Do you remember the first cool ride that left an indelible impression on you as a young automotive enthusiast? Maybe they belonged to the older kid up the street or featured on the pages of an old hot rod magazine! Joe Borg does as it branded his mind like a Texan cattle ranch owner brands his cattle! “Starting my working career in the sixties as a young apprentice of sixteen, I had to catch the bus from Doveton to Rowville and across from the bus stop, there was browny black 32 or a 34 highboy hot rod running pressed metal cycle guards in someone’s front yard. I would just stare at it the whole time while waiting for the bus and the image just burned into the memory. To me, that car was hot rodding personified!”
“I’ve had some nice cars along the way but that image never left me. I was talking to Teena one day and I mentioned that I’d really like to build a hot rod. She was very encouraging and said “well you’ve got to do it and do it now because you’re 61 years old. So we bit the bullet and I did some research and found Ian Hardy who I knew after our first meeting that he could deliver what I wanted to do. I wanted something very comfortable, very smooth and looked killa and we got that and a whole lot more! I also liked the fact that Ian only worked on no more than two cars at a time.”
Joe’s dream machine started to become reality in July 2014 after purchasing an unfinished 1934 Ford coupe sporting a 351 Windsor. To say unfinished is more say it had barely been started with the sexagenarian receiving a very raw chassis and body! On closer inspection of the fibreglass body, Joe’s builder decided the shell wasn’t in the best of conditions and would be better off with a glass body of higher quality. Joe sought out the experience of Richard from Deuce Customs who was very accommodating with the modifications Joe required to his new shell.
The chassis itself was a usable item and Ian set about stiffening the frame and suspension with attention to detail along the way. The idea was to have a vehicle that was a pleasure to drive and could go anywhere in any condition. Joe’s previous experience in the world of automotive involved owning numerous Porsches, Datsun 240zs and WRXs. “While owning these late model, high performance machines was a pleasure, you’d have to be pretty silly to lose control of a WRX because they’re designed to grip along with driving excellence but they lacked the thrill of driving and handling a car like you have to with the hot rod” he admits.
Joe’s objective for the final result was simple. “I told Ian I wanted all the electronics and the plan was that Tina and I should be able to throw a couple of bags in the boot and just go away for the weekend. I’ve seen some hot rods that don’t even have wipers but that’s not for me. I need to be able to drive it through any conditions and because we’re getting on in years, I wanted the comfort of climate control and electric windows as I’ve already been in hot rods that don’t have side glass and that’s not for me.”
Initially the plan was to use the unknown 351 Windsor but Joe’s older brother Don suggested a more suitable option. “He said to me ‘why don’t you put the LS1 in’? We didn’t know how good it was and I thought we’d have to modify everything to do it. I didn’t even know if it was going to fit because I wanted bonnets. So we did some rough measuring and then told Ian that we wanted to change motors and use the LS1 for reliability. When it came time for the strip-down, I said to Ian “we’re not running that engine unless I put it on a dyno first because it would be absolutely heart breaking to finish the car and find the motor has issues.” I picked the engine up and took it to Danko in Hallam where he ran it on the dyno and said it’ll be more than enough for what we’re after. It’s delivering 408 hp at the flywheel. We also noticed the motor still had the original stickers on it as well as had no wear marks. Ian looked at the flywheel teeth and said this motor hasn’t even done 100 kays! It still had the original oil in it so we worked out it was a brand new motor! My brother wasn’t too happy because he’d basically just given away a brand new motor!” Transferring the 400 plus horsepower to the rear rubber is a Turbo 700 auto and 9 inch differential replacing the 8 inch unit that came with the car.
Interior is all comfort and style, a consolidation of ideas between owner and builder. “If I came up with an idea that wasn’t suitable, he would either just change it for the better or talk to me about it saying have you considered this? We were always opened to his ideas as he is very skilled at what he does” remarks Joe. The enclosed two seat tan interior encompasses all the comforts of a late model vehicle including air conditioning and a reverse camera housed in the interior mirror.
The custom built center console houses a classic style late model stereo with blue tooth and USB ports and is flanked by Joe’s $600 in-house joke, highly polished billet cup holders! “Tina wanted cup holders and I wanted quality to match the rest of the interior. By the time they reached my doorstep, they’d cost me $600 so now the family ask if I’ve put any coffee in the $600 cup holders yet?”
Joe chose a billet wheel for the collapsible steering column and sourced the gauge cluster from TCR When it came time to find suitable seating, he headed to the wreckers to sit and measure on many a seat before finding the right ones. “We walked around the wreckers testing various seats and settled on Holden Astra units which are the perfect choice for fitting in the narrow 34 body and are very comfortable. Mark from Dynamic Trimmers did a great job of trimming them too.” Ian wired the whole machine including hiding the coil packs under the dash giving a much neater appearance to the engine compartment.
The stunning colour choice of this 48 year aspiration is a custom mix of past and present interests. “My family always give me a hard time about my colour choice saying “he’s buying another car. I bet it’s baby poo mustard again!” When it came time to choose the colour for the hot rod, My hot rodding brother Don kept saying to me “you’re not going to do baby poo mustard for the colour!?” to which I would say “it’ll be close but it’ll have a twist to it as I’ve seen another colour i like which is tangerine scream”. I happen to be in the Maccas carpark one day and there was a Ford Focus RS in this colour and when I looked into the crowded carpark, that was the only car that I could see. I spoke to Rowan Kenny about it and he said we could do it and even change it a bit. I said ” if we’re going to change it, I only want to add pearl. I guess when looking back at the whole build, the one thing that made me the most nervous was choosing the colour because it had to hit the vision I had in my head. Rowan was very patient with me and convinced me that we’d get it right. When the body was painted and we were delivering it back to Ian’s, the colour in the sun just popped. It’s a fantastic combination of what I originally wanted and playing around with Tangerine Scream and I’m stoked with the colour!”
The old school combination wheels and tires work perfectly with the golden hue of the shapely body and small guards and again comes from the far reaching memories of Joe’s vibrant mind! “Back when I was a teenager, my older brothers used to get the white flappers to put on their Holdens and I liked the look then. I always felt that the white wall just finished off the wheel. They were always part of my vision all along as well as the cycle guards.” Those close fitting guards were initially built for trailers but Ian modified the shape as well as made up the solid brackets to avoid brakeage or vibration damage.
Another interesting twist on an old school theme is the exhaust tips. Initially Joe wanted the rolled pan to wrap around the elongated tips like on an E type Jag but Ian thought they would be better proportioned if they were mounted down lower, adding symmetry to the coil over shockers and chrome diff cover. Small LED strip lights help add to the form and function of the rear end.
The name “Georgia” is scripted on both the rear corner and on the glove box and Joe explains its origins. My mum’s name is Georgia who originated from Malta before moving to Australia. I’m one of nine children and the second youngest. Mum taught us some fantastic values and loved this country. She taught us to work hard and make good on the opportunities that were given to us. Quite often she would go back and visit relatives in Malta but when she returned to Australia, she would always say how good it was to be home! We all bless both our parents for making the effort to move to Australia with eight kids at the time. Both Rowan and I said this was going to be one classy car and I always thought she was one classy lady so I named the car after her. I didn’t tell any of the family, I just did it and they all loved the idea and thought it was a great tribute to a wonderful lady. Mum passed away three years ago.”
As far as Joe is concerned, this one is staying with him to the end! “I wouldn’t call myself a traditional hot rodder. I have always loved hot rodding and it has been because of that vision burned in my brain from 47 years ago and it wouldn’t leave until I dealt with it. So now I’ve finally accomplished the vision!”
Would like to thank Don who kept pushing the point to me to get what you want. Extend the time and make sure you’ve got the money.
My wife Teena who never ever questioned once what the cost of the project is and told me to do it now.
Ian who was very accommodating with my ideas and Rowan for being very patient with my colour choice.