once again takes pride of place on the doors to pay homage to his love and commitment to our sport.

Ford Pinto drag car

Inside is all business, with the sparse cabin sporting a lone race seat atop the fabricated floor, while a Hugo’s shifter and a brace of period gauges will keep Dean abreast of the Clevo’s actions once the Pinto returns to the drag strip this year.

Ford Pinto drag car

“It’s been a very long and intense eight years to get this car built, but many people have contributed, including people involved in the Pinto’s career, and of course my family and friends,” Dean says. “The project was extremely difficult at times, but so rewarding, and I can’t wait to get racing in the Nostalgia brackets. Remember the XL gasser project I put on ice nearly a decade ago? I think it’s time I gave that some love, too.”

IN THE BUILD:

Ford Pinto drag car resto

1. Methodically stripping away multiple layers of paint revealed different chapters in the Pinto’s history. Finally, the Hawkeye livery was again revealed after many years hidden from view.

 

Ford Pinto drag car resto

2. Extensive repairs and fabrication work were needed to get the underpinnings back up to spec, as both chassis rails were bent. A fresh diff housing and new tinwork had to be fashioned to ensure the chassis was both safe and fit for purpose.

 

Ford Pinto drag car resto

3. The remains of the Pinto were salvaged from a mate’s backyard in 2010, not long after Dean learned of Milton Adey’s death. “The car had been through a number of owners and many changes in the two decades since it had been crashed, but learning its history was the greatest inspiration to rebuild it to its former glory,” he says.

Ford Pinto drag car resto

DEAN KUBLER
1972 FORD PINTO

Colour: Snow White; red, yellow and blue graphics

DONK
Make: Ford Cleveland 351ci
Block: Factory cast
Crank: Scat
Rods: Eagle
Camshaft: Comp solid
Heads: Cast-iron closed-chamber 4V
Intake: Edelbrock Torker
Carb: Holley 835cfm
Exhaust: Custom headers

SHIFT
Gearbox: Powerglide, Ultra-Bell bellhousing, Hugo’s shifter
Converter: 5000rpm stall
Diff: 9in, 4.55:1 gears, Romac spool, 35-spline axles

BENEATH
Steering: Pinto rack-and-pinion Front: Fabricated A-arm
Rear: Ladder bar
Shocks: Adjustable coil-overs (f & r)
Brakes: Ford discs (f & r); Falcon dual-circuit master cylinder

ROLLING STOCK
Rims: Center Line Auto Drag; 15x3.5 (f), 15x12 (r)
Tyres: Moroso 560 (f), Hoosier 32x12.50 (r)

THANKS
My wife Sara; my dad Ashley; Mick’s Motorsport Composites for the fibreglass repairs; Ray (nuts, bearings, seals and technical info); Brent (chassis and wheel alignment); Matty (exhaust); Bradley (help importing parts); Benny at Affordable Body Works; Springy (TIG welding); Marty White; Harts Paints at Geebung; Michael Gregson and Graeme Davies (Milty’s original pit crew); Nik Bence for the countless hours of soda-blasting, painting and fabricating, and keeping my spirits up during the eight-year build

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