SOME hot rods just stop you in your tracks when you first spot them, and that was definitely the case when I laid eyes on Robert Berry’s chopped and channelled ’34 coupe in Alice Springs. It was probably the last kind of car I expected to see at Red CentreNATS, but everything about it was spot-on, from the wedge chop on the roof to the nose-down stance and laid-back grille. The car had attitude, and lots it.
As I got closer I started to notice a few things that would ordinarily irk me on a hot rod that otherwise looked like it came straight out of the 60s – ball-milled rocker covers, modern bucket seats, even a digital dash. But it actually just made me want to know more about the car’s history, and as it was LHD, I figured it had recently been imported from the USA.
It wasn’t long before I found Robert in order to learn some more. “It is an original ’34 chassis and body and has been a hot rod since the early 50s,” he said. “It was updated during the 80s and has a few luxuries like an electric trunk, electric windows and the Dakota dash, but that’s basically it. It feels sacrilegious to change anything.
“It’s a ’69 Corvette motor with twin 650s on an Edelbrock tunnel-ram. I’d love to put a blower on it – just for aesthetics, not for speed – but I don’t want to change the grille. When you look at it, it’s like looking at a perfect woman with perfect breasts and perfect hips and everything is spot-on. It’s a lover, not a fighter!” It looks like it goes fast, and that’s the important thing.
The major contributor to the coupe’s bad-arse look is the wheel and tyre combo, with the Billet Specialties Street Lite wheels measuring up at 15x4 on the front and 15x15 on the rear – but don’t worry, these are just the show wheels. There’s a more sensible set in the shed for regular street duty.
Unlike some cars that are brought in from the US, the coupe was built to an exceptionally high standard, although Robert did have to change a couple of things: “It had a chromed front axle in it, so I had to change that, and the diff was too narrow in it, so I sent it down to Adelaide to have it cut and widened because it was only about 800mm.”
Like all good hot rods, the car is made up of whichever parts suited requirements: “It’s got a Chrysler diff, Chev engine and a Ford body – and I love every bit of it,” Robert said.
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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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