This article on Norm's Ford was originally published in issue #11 of Street Machine's Hot Rod magazine, 2013
THE goal of building a high-achieving, elite show car is hugely daunting since they require an insane investment of both time and hard cash. Just ask Norm McCormack, owner/builder of the incredible ’34 three-window coupe called Impact.
Unlike a lot of other high-end show cars, this has all the proper lights, wipers and mirrors. Most leave them off as they require too much hard work to get ’em looking right
Since its unveiling at Summernats 25, Impact’s trophy haul has included Top 10 and Top Hot Rod at Summernats, Top Hot Rod at Supernats 2012, MotorEx Top Three, and Meguiar’s Superstar Qualifier.
Despite the bulging trophy cabinet, this stunning rod was mostly built at home. “I wanted to prove that your average guy could build a competitive elite-level car,” explains Norm. “You just need lots of dedication.”
Norm’s previous rod was a very tidy ’32 sedan delivery. “It qualified for Showcar SuperStars in 2009,” says Norm. “Which was pretty good considering it was a genuine driver, but it was never going to win.”
This time around, Norm set out to screw together a true contender; a showstopper of the highest calibre.
“I sat down and worked out exactly what I was going to build and thoroughly planned it all before buying even a single part,” he says. His uncle, Mike Gregorace, was a long-term ASRF judge, so Norm had the opportunity to get a close look at cars like Mark Course’s Boydster and Ron Barclay’s HQ ute just by hanging with Uncle Mike. Through that experience he developed a very good idea of what was needed to win.
Read next: Mick Fabar's 1933 Ford coupe - RAWR
This winning plan included a radically reworked chassis that has been smoothed to within an inch of its life. A great deal of thought went into the function and integration of every bracket; Norm wanted them to look like they belonged – as opposed to being conveniently added along the way.
Undercarriages don’t come any slicker than this. You can see your reflection in every one of the metal surfaces that have been polished to a mirror-finish. Look carefully and you’ll see the transmission cooler built into the gearbox crossmember
Suspension wise, there’s Rod-Tech IFS at the turning end complete with a Commodore rack. It’s the South Aussie outfit’s Premium Package, which incorporates polished stainless everything, billet brake covers and billet hub covers. At the blunt end, it’s more polished stainless in the form of a triangulated four-bar and coilovers. Bolted to the ends are Colorado Custom Whiskey billets – 16x7 front, 18x8 rear.
The unusual headlights are Headwinds motorcycle units. Norm and Headwinds developed the custom billet mounts and blinker stalks, which Headwinds now offers as an off-the-shelf product
“Stance is everything,” says Norm. “The staggered diameter helps attain the perfect rake, while opting for 16s and 18s rather than larger diameters allows me to run a bit of sidewall.”
In keeping with the polished theme, Norm attacked the alloy Falcon front calipers with the linisher and buff, giving the rear Wilwoods the same treatment. They’re connected to a polished alloy Falcon master cylinder by polished stainless steel hard lines, which in turn are held in place via custom-made polished stainless clamps. Are you seeing the pattern here?
One thing Norm learnt from studying Mr Barclay’s ute is that detail is king. The big-ticket item stuff is nice, but it’s attention to detail that garners those all-important points. For instance, every bolt has been machined to a 30-degree point. Even the cylinder head bolts have received this treatment, as have the billet caps covering the bolts where polished stainless could not be used. Norm even machined up billet covers for the welch plugs in the side of the LT1 Chev under the bonnet. All in all, Impact’s finesse is a delight to behold – a view the judges certainly agree with.
One of Impact’s most striking features is the Buick-style portholes. Norm machined them from solid brass, polished them and had them chrome-plated. They not only add style, they’re also functional, venting unwanted heat from the engine compartment
That LT1 is a 1996 vintage: it’s basically Corvette spec with the addition of a 48mm twin throttle body and ultra trick valve covers (plus a whole heap of detail work) and is backed by TH700R4 four-slot auto. As well as being totally deburred and smoothed, both engine and gearbox are finished in an orange that contrasts with the DuPont Orange Pearl of the bodywork.
And that Deuce Customs body has also been radically reworked – in fact, no part of this rod has been left untouched. The body makeover includes a 3½-inch roof chop, fabricated bonnet sides (in steel), smoothed and recessed firewall, rounded boot corners, flush-mounted rear lights and a recessed number plate. Every panel is as smooth and glossy underneath as it is on top – the floor was even reversed (i.e. flipped upside down) to hide the reinforcing bar work.
“Everybody thinks that you buy a ’glass body and your bodywork’s done,” says Norm. “Far from it. Hundreds of hours were spent on the body, reshaping lines, flatting out undulations in the fibreglass and getting panel gaps – the fit ’n’ finish – all perfect.”
Having Kay and Mike Gregorace as relatives proved to be a great help, as many top show cars have emerged from their Bonnyrigg Smash workshop. Norm did a lot of the panel work himself, but Bonnyrigg was instrumental in the final product, including the incredible paint laid on by staffer Chris Vella, who also painted the driveline and chassis. If you’re hoping we’ll divulge the paint code for that spectacular DuPont Orange Pearl, dream on. While based on a factory colour, Norm and Bonnyrigg have fiddled with the formula as well as laid it over their own secret base colour.
Forget trying to find that bitchin’-looking gauge binnacle in any parts catalogue – it’s a one-off by Greg Yeatman. “He’s a bit of genius with stuff like that,” says Norm. Also note the lack of switches, controls or audio – they’re all inside a flip-down panel
Steve Maiolo from All Trim is responsible for Impact’s sumptuous two-tone leather interior. The Buick porthole theme has been carried over into the interior and boot area via the addition of alloy trim rings. Another trick feature is the drop-down dash panel that houses the CD player along with the power window and other accessory switches. “I used an XY glovebox lid latch,” explains Norm. “It was a lot of frigging around, but it cost $10! You don’t need to spend a million dollars – Troy Trepanier told me that, and I’ve embraced that philosophy throughout the build of this car.”
Norm did as much as possible himself, with the bulk of the fabrication, polishing and machine work all completed at home. That said, he readily acknowledges that a car of this calibre requires the involvement of a heap of good mates and good tradesmen. Guys like Dave Mercia from D&K Auto Electrics, who built Impact’s loom from scratch; Greg Yeatman, who was instrumental in the chassis fabrication and setting up the car; Norm Snr, engine and driveline man; Rod Hutchinson, father-in-law and right-hand-man, who was there from start to finish; Terry O’Neill, fellow hot rodder and a constant help, particularly with dialling in the suspension; Pat Towell, who was always on hand; Charlie Seaburg (Charles Classic Car Carrying), who transports the rod everywhere in his cool F350 truck; plus a host of dedicated others who Norm would like to thank; and, most importantly, his wife, Kirsty, and daughter, Jessica, for all their support.
“I’m very happy with it,” says Norm. “I’ve had a couple of offers, but if I was to build another, I’d do everything exactly the same, so I said no.” Even though the rod was never meant as a daily driver, Norm’s intention is to show it for a couple years then retire it and put some miles on the clock. “First outing will probably be somewhere like Harry’s Diner,” he says. Mmmm, what a tasty outing that will be!
AN OLD MAN IN DRAG
NORM has too many toys for his own good. Sharing the garage with the killer ’34 is this front-engine dragster owned by Norm and his dad, Norm Snr. They’ve been racing together for 20 years, once having a blown Holden red-motor six-powered FED that ran a best of 7.99@165mph. Recently, this 183in, Neil & Parks rolling chassis became available, and they jumped at the chance to upgrade.
The all-new FED runs a methanol-burning 8/71-blown 406 Motown small-block. The two Norms screwed together the little 406-cuber themselves and it has already run 7.05@191mph. Better still, at the recent Sydney Nitro Champs, the duo won their first Gold Christmas Tree by taking out the Supercharged Outlaw class, which Senior describes as “the best bracket in drag racing”.
1934 THREE-WINDOW FORD
Colour: DuPont Orange Pearl
MAKIN’ IT MOVE
Engine: 350 Corvette LT1
Injection: 48mm twin throttle body
Radiator: Shauns Custom Alloy
Exhaust: 2½in polished stainless with custom flanges
Converter: 2800 stall
Diff: Ford 9in with 3.55:1, LSD
STOP & GO
Suspension: Rod-Tech stainless independent (f), triangulated four-bar (r)
Brakes: Falcon (f), Wilwood (r)
Steering: Commodore rack
Rims: Colorado Custom, Whiskey, 16x7 & 18x8
Rubber: Toyo 225/40-16 & 255/45-18
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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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