Phoenix from the ashes: ’46 Chev rebuilt and ready to rock Rockynats

When nineteen-year-old Kadin Berry's '46 Chevy hot rod caught fire en route to Rockynats 3, the local car community united to help him rebuild it

Photographers: Fee Powell Photography

Kadin Berry and his ’46 Chevy hot rod went viral among the Queensland car community last year for all the wrong reasons, with the uber-cool rat rod catching fire en route to Rockynats 3.

But while that sucked big time, everyone rallied behind Kadin to help the young fella rebuild the ’46 – another reminder of just how awesome our scene can be.

First published in the March 2024 issue of Street Machine

Tell us a bit about how you got the Chevy, Kadin.

I found it on Marketplace as pretty much a rolling shell. It was a ute body, which is what I was after, with just the chassis and basic body. It also had a Jag front end and HiLux diff, but besides that, it was pretty bare. My dad has always been into American rods and muscle cars, so he was a big influence on that.

I was chasing a patina project like this one, and it was perfect as a starting point.

What was involved in the first build of it?

We got it in December 2022, so that only gave us around five months to get it ready in time for Rockynats 3. My brother has a 202 VK and a bunch of spares, so we went with a 202 and Trimatic.

It took a lot of work to piece the whole thing together, but my dad owns a workshop, so that was a massive help to get it done. I’d barely driven it before we hit the road to Rockynats.

And that’s when it all went south?

At about the halfway point was when the fire happened. We’d just filled up the fuel tank and the 20-litre jerry can before that, so that didn’t help. Basically, the fuel tank dropped, sparked on the road and started the fire. It also had a hardwood floor in the tub, so once it went up, we couldn’t do much about it. We even tried four extinguishers to get it out, but we had to get the firies over to put it out, and at that point it was toast.

We only got out with the clothes on our backs – wallets, phones and even shoes all got burnt up with the car. It was lucky we were in a convoy.

Most people would’ve just headed home after that, but you didn’t. Why?

We obviously had to get a trailer for it, and Dad insisted we still take it to Rockynats. He knew how much effort I’d put in to get it there, so he convinced me to trailer it there. In hindsight, I was super glad he did.

It sounds like you got a big reception when you did finally make it.

Yeah, well, word had spread on social media about it, so by the time we got there, people were literally throwing money in the car as donations to help me rebuild it.

So many people came up to me to chat about it, which was the best bit for me. The money was great, but I didn’t care how much we got. It was about sharing the story with people and meeting so many legends as a result of it.

By the time we got to Rockynats, people were literally throwing money in the car as donations to help me rebuild it

It wasn’t just cash donations either. We heard you ended up with a free engine?

Yes, and that still blows me away even today. Emma Louise has a 202 VK, and she said she wanted to give me one of her spare engines to help me get it back on the road.

Long story short, by the end of the weekend, she’d decided that instead of giving me a spare, she literally pulled the hot 202 out of her VK at Rocky, and we put it in the back of the Chev to take home. I truly can’t thank her enough for that.

How has the rebuild been going since the fire?

The car itself had some decent damage; it was warped enough the doors wouldn’t close and all that. We have a panel shop next door to Dad’s work, so they helped me get the body right. The axles in the diff ended up bent, so we shortened it when we fixed that, and I’ve added a rear airbag system. We’ve also got a JRE 4/71 blower for the 202, which is off getting a forged bottom end right now.

It’s just going to be a cool cruiser – nothing too serious. We’ve kept the burnt look and the new FIR33Y plates to show the history of the car, because as I see it, you can either cry or laugh about it, and I’d rather laugh and be happy.

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