If you’re ever looking for Jim Wilton, odds are you’ll find him in the Vaughan shed, up on the hill in Angaston, tinkering away on yet another hot rod.
Turning 80 this November, this retired engineer has an innate passion for creating beasts from rust buckets, but his latest project has taken on a different look
“It’s a 1949, four tonne Bedford truck…It’ll be ready for next year’s Cruise On,” said Jim excitedly.
“I’ve still got a good 9 or10 months to go on it I reckon.”
The Nuriootpa grandfather has already spent 18 months working on what those in the know call a “Rat Rod”, a style of hod rod popular in America.
“It has a patina look… you put a big motor in them and you modify the suspension and everything, but all the bits and pieces stay rusty, old grills, the original body.
“Even though it looks a bit scruffy, it’s still got to be built to specific engineering practises.”
That’s where Jim’s extensive experience comes in, for he’s far from your average retiree with a passion for cars.
He’s built high speed, big horsepower engined vehicles all his life, including for Top Fuel drag racers in the US. He was also one of the fastest drag racers back in his younger days, living in Perth.
“I was the second West Aussie and the fifth Australian to do 200 mile an hour on the quarter mile drag strip,” said Jim.
“That’s not fast…they are doing 3.7 seconds at 340 miles an hour now!”
Whilst the Rat Rod, owned by Tony Vaughan, won’t be doing anywhere near those sorts of speeds, Jim will certainly have it looking and sounding the part.
“It was going to go back to original but I had a supercharger….it just went from there!” said Jim.
“We stripped it all down and we modified the chassis and put a Ford dif in it. It’s a 350 Chev motor with a 671 supercharger on it and a couple of 600 four barrel carbies.”
“It’s my little baby! A motor like this – the best I’ve ever got out of one of these little Chevs is 180 miles.”
The Chev motor boasts a Turbo 400 gearbox and Jim has engineered and modified the chassis by adding plates, boxing and bracing as well as making a step for the diff movement.
“I’m making every bit of this up,” he said.
“It’s going to have a real flash looking steering column and it’s got the original steering box in it.”
Jim sourced parts from a few different vehicles. Rotor disks are from a Ford Falcon and the front brake callipers are off a Commodore.
The nine inch diff at the back is also from a Ford.
Jim still has to finish the floor, install the interior and seal up some holes here and there. But, there won’t be much paint needed and it’s unlikely there will be much chrome left on the engine or colour on the wheels either.
“We might sandblast it all and make it all rusty, we’re not sure.”
The original grill will be modified so the copper brass radiator will fit in it perfectly and the tailgate will be embossed with either Bedford, Chev or whatever he and Tony eventually decide it should have when the time comes.
After all, that’s how plans for the Rat Rod have happened up until now.
“We’ll see when it’s all done and driving and we get it outside and walk around it to have a look. Is it going to be this? Is it going to be that? Then we might just say nup, let’s leave it as it is!
“Regency Park don’t care what it looks like, as long as it’s safe, not only for you driving it but for other people on the road.
“This is a no bling rod!”