Paul French’s hot rods and memorabilia – My Shed

Over in NZ we found a shed owned by a Coke and rod addict and it’s as cool as it gets. Here's a look back at our feature on Paul French's collection from 2007

Photographers: Phil Cooper

As far as sheds go, Paul French’s isn’t the largest or the neatest but it sure is cool — especially if you’re a Mopar fan! Paul doesn’t have the room to store the cars he already owns, let alone build more, so he currently has his eye on an out-of-town house with a large barn. Priorities all in order, then.

First published in the April 2007 issue of Street Machine

In the meantime, his little shed in Christchurch, NZ, is a temple of cool. The shiniest thing in there is his track-style Model A roadster, built to a Pro Street style when he was just 20 years old. The little beast packs an angry 440 and features some impressive bodywork by local metal-master Rick Murray, including the nose cone and aluminium roll pans. While Paul is pretty confident the car would run a low 11 — “It’s scared the shit out of plenty of hot rodders I’ve taken for a blat” — he has never given in to the temptation to race it at the track.

“I’ve seen too many nice hot rods get damaged racing,” he says. “You just want to go faster and faster, so you end up with a rollcage, wilder and wilder engines and they become undriveable.”

Paul’s other rod is considerably less shiny and was a pioneer of the now-ubiquitous rat rod look.

“I started this car 15 years ago,” he says. “I had a glass ’34 coupe body but I decided I really wanted a steel car, so I swapped the ’34 for the remnants of this.”

‘This’ refers to his channelled Model A roadster, which was first rodded in 1959.

“The car has had four ‘hot rod’ owners before me,” says Paul. “Luckily, I’ve been able to talk to most of them and track the history.”

The beast now runs a 331 Chrysler Hemi, still with six-volt electrics and fluid drive trans. This time around, the build was completed in just 10 weeks, with good mate and hot rod evangelist Harry Orpwood helping out.

“Harry thinks everyone in the world should drive a hot rod and does his best to make it happen,” he laughs.

Paul absorbed plenty of American car culture while he was working Stateside for Sun Valley Master Auto Parts as a young fella.

“It’s down near Mexico,” he says. “And we were just like the Mexicans — we were illegal workers on the minimum wage! It was cool though; I had ’64 and ’70 Caddies as drive cars. They were 500ci, fuel was cheap and they went like a haunted shithouse!”

These days, Paul’s daily is a ’59 Plymouth Fury (complete with dual-quad 392), while partner Lisa drives a step-side HQ ute, converted to king cab configuration when kids arrived on the scene. The next major project on the cards — when room permits — is Lisa’s ’29 Model A coupe. Hemi powered, naturally.

Besides rods and Mopars, Paul’s other great fixation is vintage Coca Cola paraphernalia.

“When I started, I collected anything but now it’s strictly Coke machines, tin signs and old, full glass bottles. Nothing new, nothing repro.” Sounds like a good philosophy to us!