If you did stop to talk, you’d discover that this particular highway town has more than one bitching hot rod to its name. In fact, it has a whole squadron of ‘em, and most belong to a single family: the Townsends. The ’33 belongs to David – called Chub by just about everyone, including Mum!
First published in Street Machine's Hot Rod Annual, 2005
Chub’s brother, Pete, is a one-man hot rod factory, and when you add his other brothers, John and Boydie, to the list, plus their multi-talented father, Larry, you could be excused for thinking that Glen Innes is the Castlemaine of the north! There is even a third generation of Townsends - Greg and Brad - who are right into the whole scene.
Former panelbeater Pete is the ringleader. “My first rod was a ’38 Ford which I bought when I was 12,” he says. “I got it for nothing and kept it for 20 years.” Why rods? “Reading rod magazines. There were a few rods in Moree, but only one in Glen Innes. I used to read Trucking Life, too, so it could have gone either way!”
While Glen Innes might not have been a hive of rodding activity in Pete’s youth, it had a fairly healthy hot car scene, including police-sanctioned street drags! “We used to block off Wellingrove Road,” says Pete. “It was single passes only over the 1/8th mile, with a Christmas tree and everything. It was hell fun, but there were cars out there running high sixes, so they shut it down three or four years ago.”
Despite that setback, the town has a strong street machine show each November and a hot rod run each April, the latter organised by the Borderline Rod and Custom Club.
Pete did his apprenticeship with a bunch of tough street machines, before getting seriously into rods, building 14 in just 12 years with wife Laura. Pete is heavily in love with the nostalgia look, W-head Chevs and Chrysler Hemis. “I’ve got an ambition to own an Ardun flathead, too, but they are pretty expensive and Laura has put her foot down on that for now,” he laughs. Even a repro Ardun would be a big investment, but now that their hot rod building business – The Hot Rod Shop – is a full-time job, maybe he can claim it as a work expense. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Peter’s enthusiasm has rubbed off on the rest of the family, even on Larry. A farrier by trade, Larry was always far more interested in horses than cars, but has taken to this hot rod game with a will and now has a hand in most of the rods that the boys turn out. “I bought an industrial sewing machine a little while back and the local trimmer told me it would never be good for car seats, but look at this!” he says, pointing out the strong stitching he performed on Boydie’s 1948 Plymouth. Next he is going to learn to do pleats and continue to come to grips with his “mongrel lathe” so he can turn up all kinds of goodies for the cars.
Larry probably never dreamed he’d be learning skills like that at his age, but surprises are what keeps life interesting, right? Anyway, enough philosophy; let’s meet the crew.
John’s real goal is the project to follow: a stock height ’35 tudor, brush-painted chocolate brown and running his 331 Hemi. “It will be a good, everyday hot rod that we can take the family away in.”
Pete’s current favourite is his ’32 roadster, built on a factory chassis with a Swedish repro steel body. Apart from a dropped axle, boxed chassis and ’48 juice brakes, the ’32 runs basically stock, right down to the driveline, which consists of a 239 Ford sidevalve and three-speed ’box. The flathead runs factory spec internals, with a set of rare Edmunds heads and intake with twin Strombergs. A ’39 Chev dash and ’33 Ford wires complete the picture.
“A bunch of the LA Roadsters were out for the Street Rod Nationals and they said, “We love it – whatever you do, don’t paint the wheels!”
Also in the shed is a ’32 coupe, complete with factory tri-carb 348 Chev. Pete has been giving that car a hiding at the nostalgia drags of late, running low 13s and ripping off spectacular burnouts.
Other cars in Pete and Laura’s recent past have included a yellow ’32 tudor with tri-power 348, a ’32 roadster – again a 348, but topped by a blower and six 97s. And just for something different, Peter slapped together an eight-carbed, Hemi-powered Model A tudor in just four months. Sigh…
Chub’s ’33 roadster oozes cool and won Rod Hadfield’s pick at Wintersun 2004. Don’t be fooled by the Solver Duraguard Heritage Red paint (applied by a brush); there’s a brand new Deuce Customs ’glass body under there!
“I wanted to race it and get it twisted up, so I thought it would be better to brush paint it,” smiles Chub, who just happens to be a house painter by trade. With its slammed stance, Duvall screen and a racy Carson top, the ’33 looks like it’s doing a million miles an hour standing still. It just about could, too, thanks to an LS7-spec 454, topped by a super-cool induction set-up.
“The manifold is an Edelbrock X4 ram log, from Diablo Motors,” says Chub. “Edelbrock have told us that they don’t have one in their museum.”
Topped by six 48s , the ’33 should give the fast boys a run for their money on the strip.
Boydie’s ’48 Plymouth impressed the hell out of us. Built for around $7000, it weighs in at a sturdy 1780kg but is super-comfortable and can sit on 60mph all day. “It was someone else’s parts car when I got it,” says Boydie. “The floor was gone and rats had eaten the seats out.”
The driveline – including the 3.9-litre flathead six – was bought for $500. Then the family got busy. Boydie replaced the Flintstones floor, Pete did the paint and Larry trimmed it. The fact that these Plymouths came with independent front ends and hydraulic brakes means that all Boydie needed to do was to lower it and fit some cool wheels and viola – instant hot rod.
“The tyres were the most expensive part on the car!” he laughs. “It’s cool. You can sleep in it on rod runs and it’s pretty economical, too; it got me to Valla and back for $60.” As Pete says, “There is no excuse for not owning an old jigger like this; they’re lying around everywhere!”
The slickest car in the Townsend pack is John’s black ’32 roadster. “It had a 375hp 396 out of a ’66 Chevelle in it, but we need a car we can take the family away in, so I’ve just fitted a 283 so I can sell it,” says John. “The big-block will go in an HK Premier I just picked up. Its a genuine driven-to-church on Sundays car. I’ll keep the column change, dump it and put on some white wall rags. That will be my nostalgia racer.”
John’s next rod project – a super-slammed 1938 pickup with 1948 Jailbar cab – is nearly running and ready for rego. “I won’t build a shiny car again; they’re a pain in the arse,” he says.
Channelled three inches (so that the Jailbar cab would match up to the body) and fitted with airbags, the pickup is going to have a hell-mean stance. Under the bonnet is a tri-carbed 260 Windsor V8, backed by a top loader gearbox and nine-inch diff, four-bar rear and a LH Torana front end. The raw materials for the pickup were pretty cheap: $100 for the cab, $500 for the sedan front… and $2000 for the rolling stock.
How sweet is this! Larry had a ’36 Plymouth back in the days when such cars were just transport. His sweet coupe was found locally and needed a complete restoration job. It now runs a Holden front end, 283 Chev and Turbo 350.
Larry’s new project is another Plymouth, this time a ’36 sedan converted into a pickup. The car was bought as a rolled wreck for $150. “It will be my work truck,” say Larry. “It will run a 302 Cleveland, top loader and Borg Warner driveline, with an HT Holden front end. We should get it on the road for $7000 all up.”
So are Plymouths the hot tip for the Next Big Thing in street rodding? Not necessarily, according to Peter. “We are seeing more of them every time we go on a run and they look like they’re chopped from the factory, which is cool,” he says. “The downside is that cars like Dad’s are full of wood – much more so than a Ford – so it takes an awful lot to steel them out. So while they might be cheaper to start with, there probably isn’t a big advantage in the long run. Unless, of course, you’re a sick puppy like Dad.” Thank the lord for sick puppies then!
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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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