While on vacation to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, I was able to travel approximately 65 kilometers southeast to Gold Coast, Queensland, to see the nearly 2,000 vehicles at the 17th Australian Street Rod Nationals. The people there were the most friendly and hospitable group I've had the pleasure to meet in a long time. And the vehicles I encountered were much like our American rods and trucks, except the steering wheels were on the opposite side. Still, there was no shortage of enthusiasm among the crowd of participants and spectators.
Yes, there were a few unique-to-Australia body designs that we've come to know as "Utes." But as I canvassed the field of street rods and vintage trucks, many made a strong impression for quality of construction and attention to detail. One particular bright-orange '35 Ford Ute caught my eye-it was a neat piece of a hot hauler, Australian style.
After meeting Greg and Steve Jones (father and son) of Yinnar, Queensland, builders of this Ute, I felt they were the best choice for telling their story of passing the torch.
The Dad: Greg's Story
"I bought my first project, a '34 Plymouth, in the late-'70s. The Plymouth never amounted to much, but it was enough to start me on a long involvement with hot rods. That Plymouth was used as a bridal car at our wedding. Since that first car, every one since has been better and better. All the construction work is carried out in my ever-expanding workshop (never seem to have enough room). And now my daughter is building a '32 three-window coupe. (See what I've started.) It began as a reasonable-size shed and got bigger as a spray-booth and storeroom, and then another shed was added. I've built about 20 rods from start to finish, so that's nearly one car a year. These cars were built to be drivers-they're not show cars, although they have picked up their fair share of awards. The real reward is driving them, like the time we cruised the outback highways of Victoria and New South Wales in a Chevy big-block-powered Prostreet '41 Willys coupe that I built a few years ago. I still have three more projects stored away, awaiting a new life. And remember I told you it was just a hobby . . . but I think it's more like an obsession."
The Son: Steve's Story
I'm 20 years old and have been around hot rods all that time. Dad's always been building hot rods, so it's no surprise that I now have my own. I was 14 when Dad first got hold of a '35 coupe Ute that was bound for the tip [dump].
The shed is set-up pretty well for just a backyard hobby, with a spraybooth, chassis jigs, lathe, and welders, so it has been a good learning experience for me. Dad does all of the build himself: body, paint, chassis, wiring, and some upholstery, so the Ute was all done at home. The build took three years on-and-off, as I only had a part-time job after school hours and had to earn the money for the project.
A mate of my dad had bought several '35-36 touring cars, and in the package there was a rusty and bent '35 Ford coupe Ute. Dad had talked the owner, Kevin Young, into keeping the Ute and storing it in his loft until he knew what to do with it, rather than take it to the tip as he had initially planned.
The following week, Dad was at Kevin's place when Kevin said, "I'm taking it to the tip." On that note Dad said, "I'll take it and Steve can use it to build his first hot rod." The deal was done; the body was free and I paid $60 for another cowl. The chassis was bought from another local rodder for $200. It was then stored in the hay shed for several years before making its way into the main workshop.