Hot Rod: The Gilbert 1934 Ford Tudor
Words Rhys Gilbert Photography Luke Ray.
The car originally came from Argentina in factory right hand drive guise and had a 4 cylinder 3 speed manual from the factory. I came across the ad for the car on the HAMB in December 2011. I had been looking for a nice original steel 1934 Ford 3 window coupe for my dad (Peter) and I came across an ad listing a few cars for sale including a 1934 3 window coupe and a 1934 Tudor in California. The cars were being brokered for an older gentleman. After getting the green light from the owner, $1000 dollar deposits were put on both cars while we organised passports for my family and I to fly over and inspect the cars before committing to a final purchase.
The cars were located on a farm in a small rural farming town in Northern California. The farmer who owned the cars travelled to Argentina regularly in the early ‘80s to purchase seed for his large farming operation and packed these cars in his shipping containers amongst his consignment of watermelon and valencia orange seeds. He had an impressive collection of original unrestored rare and desirable ‘30s Ford coupes, roadsters and cabriolets. He'd come to the realisation that he wasn't going to finish all of his projects and his sons had no interest in old cars, so he decided to start selling off his collection.
The 3 window and the Tudor were inspected and purchased and sent home to Melbourne. Under further inspection, the Tudor was 90% complete. It was fully fendered, just missing the motor, transmission and steering column and some smaller bits and pieces. At some point in its life in Argentina it had received a makeover with new paint and leatherette trim. When the seats were restored, we found that the passenger seat was littered with empty bullet shells and cartridges.. even a live one. The passenger door skin still clearly bears the chalk marked words ‘export gray’, pointing to its original colour when it left the Ford factory in the U.S. bound for Argentina.
The Tudor was initially purchased with the intention of reselling it in the future to fund a return trip to the States but that all changed once it got home. The cars were shipped home in june 2011 but were involved in an incident on the dock in Melbourne resulting in our consignment being held in storage in Port Melbourne for a full year while the matter was resolved. In that time the cars were damaged from being relocated and poorly handled. At this time I decided that I'd keep the Tudor and build a hot rod once funds were right. Our cars were finally released to us in June 2012, a very long and frustrating wait.
In August of 2012, a challenge was put forth to my younger brother Steven and I to get the car ready for the Chopped Rod & Custom Show just outside Melbourne by members of the Eldorados Car Club (of which Steven and I are both now members). I’d had the build style already in mind, and I had begun chasing pieces and making contacts. All we needed was the push, and what better push than breaking your car in on the dirt drag strip with friends at the best show in Australia. Challenge accepted!
Before I get into the build details, I’d just like to say that without my brother Steven and father Peter this car would still be in the workshop. Steven's enthusiasm, Dad's wealth of knowledge and fabrication skills and their combined mechanical skill are what got this car ready in such a short period of time.
Over 8 weeks (61 days total build time) we tore the car down to its bare bones and inspected, repaired and sourced and replaced parts to build the car to how its seen today. We drove all over Victoria, even as far as NSW to gather parts for the build. We scoured Ebay and chased leads for the right parts to get it to come together. Steven and I took the month off work leading up to Chopped to focus solely on getting the car ready for its Oct 4th debut and it was touch and go all the way. We ran with the Motto “Chopped or Bust!", which kept our eyes on the prize and the enthusiasm fresh.
We had the car running for the first time just 3 days before the deadline and took it on its first shakedown run. Sitting on the floor of the car with no interior the night before leaving for Newstead, a couple of quick victory laps were done and it was back in the shop where the mad thrash continued into the wee hours of Friday morning to finish off the car. On Friday afternoon, the opening day of Chopped, the car was unloaded in the main street and driven into the event under its own power to many congratulatory handshakes and pats on the back from friends and even people we'd never met before who'd been following us along the way via social media. What an amazing feeling!
Over the next two days the car was driven hard and enjoyed the way we intended. Since then the car has received necessary mechanical maintenance and upkeep to meet club registration requirements. Future plans for the car are upgrading the drivetrain and brakes so the car is safe and dependable so that I can take her on longer distance trips without hesitation, but aesthetically the car will remain unchanged.
Stock 1934 Ford Tudor sedan
Firewall modified to accommodate larger 24 stud Flathead
1934 Ford commercial truck headlights
Singular model A tail light
Engine and Transmission:
Stock 239 ci '53 8ba truck motor
Stock 1934 ford 3 speed transmission
Stock with the exception of the front cross member which was modified with a Model A cross member to help lower the front of the car
Wheels and Tyres:
18 inch 1932 Ford Kelsey Hayes wire wheels wrapped in 18x8.20 Firestone dirt track tyres for the rear.
17 inch 1934 Kelsyet Hayes wire wheels up front with 17x5.20 Excelsior tyres (to give the car a rake while leaving the car suspension stock)
Stock interior restored and reupholstered in Leather by a furniture upholsterer I was introduced to by the name of Shaun Portelli who wanted to try and branch his skills into auto upholstery. He also installed the new roof insert and reconstructed any deteriorated wood pieces such as roof bows and pillar supports requiring replacement in the car.
Narrowed 1959 F100 gauge cluster
1935 Ford steering wheel and column
Stroked Flathead with Supercharger with 5 speed trans
Quick change rear
This article first appeared in Fuel Magazine issue 13.
Follow Rhys: @rhys_monster.