THE LEADER of Texan rockabilly rebel band Reverend Horton Heat, Jim Heath, loves talking about cars just as much as he likes singing about ’em.
What was your first ride?
An old ’52 Chevy pickup truck. That was back when I was in high school. We’d load all the band gear into the pickup and go do gigs.
Do you still own the Big Blue Car, your ’50 shoebox Ford?
I sold it to a friend who’s done a great restoration. The motor always ran well; the drivetrain and transmission were so good, I don’t think he’s done much to that. But he’s gussied it up. It still looks the same as when I had it but he’s repainted it and made the whole under-section immaculate. That’s what I’d always wanted to do but then the ’32 Ford project came along and that was costing me so much money. And you can’t just let old cars sit in your backyard; they’re not gonna last. I was having issues keeping them both garaged so I had to sell the shoebox.
Tell us about your ’32 Ford.
It’s a classic hot rod, a five-window coupe. I spent 10 years doing it up. The first thing I got was a real steel ’32 coupe body. It was like an eggshell but the frame rails were pretty good. Then a friend called me from a swap-meet and said: “I’ve found another body.” Funny thing was that body was in really good shape except for one section, and that one section happened to be the only good section of my original body. So through some kind of divine intervention I was able to have a full-steel ’32 Ford body.
What engine is in it?
Since it’s a Ford, I wanted the flathead. But my friend Jeff Milburn, who’s an amazing metal fabricator and hot rod guy, his father was showing me pictures of his ’32 Ford that he showed and raced in the 50s. He told me: “If you want to build a hot rod like we did back then, we all took the flathead out and put in a small-block Chevy.” I had to respect that. So Jeff rebuilt a small-block Chevy for me and now it’ll deliver around 500hp.
Slowly I found the drivetrain, driveshaft, steering column, gauges, all that stuff. It took a long time because I didn’t have money to throw at it. Plus, I’m a musician, I’m always on the road. Back then I was on the road around 200 days a year.
Can you put a price on the pleasure you get cruising in an old hot rod?
No, you really can’t. The other thing to remember is that I have kids. I’ve got older kids, younger kids — kids, kids, kids. So when you’re trying to save for college funds and stuff, the idea of going out and buying that really cool $2000 carburettor is a bit of a stretch. But I pulled it off.
Reverend Horton Heat 2016 Australian tour dates:
Sept 23 – The Zoo, Brisbane, Qld
Sept 24 – Corner Hotel, Richmond, Vic
Sept 25 – The Gov, Adelaide, SA
Sept 28 – Caravan Music Club, Melbourne, Vic
Sept 29 – Republic Bar, Hobart, Tas
Sept 30 – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW
Sept 30- Oct 2 Chopped, Newstead, Vic