Milwaukee Young SMOTY 2023: Barra-swapped ’48 Ford Anglia hits the track

You chose Grant's epic van as the second-ever YSMOTY champ!

Photographers: Joseph Hui
Videographers: Joseph Hui

Update: Grant has taken his YSMOTY-winning Anglia out to Sydney Dragway’s Areoflow Race 4 Real Wednesday night street meet for the first time last night!

“I drove it there and back and made 10 passes,” says Grant. “It went dead straight and did a best of 14.645-seconds at 92mph. I want to make a few changes, then go back and run an 13 in it, normally aspirated.”

“I’ve been out before in my VL which ran a 17 [laughs]. It just runs a stock RB30, but that will be going turbo soon.

“I’ve grown up going out to the drags with dad. His current car is a ProCharged 446ci SBC-powered VL that runs eights. We’re build a full chassis LJ that is going to run a ProCharged 521ci Keith Black Olds. Dad likes blowers [laughs].

The story to here, 13 June 2023

Coming into our second running of Milwaukee Young Street Machine of the Year, we had no idea who’d come out on top.

The sheer variety of builds, styles and backgrounds really made it anybody’s game, and every finalist put in the hard yards going for the $2500 prize, an SM feature, and major bragging rights.

2023’s Young Street Machine of the Year is once again something a bit unconventional, in the form of Grant Azzopardi’s epic Barra-powered ’48 Ford Anglia van.

The 18-year-old apprentice electrician tells us the unusual body style grew on him as he embarked on a massive fabrication and customisation journey, leaving virtually no aspect of the car unmassaged.

Click here to read Grant’s finalist yarn, and scroll on for our chat.

We want to extend a massive well-done to every YSMOTY entrant and finalist. Voting gaps between some places came down to single digits, and we encourage you all to have another go next year if you’re still 24 or under!

Congratulations on the win, Grant!

I was rapt when I got the call, me and a few other apprentices were screaming and running around. I got on the phone straight away to Dad; I was in complete shock. Never did I expect to win! I’m blessed that I got the opportunity.

Does your family have a background in cars?

From my father to his uncles and cousins, pretty much everyone has cars. Growing up, Dad was always going to meets and races, so I was pretty much born into it! Ever since then I’ve been in the garage getting dirty and helping him.

How did you end up with this Anglia?

Dad always liked them and they’ve really grown on me. Once I started doing fabrication on it, it came out better than I ever expected it to be!

Obviously it didn’t start off looking like this.

It was just a shell that came from a friend of Dad’s in Horsley Park, and now it’s a full street car! We got cutting right away and took it right back to just the shell and original rails. We dropped in a new 3×2 box tube chassis and a full chromoly ’cage, and then it got full swaged sheet metal flooring, big tubs, a nine-inch diff, and all the other little goodies.

The sills and roof have all been extended and welded in; the door have been re-pressed and remade. All the guards and gaps have been moved and cut and changed. There’s nothing that’s original on the car; everything’s been customised and fabricated!

Tell us a bit about the build process.

I really got into this car around COVID time. I spent pretty much three or four weeks with Dad in the shed, all day and all night. Elbow grease, blood, sweat, tears. I got stuck into the fabrication learning from my old man: doing the sheet metal, the tubs, learning how to weld, how to cut and make things work when they don’t work the first time, working out all the geometry for the suspension, the arms and lengths, and just coming up with ideas and creations.

It was a real big learning experience for me and my family and friends. Having everyone around just really helped! The first time I drove it was actually on my birthday. We’d just finished it and got rego on the Wednesday, and the Street Rod Nationals were on the Thursday, so I didn’t get much time and we just drove it around the block.

What’s the rest of the driveline?

It’s got a Barra and a Turbo 400. The aspirated Barra was for legal reasons so I can still drive the car. If I had it my way, it’d be a turbo, but for now it still gets down! It’ll stay like this until I get off my P’s; we built it to be adaptable later in the future.

Everyone loves the Barra – they’re a mighty engine – but if I don’t want a turbo we’ve made an adaptor plate so we can stick any kind of small block under it, and a big blower or wherever the route may be. It’s pretty much bulletproof from the engine back, so I can’t wait to give it a good race and see how fast we can go.

Does it get out and about much?

I’ve been getting out pretty much every weekend, as much as possible, getting down to every show and showing off the car. It’s really paying off, it’s rewarding to win some trophies and cruise with some mates!

Why do you reckon people have picked the Anglia to win?

I think just from getting out there. I had QR codes in front of it at car shows, and friends and family sharing it. I was posting the car and asking everyone to vote, and just really showing off the car.

Anybody you’d like to thank?

A big thankyou to everyone that’s helped out, my father especially for helping me build it and supporting me. He’s been there in the shed on the late nights and early mornings. My mother and sisters for providing for us and always making sure we had plenty of food while building these cars!

My mates; Street Elite Detailing for getting the car ready; Milwaukee for the prize money and goodies; and Street Machine for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this.

What advice would you give to other young people keen to do their own projects?

To build a car to this standard you’ve gotta give up a lot. It’s a lot of time in the shed: late nights, getting really dirty, not going out with your friends, just focusing on your car.

For me it was grinding 40, 50, 60 hours a week and side hustling, doing my Street Elite business just to make that bit of extra cash flow. Doing things yourself helps a lot in the long run,especially when there’s double figures involved. You save yourself a lot of money and time.

If the Anglia’s finished for now, have you got anything else on the go?

We picked up a VL in December. I’ve always had a soft spot for the VL and I’ve fully restored it back to its former glory, but since this one’s been finished the VL has been neglected! Eventually big plans will come for that, but this has had my heart and attention.