Driven to distraction – Blowin’ Gaskets

If getting side-tracked on a different project feels so right, how can it be wrong?


This article was originally published in the November 2018 issue of Street Machine

When it comes to keeping focus solely on my project car, I am like a cop driving past the doughnut store, distracted by the prospect of instant gratification instead of concentrating on the task at hand. And I’m not the only one; distraction and temptation seem to plague any enthusiast with multiple projects on the go, fanciful daydreams taking you away from what should be your primary focus: the in-pieces build that’s begging for your attention.

For me it’s the ’34 Ford three-window coupe project sitting in the shed that pleads for my time and money. It’s an intensive build, as most hot rods are, and I’ve chosen to shoulder the lion’s share of the work as an opportunity to learn and know how to work on it once she’s a driving rod. The project is slow going, and it’s as much a mental game as it is a physical one.

What’s next? Well, everything! I’m currently boxing the chassis, then setting up the suspension and driveline for the all-important pinion angle

What I have is a fantastic Henry Ford steel body, which I’ll be chopping and channelling over the original ’34 chassis running a ’34 straight-axle/split-’bones front end and a Winters quick-change third member supported by a four-bar and an A-model spring. Up front I’m slotting in a 1954 331ci Hemi, which I’ll build myself thanks to Mike Rohal at JH Southcott. Backing that will be a TH400 to help with quarter-mile shenanigans. She’ll run cycle guards over the skinny 16-inch bigs ’n’ littles; think a Rolling Bones lake-style coupe without the rust.

I haven’t laden myself with a deadline, but I make sure I’m always moving forward; whether it be a TIG-welding course, researching the how-tos, or actual work on the project. Day in, day out, the coupe is on my mind as I try to line up both the time and motivation.

And then there’s the guilt. Are we meant to feel guilty for not working on it, or guilty when we are? I just remain permanently guilty to cover all my bases.

The coupe as a complete road-going vehicle. Without going into specifics, this configuration wasn’t desirable for me or the authorities, so now it’s getting the works. I feel slightly guilty about cutting it, but I’m not an un-chopped, full-fendered hot rod kinda gal, and after all, I’m not building this rod for anyone but myself

Chatting to fellow enthusiasts has my mind running off on new tangents, mentally modifying cars that I should leave well alone. Take today for instance: As I researched Commodore parts for a story I soon found myself looking at the Walky Wheels site, dreaming of their 19-inch VL Calais offerings for my own Calais. And before that, I was checking out Lowe Fabrications bling for my VL’s engine bay – something I’ve been eyeing off since they first put the range out. Now this is all well and good, but there’s a story I should be writing and instead I’m finding goodies for a project that isn’t happening.

Of course, when I’m all set for a day of one-on-one time with the coupe, my daily driver – a 300,000km, V6-powered VS Stato – begins to run like a tractor, therefore sliding itself into top priority. Once the issue is finally located and parts are purchased and replaced, I find that my window of opportunity has again disappeared. Yet the time spent in the Stato’s engine bay has me pondering the modifications that could be carried out under the bonnet. Maybe an upgrade to the factory supercharged set-up, but with a bit more punch. Or I could lob in a V8, with forced induction to be introduced down the track. Distracted much?

I’ve owned my low-kilometre 304ci VL Calais since I was 21, having owned a naturally aspirated six-cylinder version in the same two-tone before that. So yeah, she’s under my skin and in my blood

Being that the coupe is in a shed shared with a business and other projects, sometimes there’s just too much shiny paint in close proximity to allow for the work to be done. And researching the ins and outs of chassis building can be downright mind-bending when you’re not quite at that stage of your build. The result is a serious case of big-picture-itis, where the ridiculous number of jobs ahead becomes overwhelming. Sure, it’s important to keep an eye on the overall vision, but to mentally download everything that needs to be done is just too much. So, for my brain’s sake, I keep to the task at hand.

Then there’s the cash. Surely I should be paying that bill or heading off to Europe like the Joneses, but nah. They can’t take their fancy holiday down the quarter-mile, can they? That’s what floats my boat.

Earlier in the year I said goodbye to my ’55 Buick Super to make room, time and cash for my rod build. It wasn’t easy to let her go and she still tugs at my heartstrings

In an effort to keep my focus I love to visualise the end product: how it looks, how it feels and how it handles. I imagine cruising the wide-open Aussie roads, taking my coupe to the corners of the nation to hang out at a show or give it a blat on faraway strips. My quad-carbied 1954 Hemi won’t be pulling quick times or fast mph, but I plan on having a blast when it’s done.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, Googling ‘how to fit 19s to a VL without tubbing’; yeah, that’s it.