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Modified to the Max

We take a close-up look a top quality hotrod...

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

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At a glance...

  • 1931 Ford A Coupe hotrod
  • Chev 350 conversion
  • Endless effort and a top quality result
  • We check out the modification detail
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It’s fair to say that most of today’s car enthusiasts don’t really know what it means to modify a car. We don’t know what it’s like to build body parts from scratch, engineer new suspension and brake systems and completely rewire our cars.

Well, Glenn Watts of Brisbane knows what it’s like. This 1931 Ford A Coupe is his third ground-up hotrod build – and it’s here to show us a thing or two about true vehicle customisation.

Come with us on this exploration of Glenn’s wonderful creation...

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Glenn purchased his ’31 Ford about 18 months ago as a bare body requiring restoration. The first step was to replace the corroded chassis rails with new 4 x 2 inch box section rails arranged to suit a new suspension layout. The existing lower section of the body and floor were also rusted, so Glenn fabricated a new steel flat floor and cut-and-shut about 6 inches out of the body. (Glenn is a boiler maker, which helps with his fabrication skills.)

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Modifications to the body include a 3 inch chop top (requiring all new glass and a lot of effort to retain the original fold-out windscreen), reproduction rear guards, a vented engine hood, custom rear numberplate surround panel and custom running boards. Glenn points out that all of the panels are steel – there’s no fibreglass on this baby. Paint is a standard Ford XR colour known as Blood Orange.

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The number of ‘incidental’ parts that required replacement is mind-boggling. The door hinges were chromed and rebuilt with new pins, all new replacement rubbers were installed while the original headlights were repaired, reassembled with new reflectors and polished to perfection. And the supporting these rebuilt headlights is a 12-volt electrical system – a job that involved a total re-wire.

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The trick 1930s fold-out windscreen is kept clean by a unique wiper arrangement. A pair of Mini wiper arms and pivots is installed at the windscreen while power comes from a Jaguar 2-speed motor fitted in the rear. An ingenious cable drive system runs through the roof.

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The engine is a Chev 350ci TPI (Tune Port Injected) imported from Japan. The Chev resides on custom fabricated mounts with urethane bushes. Output is increased thanks to Corvette heads, Link programmable management, a K&N air filter and a 2 ½ inch twin exhaust system with polished Gonzo mufflers.

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One of the most time-consuming jobs often involved in an engine conversion is fabrication of custom exhaust manifolds. To avoid the heartache, Glenn purchased a set of off-the-shelf extractors to suit small block Chevs being used in conversions. These ‘head huggers’ are intended to fit in the tightest confines. Glenn has also had the extractors HPC’d inside and out to insulate the engine bay from heat and help reach optimum performance. 

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This photo shows the custom fuel lines passing through the firewall. With the installation of a return-type EFI fuel system, Glenn runs 3/8 inch lines to the injectors and ¼ inch lines back to the fuel tank. Glenn made the lines at home using a pipe bender and double flaring tool. Note that hard lines are used along the length of the car with flexible braided lined line only at the fuel rail and fuel pump connections.

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Even the alternator has received major detail work. Sourced from a Toyota Camry, this 85 amp alternator has been disassembled and the centre cover painted to match the body. The front and rear housings were then laboriously polished by hand (as were the water pump and cylinder heads). The final touch on the alternator is an aftermarket billet pulley to suit the Chev drive belt.

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An all-new set of gauges and warning lights were installed. Glenn went for a classic style set of VDO white-face gauges – a speedo, tachometer, oil pressure, fuel level and amps. A Holden Commodore speed sender is fitted to the T700 transmission. An electronics store was raided for LED warning lights for handbrake, high beam, indicators and alternator change.

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This photo shows the off-the-shelf billet accelerator pedal which is linked to the engine using a universal type throttle cable. Glenn fabricated the brake pedal arm that connects to a Holden Gemini booster and Ford XA master cylinder mounted under the floor.

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Inside the boot, Glenn has installed a custom aluminium back panel to mount the CD stacker and amplifier. The boot is professionally trimmed with carpet on the floor and charcoal leather coverings everywhere else. Note that the boot is supported by twin gas struts - Glenn used Commodore struts. Also seen in this photo are the 1942 Ford taillights and late-model Mitsubishi indicators (which are normally mounted on the front guard).

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And check out the undercarriage. The entire under-body is painted body-colour 2-pack orange – Glenn explains that 2-pack is particularly strong and resistant to chipping. Employed throughout the ‘rod are ‘button head’ polished stainless fasteners – at a total cost Glenn doesn’t want to think about... All of the stainless parts used on the vehicle are 316-grade. Glenn says this is the best for presentation and durability. As you can see, the exhaust system, suspension arms and aluminium sump are also polished to a shine.  The Ford 9 inch diff, 3-position adjustable 4-link rear suspension and the tip of the coil-overs can also be seen here.

By now you can probably appreciate the amount of engineering knowledge, hard work, patience and money that Glenn has invested. And we haven’t even touched on the hybrid braking system, Mazda steering rack, billet interior accessories and custom steering shaft...

The list of mods on a hotrod like this really is endless.


Glenn would like to thank Darren at Superformance for his help and supplying parts essential for building up this ‘rod.

Motson’s Turbo and Suspension  can also be thanked for tuning the engine management system.

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