475-cube big-block 1932 Ford Tudor – flashback

Creating one of NZ's finest street rods turned out to be a real sweet treat for Mike & Sue Rockcliffe

Photographers: Cristian Brunelli

This article on Mike Rockcliffe’s Ford Tudor was originally published in the June 2004 issue of Street Machine magazine

SOME of us relax with a cold beer after a hard day’s work, others just sit on the beach. Kiwis Mike (Rocky) and Sue Rockcliffe prefer going for a drive. With one of the best street rods in the Land of the Long White Cloud, that’s understandable.

Rocky says the rod came about because “I’d always wanted a highboy Deuce Tudor”. And when he decided exactly what he was after, he didn’t have to go far to get it built. Living in Tauranga, Rocky didn’t even have to leave town to visit John Reid’s shop, Rods by Reid, for a world-class finish and a top ride thanks to four-wheel independent suspension.

It was a pretty quick build-up over 16 months and it all went smoothly, but as the car neared completion things got hectic. The deadline was the annual New Zealand Street Rod Nationals, on the South Island for 2003, and it was starting to get tight time-wise.

But it was worth the long hours and late nights getting everything just right when it was crowned Grand National Champion and Top Hod Rod at the Street Rod Nationals. How many cars can do that first time out, especially when they get driven, not trailered, to the show?

Under its flamed skin, this hot-licked Tudor is just as cool. Rather than the latest fuel-injected LS1 engine, Rocky opted for some sheer power in the form of a Colin Willoughby-built 475ci big-block Chev under the three-piece alligator-opening bonnet.

Handling 485hp is the job of a GM T5 five-speed gearbox and a Centreforce clutch. The set-up gets a tough life — this is one street rod that gets used, and used hard!

Going fast and winning trophies isn’t all the hot rodding world is about for Rocky though — it’s the people you meet.

“I can’t think of a better hobby to travel all over the country — or the world for that matter — and meet so many great people,” says Rocky. Like most guys, Rocky has been through the usual ups and downs of life. In the early 80s he had a ’34 Ford coupe that he sold to buy a house. He and Sue raised a family of four girls and managed to start a few projects in between. Didn’t finish any, though.

“After buying a wrecking yard and getting back on our feet I decided to get the best guy in New Zealand to build my car,” states Rocky.

Which is the cue for John Reid, a premier rod builder with a huge number of national titles to his name. John has always kept right up with the state of play in the States and as a result, he’s a trend-setter in New Zealand rodding circles. His ability as a craftsman is wrapped up in the form and function of the finished product. Rocky’s Tudor is a prime example.

The basis for this car was a pair of American Stamping Co repro ’32 Ford chassis rails in Reid’s chassis jig. The frame rails were pinched at the front and the front frame horns removed for a cleaner look. A stainless-optioned Rods By Reid Lo-Boy independent front end was stitched in. Moving to the tail, Reid re-worked a Jaguar independent rear end. Rolling stock is classic hot rod in terms of 15×7 ETs on the front and 18×10 American Racing Torque Thrust IIs on the rear.

A first for New Zealand rods, it’s what’s called a newstalgia car. A combination of ultra-modern and traditional hot rod with a twist, the end result is ultimate hot rod. Rocky’s car has it in spades with trad-style wheels but modern sizing. Modern chassis components and finish are complemented with the traditional black with flames. But while it’s a first in NZ, it’s sure not to be alone for long.

Utilising an Australian-manufactured Deuce Customs chopped Deuce Tudor body, Reid added his own modifications including the custom alloy three-piece hood. However, it’s the little details like the thinned-out radiator surround that features flush-mounted turn signals in the lower half that really make this rod.

The in-yer-face attitude of Rocky’s Tudor owes a lot to its paintwork. Willy Johnson was the man responsible for laying down a Dupont black base and flames in a cool blend of House of Kolor Nite Glo and Kandies.

Flame connoisseurs will note the use of tribal styling in the flames, but you’ll need to be as low as roadkill to see that the flames continue under the bonnet, down the firewall and even under the floor.

Reid made up the retractable rear number plate that operates off the ignition switch and was also responsible for the rear rolled pan, flush-mount gas flap and custom gas tank. He somehow found time to manufacture the 2½in exhaust system as well as the wiring loom, incorporating a Dakota Digital gauge cluster, VDO Dayton six-stacker CD player with four hidden speakers, and a Rods By Reid fuse box.

With the Willy Johnson paintwork and the Ian Goodwin tan-leather trim over some Recaro seats, recovered from an old Rover, Rocky’s Tudor is a real treat to ride in or watch in motion. It has that jaw-dropping appeal all good hot rods should have.

Yup, sure is sweet for Rocky and Sue to get on the road.


Ian Goodwin is the leader in his field, and is responsible for the truly outstanding trim job that invites you into this Tudor. Rover Recaro seats up front, and the same car’s rear seat, have been modified to fit in the tight rear confines of the Deuce Tudor body. Ian’s trim features top-notch styling rates up there with the American vehicles that influenced the car, and complementing that are a number of American street-rod accessories: Dakota Digital gauges, Budnik steering wheel and also the Big Al’s billet aluminium arm rests.


Colour: Dupont Midnight Black with House of Kolor Kandy and Nite Glo flames

Engine: 1973 475ci big-block Chev
Induction: Stealth aluminium intake, Holley 750cfm
Ignition: MSD 6AL
Engine dress-up: Moon valve covers, breathers and air cleaner
Radiator: Custom-built copper four-core
Headers: Custom by Rods By Reid, ceramic-coated
Exhaust: Custom by Rods By Reid, twin 2½in with ceramic-coated Ultra Tuff mufflers

Gearbox: GM T5 five-speed BorgWarner
Clutch: Centreforce
Driveshaft: Custom by Rods By Reid

Steering: GM rack and pinion with a Camaro column
Front suspension: Custom stainless option by Rods By Reid, utilising Rods By Reid lo-rider stub axles
Shocks: Affco shocks with Carrera coils
Diff: Polished and plated Jaguar independent rear, 3.5 ratio LSD – sprint car-style anti-roll bar
Brakes: Wilwood 4-pot and Wilwood 11-inch rotors all round
Wheels: 15×7 ET (f) and 18×10 American Racing Torque Thrust II (r)
Tyres: Federal 195/50 (f) and Goodyear 235/45 (r)

Seats: Recaros from Rover covered in tan leather by Ian Goodwin
Carpet: Tan wool
Steering wheel: Budnik spoke
Shifter: Momo shifter
Instruments: Dakota Digital