Seeing a speedway modified as a kid planted a seed in Tony Jenkins' mind that took 50 years to germinate
This article on Tony's Ford Tudor was originally published in Street Machine Hot Rod no.17 magazine
YOU meet them all the time: People who don’t know really know where they fit into this world. People who follow a fad for five minutes before changing their mind. People who don’t understand their tribal heritage.
May we suggest that Tony Jenkins is not those people. Tony knows exactly who his mob are; he knows intimately what he believes in and; he knows precisely his place in the universe. And that place is behind the wheel of a 1932 Ford. And it has been since he can remember.
Back in 1966, when Tony was just a tacker, he recalls writing to the organisers of the first South Australian Hot Rod Show and asking if his model hot rods could be put on display. They were, too. Later that same year, he badgered his dad to take him to Rowley Park Speedway to see the Yanks take on the Aussies. And it was a big moment for young Tony.
“I have never forgotten the moment that changed my life. The track announcer said: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together and give a big welcome to, from San Jose California, USA, Marshall Sargent!’ And right on cue, out of the pit gate emerged a six-carbed, SBC-powered ’32 Ford tudor Modified that roared like nothing I had ever heard before. He flew out, flicked it to the right and did about three laps on full power that brought the house down. I was a hot rodder from that instant.”
Possibly the coolest finned rocker covers to ever grace any engine ever, and they were a factory option. They were never quite this shiny though
After finishing school, moving to live in New Zealand as a 20-year-old, “The same year as American Graffiti was released – I think we saw it about eight times,” Tony recalls. He drank in the hot rod scene over there and met plenty of Aussie rodders on holiday, including John Lynch, Peter Clara and Peter McColl from Southern Hot Rod Club. “This was to be the actual turning point in my life and my introduction to hot rodding,” says Tony.
Eventually he found himself in the 90s living in the US. Of course, he still couldn’t separate himself from rodding, and he eventually took on the job of selling a ’32 Ford Roadster that Ballarat buddy Robert Forbes had advertised for sale in the ’States.
“He’d had quite a bit of enquiry from the US, so he sent it over for me to sell. A New Mexico rodder named Ray Ayres flew to LA to check out the roadster, and had a ’57 Chev convertible that he wanted to trade for the ’32. Robert (who owned the ’32, remember) was interested so he flew me to New Mexico to check out the ’57. As Ray was showing me around, he opened a door that revealed a ’32 Tudor body (the one in these pics) and chassis on a pallet. By now I was trying hard to hide my interest.”
To be honest, Tony didn’t think the ’57 convertible was a great car, but as he was leaving, the Chevy’s owner made Tony an offer that tore him in two: “He said to me ‘Tony, if you can put this deal together, I will deliver that ’32 Tudor body — the one that you’ve been trying to make me think you don’t want — to LA, with a second body, for $2500 when I come to collect the roadster’. What a dilemma! Do I do the right thing by Robert or do I score myself a cheap ’32 Tudor? In the end, I got Ray in New Mexico to supply a new windshield, and Robert told me to ‘Just do the deal’”.
Job done. And just to sweeten the deal, Ray had bolted the front and rear ends of a 1940 Ford under the Deuce to make it a roller. Bonus. And you can see for yourself what happened next. While most people were lusting after coupes and roadsters, that childhood speedway experience etched an image of a chopped sedan with rake and attitude into young Tony’s mind. As it turned out, it took 50 years to materialise, but it sure was worth the wait.
Another big nod to speedway are the nerf bars, originally used to avoid rollovers if you ran over a competitor's tyre - and they're cool
The body needed a lot of work but fortunately the style-lines and gutters were good. That didn’t stop Tony slicing four full inches out of the lid, however, and adding a set of mini-tubs to cram the 16x 8 Indy style pin-mount rims and grooved Firestone dirt trackers somewhere approximating the right spot.
Air-con doesn't really fit in with the theme of the car, but it does get hot in Adelaide. Tony did a great job of tucking away the controls
The chassis is a pretty traditional arrangement with the necessary bracing to give it the torsional strength it needs, but keeping it off the deck is a collection of bits and pieces that Tony knows and trusts through experience. Both springs, for instance, remain transverse leaves, the front spring from a ’32 Ford with reversed eyes and the rear a large-arch Model T unit to allow clearance for the diff. The front axle rocks a four-inch drop and the rear-end uses ’36 Ford radius arms to locate it. A Limeworks steering column bolts to an HQ Holden steering box to aim this tudor.
Not really surprising that Tony elected to run Buick drum brakes, the perfect match to the dual-quad 425 Nailhead engine
Sticking with the old-school thing, Tony stayed with drums at the front, but went with finned 12-inch Buick items. Out back, the drums are the half-an-inch-wider drums from a ’71 XY Falcon GT. There’s a seven-inch power-booster to give his brake leg a rest and Tony’s also gone for an XB Falcon master cylinder, reverse-mounted under the floor so it’s not cluttering up the engine bay.
So-Cal Speed Shop Indy style rims, knock offs, lock wires and ribbed Firestones all tie in with the overall speedway theme of the build
Now, while many a hot-rodder would reach for a small-block Chev at this point, Tony did some lateral thinking and came up with an alternative; a Buick Nailhead. Rescued from the rotting guts of a 1965 Riviera luxo-barge, the 425-cube lump still runs the twin Carter AFBs and intake manifold from a genuine Riviera GS. The rest of the engine package is remarkably stock – although completely refurbished – and only a Walker radiator, Holley fuel pump and a set of fabricated headers lack a Nailhead part number.
A Turbo 400 tranny is the next link in the chain, but the third member is a true piece of hot-rodding iconography. Yep, it’s a Halibrand Champ quickchange and while the smaller Halibrand will more easily fit the standard Ford axle tubes like the ones from a ’46 Ford here, the bigger Champ unit won’t. So Tony got hold of some custom-made adaptors and bingo; there she is. The axles themselves are 31-spline, nine-inch items and the diff’s internals are all genuine Halibrand.
The dirt trackers on the rear aren't all that wide, but they're very tall. Combined with the ribbed fronts, it's the perfect combo for that speedway inspired hot rod that Tony longed for
Inside, you’ll find a fabricated rear section teamed with ’65 Mustang front seats, Stewart Warner dials and everything else from the Mercedes-Benz carpet to the felt headliner is in lovely burgundy. Which brings us to the colour of this car. Tony reckons the colour is to blue what burgundy is to red or khaki is to green. But in the spirit of keeping it real, Tony managed to find the particular hue on the Ford Model A paint chart – Duchess Blue – because, after all, painting a car like this in candy-apple orange is just not what Tony and people like Tony do.