Bruce Swallow’s hot rod and street machine 1/25 scale models

Scratch a street machiner and it's a pretty good bet you'll find a modelmaker underneath

Photographers: Cristian Brunelli

This article on Bruce’s models was originally published in the January 2005 issue of Street Machine’s Hot Rod magazine

For many of us, our 1/25 scale activities were restricted to one or two botched attempts to fill in time before we were old enough to get our hands on a real car. But for some, modelling becomes an all-consuming passion. You can safely bet Kiwi modelmaker Bruce Swallow is in the latter group!

Bruce just loves gassers, with Big John Mazmanian being one of his faves. Big John ran an Austin A40, a Corvette and this Willys, as well as a ‘Cuda funny car

“It’s a hell-sick addiction,” Bruce explains. “I don’t drink or smoke, so this is what I do.”

This ’29 coupe was chopped by Bruce, runs a flathead equipped with Ardun heads and a SCoT blower, an exhaust built from plastic tubing and a ’40 Ford dash. Steve Levine added the ultra-fine pinstripes

The die was cast when his grandma gave Bruce his first issue of American Rodder mag back in 1998. “From that time on, I was hooked. I’ve got around 3000 mags and I’ve built about 225 models, all up.”

Bruce has a thing for Kombis. These were made from a Hasegawa replica kit. The white one runs hydraulics and was built to win a competition to see who could build the lowest model. “You can just fit a metal ruler under the nose. The other bloke conceded defeat!”

And what awesome models they are, built from kits by AMT, Revell, Monogram and Lindberg. Some are faithful replicas of real cars, while others are fruits of Bruce’s fertile imagination.

This wild Fiat Bambino is Bruce’s version of an infamous Kiwi burnout car. It sat on a chopped up Torana chassis with 308 power. And it was all road legal!

The detailing is superb. Fuse wire is used for spark-plug leads and engines are plumbed with solder covered in real braided line. Real automotive paint is used to get the right candy or chameleon effect.

Marcellus Borsch’s famous Winged Express. Bruce Says: “This one was given to me from a guy’s collection. It was half finished and painted purple. I stripped it down by soaking it in caustic soda. That stuff strips away paint but not plastic. Does real bad stuff to your skin though, so wear plastic gloves!”

Just about any aftermarket part is available in scale form from specialist manufacturers. Want a set of Edelbrock heads for your flattie? No problem – and same goes for dizzys, hydraulic kits and audio gear. Wheels can be a little more difficult to find, so Bruce sometimes goes to the extent of buying a die-cast Dub City model just to nick the rims.

The famous Mooneyes front-engined dragster, pictured here with its original 300ci Chev V8, with a crank-mounted Moon/Potvin blower and side-mount Hilborn injection. The motor was later converted to the more usual top-mounted GMC blower and had a lot of success, claiming the A/Dragster trophy at the ’61 US Nationals and ’62 Winternationals

Hell, you can even buy custom grilles and number plates: these are made by photo-etching aluminium and they sure look way, way cooler than the cheap plastic pieces they replace.

A pair of very cool Ardun-powered Ford F1 pick-ups, based on Revell kits. The metalflake yellow example uses a pre-chopped resin body by Jimmy Flintstone (see, with ’53 Studebaker Starliner hubcaps, a hard tonneau and chrome bumper. The primed example was chopped by Bruce and looks sweet with red steelies, chequered firewall and a timber tray

The interiors cop the same level of fanatical treatment. Bruce will cut up a perfectly good ’40 Ford model for the dash often fitted to early hot rods. You can even buy Mexican blankets for your mini rat rod!

Original 60s kits are highly prized, like this early model of George Barris’ Ala-Kart

Often, original kits are just a starting point and the modifications usually mimic the real mods performed on cars by street machiners around the world. Take lowering for example. While you can build what Bruce calls a slammer – a car lowered without any chassis realism – the Holy Grail is to get a car low using real automotive techniques.

This beast from Bruce’s imagination was inspired by the Purple People Eater rod, built by Mark Idzardi of the notorious Shifters club of Orange County, CA. Details include the massive chop, the De Soto Firepower donk with a blower and six Stromberg 97s, a Moontank in the footwell, keys in the ignition and tiny pinstriping by Kiwi striper Steve Levine

“We’ll do anything you can do to a real car. You can flip the spindles, re-drill them, fit lowering blocks or re-heat leaf springs to get them down,” says Bruce.

Bruce doesn’t just do hot rods but whatever he attempts, it’s likely to be low, such as his version of Boyd Coddington’s Hauler pick-up

A show-quality model can take more than 100 hours to build so it’s no surprise that Bruce doesn’t watch much TV! With a real live ’52 Chev to play with, the flow of models is slowing somewhat – because of the time involved as well as the cost.

Some of the goodies from Bruce’s toolkit. “If they make it for real cars, chances are they make it for models too,” he reckons. Heads, intake manifolds, Moon discs, Hemi valve covers, Hilborn injection, blowers and more


Modelmakers can get so deep into their hobby that they never get the time to build the real thing. Not Bruce!

The flat-black machine runs a ’51 grille, a set of Moon Starburst screw-on caps (the only set in NZ, worth $500), whitewalls and GOMOON plates. The rear suspension has had seven of its 11 leaves removed with a set of three-inch lowering blocks. The front springs have been cut, with a set of drop spindles coming in the future. The Chev currently runs Holden 202 power but Bruce has a Chev small-block waiting in the wings, complete with six 94 Stromberg carbs.