With their clean lines and smooth styling, the ’49-’51 ‘shoebox’ Fords are perfect candidates for modification, so it is a shame we don’t see more of them built into street machines. Normally they’re fitted out with period custom touches, but Brett Hewerdine’s ’49 coupe shows the awesome presence they’re capable of when given the street machine treatment.
First published in the May 2023 issue of Street Machine
Resplendent in a custom Hell Bent PPG candy red and sitting low over 20-inch and 22-inch Schott Accelerator billets, this Ford receives a hint of menace from the polished Short & Ugly injector hat poking through the rotund bonnet, hiding a rowdy blown big-block Chev. But what else did you expect from the man who broke the internet with his 1FATHT pro street Monaro (SM, Apr ’19)?
“All my cars sit on the ground and have a stout motor in them; it’s just the style I like,” says Brett. While some people build the wild cars that have occupied their headspace for years, 1BAD49 came about after Brett stumbled onto the Ford mid-build, purely by chance!
“I saw it at ProFlo, where it was sitting in bare metal,” Brett explains. “Daniel from Kingpins Kustom Paint had airbagged it, it had smaller tubs, and it had an aspirated Hemi in it, so it was going to be a cool car. It caught my eye, so I spoke to Daniel and we made a deal on the car where he kept the Hemi and the wheels.”
Being the man of vision he is, Brett knew how he wanted the shoebox Ford to sit. And this meant plenty more tin surgery. “We changed the front end, did the bigger tubs, mounted the drivetrain, moved the firewall back another four inches – there was a fair bit of work, and it ended up taking seven years to finish.”
Properly engineering a solid base to make a 40s car handle 21st-century power but also cruise nicely takes a bunch of work. The foundation of the package is a full chassis that’s been smoothed off for an Elite-level finish, with a custom tube four-link and track bar under the rear and a custom independent front end.
Rack-and-pinion steering and Heim-jointed tube control arms radically improve dynamics over the pressed tin stockers and sloppy factory steering box, but don’t go hunting the pics for airbags – the low stance comes from a far higher-tech solution.
Hydroshox by Mittler Brothers in America are a new style of pro touring suspension combining the sharp handling of coil-over struts with the ability to slam the car to the ground when it’s parked. Sitting at the top of each strut are hydraulic actuators that raise and lower the vehicle without affecting the spring rate.
“I had a hot rod with 1000hp and airbag suspension, and it always felt like it was twisting up, but with the Hydroshox, you can have it any height you want and it’s still stable,” Brett explains. “With big-horsepower cars, it’s definitely the way to go.
To mount them, the Hydroshox bolt in like a normal coil-over, so they’re easy to install. You just have an oil line and a return going to it, and I have a compressor and oil tank for the fluid in the back.”
Such high-tech suspension and beefy undercarriage engineering are needed when you’ve got 598 cubic inches of big-block Chevy riding up front. Starting with a Dart Big M block, a Callies Magnum crank and Callies Ultra rods have been paired with forged blower-spec slugs and a custom solid-roller cam made to ProFlo’s specs. The 385cc AFR alloy heads breathe deep with Ferrea valves and Manley springs, while 7/16-inch Crow pushrods connect the valvetrain up.
The jewel in the crown is the Littlefield 14/71 pump, sitting on a Blower Shop intake manifold and breathing through a Short & Ugly EFI hat. The E85 corn sauce is mixed by a Haltech Elite 2500 ECU to keep it running sweet on the street, while a high-volume Melling oil pump and High Energy sump keep everything spinning smoothly.
“The Hemi idea was cool, but being my car, the ’49 was always going to get a big-block Chev,” Brett says. “This set-up is similar to some of the other combos Paul has done at ProFlo for these types of street cars. Paul knows these combos back-to-front, and knows they work on the street and that they’re reliable.”
As the Ford isn’t a race car, Brett isn’t aiming to squeeze every last bit of horsepower out of the combo. But that isn’t to say this thing doesn’t have grunt for days. “It makes 880rwhp at the moment, but touching the throttle just torches the tyres,” Brett laughs. “Even just idling, it can spin the wheels. The Monaro is aggressive to drive, and it needs a tune, but the ’49 is so much sharper on the throttle.”
Such a finely engineered package is rounded off by supremely well-finished aesthetics. The two-door shell was made straight by AA Panelcraft; it required a little bit of TLC but came out mirror-sharp, and was then lovingly coated in the custom PPG candy red called ‘Hell Bent’.
“At one point it was going to be orange,” Brett says. “We got it rendered by Aidan’s Design & Illustration, and we did the red after I saw a car from Europe that had won a heap of awards, and it was Candy Apple Red.”
There are likely people out there who don’t believe that Brett actually drives a wild, blown car that placed in the Elite Hall at Summernats 35. But he always intended for it to be driven.
“The Monaro is really noisy and doesn’t handle the best, but the ’49 is so nice to drive,” he says. “I always wanted it to have more luxury, so the Ford has EFI so it drives smoothly; it has air conditioning, handles and rides well, and the interior is a much quieter, nicer place to be compared to the Monaro, which is basically a race car. That said, the ’49 idles a bit harder and probably makes a bit more power than the Monaro at the moment, but the Monaro does need a tune.”
It sounds like Brett has the perfect garage, with an angry, hand-built classic at the ready for any kind of cruise he’d want to go on.
|Custom PPG Candy ‘Hell Bent’
|598ci big-block Chev
|Dart Big M
|The Blower Shop
|Littlefield 14/71, Short & Ugly EFI hat
|Haltech Elite 2500
|AFR 385cc alloy
|Custom ProFlo solid-roller
|High-volume Melling pump, High Energy sump
|Holley twin pumps
|Custom alloy radiator, twin thermo fans
|Custom 3in system
|LS coils, MSD crank trigger
|Fabricated 9in, Truetrac, 35-spline axles, 3.25:1 gears
|SUSPENSION & BRAKES
|Mittler Brothers Hydroshox coil-over struts, custom ProFlo IFS, rack & pinion steering, tube control arms
|Mittler Brothers Hydroshox coil-over struts, custom ProFlo four-link, custom track bar
|Wilwood 14in discs with six-piston calipers (f & r)
|WHEELS & TYRES
|Schott Accelerator; 20×7 (f), 22×12 (r)
|225/35R20 (f) 335/25R22 (r)
Paul Sant and his team at ProFlo Performance for the fabrication, driveline build and car assembly; Mark Sant at Ontrak Auto Electrical for the electrics; Andrew and Marty at AA Panelcraft; Darren at Stitched Up Interiors; Danny Younis at Protilt Towing; Alby at Alby’s Chrome & Polishing Services; Owen at OAC Engineering for all the machining.