Les Lawry’s 1930 Ford Victoria

Nearly two decades ago, Les Lawry’s 1930 Ford Victoria set a new standard for Aussie-built hot rods

Photographers: Peter Bateman

IN THE March 2003 issue of Street Machine, we featured Les Lawry’s stunning 1930 Ford Victoria, dubbing it “Australia’s Best Hot Rod”. That’s a bold claim, but one that can be easily backed up.

Built by Shane Rowe of Southern Rod & Custom, the Vicky debuted at the 2002 Victorian Hot Rod Show before going on to win more than 50 first-place trophies. In 2003, it also became the first-ever winner of the Meguiar’s Superstars Best of Breed Hot Rod award. Yep, it was that good.

Les’s Victoria was truly innovative, setting a new standard for other hot rod builders to try and surpass. “It got to the point where it became a bit embarrassing,” says Les. “Every show we went to, I’d get called up again and again and again. We’d win eight or nine trophies every time.”

The Vicky wasn’t Les’s first hot rod. However, his earlier efforts were more typical builds, where he did all the body, paint, chassis and mechanical work himself. He had rather more lofty aims for the ’30.

“I had this rare Vicky body and wanted it to be the best car ever built in Australia,” Les says. “Nowadays there are a number of cars at this super-elite level, but back then the Vicky was the first.

“I knew I didn’t have the talent to get it to the level I wanted. Then a mate of mine told me about this bloke Shane Rowe in Deniliquin. This was before Shane moved into the complex at Deni; he was working alone out of a suburban garage. Sure, it was a good set-up, but it was still just a garage. I went and met him, and we instantly clicked. Shane is unbelievably talented; he has the vision to be able to see the finished car – and the ability to make it.”

Les and Shane went to all the big shows in the States – the Hot Rod Nationals, the Grand National Roadster Show and the like – to get some inspiration for the build. “Coddington was still big back then, and we also liked the cars that Bobby Alloway and Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop were building – they were the cars we benchmarked against.”

It helped that Les and Shane were on the same page throughout. “I don’t think I said no to anything he suggested,” Les says. “There were no compromises; if we weren’t happy with something, we’d bin it and do it again.

The suspension is one example of the pair’s perfectionism. “I spotted the billet IRS from CWI in the US and just had to have it,” Les says. “I ordered it one year and went back to pick it up the next. Of course, by then they’d done a matching front end, so I had to have that too, which forced Shane to make changes.”

The dynamic duo remained joined at the hip once the car was finished, too. “At all those early shows – Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney – Shane wouldn’t let me go alone,” Les says. “He’d take time away from his business to be there and make sure the car looked its best.”

Nearly two decades after the Victoria’s heyday, Les is once again cooking up a ’30 Ford build. “I’m currently working on a ’30 tudor – I’ve gone full circle,” he says. “Back when I was 20, I couldn’t afford for someone to build me a car, and now that I’m retired, I again can’t afford to pay someone. So I’m doing it all myself: welding, bodywork, paint.” Once a hot roddder, always a hot rodder!


LES freely admits he built the Vicky as a show car, with no intention of ever driving it. “I can’t bring myself to risk damaging it,” he says. “It’s only ever driven on and off the trailer, and in and out of some venues, as a few shows made us prove that it actually drove. It’s only got a handful of kilometres on it and lives in a bubble.”

Around 2005, Les commissioned Shane to build him a green ’32 roadster (above). This car was meant to be a driver; however, Shane couldn’t help himself. While not quite on the same level as the Vicky, the roadster was still good enough to take out Meguiar’s Superstars Best of Breed Hot Rod at MotorEx 2007, as well as making the Summernats Top 10 – twice!

Les Lawry
1930 Ford Victoria

Paint: PPG Custom Blood Red
Engine: Ford EFI 5.0L
Trans: AOD four-speed auto
Body mods:’32 grille and guards
Chassis: Model A with ’32 additions
Front suspension: CWI billet double A-arm
Rear suspension: CWI IRS, 9in diff 
Brakes: Wilwood
Interior: Leather
Instruments: Custom cluster
Rims: Billet Specialties Vintec; 17×7 (f), 20×8 (r)
Rubber: 205/55R17(f), 255/45R20 (r)