Mark Coffey’s ’34 Chev sat waiting for a heart transplant for 20 years. Now, thanks to a 572ci crate motor, it’s alive and kicking arse.
It’s funny, here I sit starting out on another feature article and once again I have some connection, which shows it’s a small world after all, especially when you’re talking cars. Or perhaps Wellington really is the Smallville of New Zealand, or perhaps it’s a mixture of both the above. But anyway, as with the vast majority of cars I’ve written about I have some weird involvement with them or their owners. It’s not all about me, I’m not that much of an egomaniac, nor self-centred enough to think or believe I know of all the cool cars in Wellington. Hell, until recently I hadn’t even seen this rod, although I had heard about it more than once. But to prevent you from having to resort to scratching your heads and muttering things about me that only my mother should mutter, I will get my involvement out of the way ASAP so you can enjoy reading about another cool NZV8 feature car.
This cracker of a hot rod is owned by Mark Coffey, who is into real estate and works at Tommy’s Real Estate in Lower Hutt. A few years ago a couple of local hot rodders built a house with internal-access garaging for eight to 10 cars. They split up and the house went on the market, marketed by Tommy’s Real Estate with Mark as the agent. And yes, you guessed it, I purchased that house with my then wife. I wasn’t even in the market to buy a house, but couldn’t say no to the place and had to stump up and make an unconditional cash offer to steal it out from under the other would-be buyers’ noses.
I recall that while Mark was doing the wheeling and dealing we got talking cars, and he told me about a Corvette he had, along with a healthy interest in cars.
Then he had a look over my T-bucket in the garage when he came around with paperwork to sign. Speaking of wheeling and dealing, what better way is there to reward yourself for all the horrendous hours a real estate agent must work, than to have a way-cool hot rod sitting in the shed waiting to be used and maybe abused?
And those horrendous hours Mark does aren’t exactly conducive to working on one’s toys, either. That work-life balance is a hard one to get right, and as we all know, all work and no play makes Johnnie a dull boy. Of course it is sometimes better, or at least more economically sound, to earn one’s salary than to toil away in a garage, perhaps without the required skill level to build a rod to the exacting and high standards this 1934 Chevrolet Junior has been built to.
So now the picture is somewhat painted for you, let’s fill in a few of the gaps. Mark has owned the Junior since the mid ’80s, and had it stored in various garages around the Hutt Valley while it sat and waited patiently. After probably paying more over the years in storage fees than the Junior first cost him, and along with a career change to that real estate sales role, Mark decided he either had to sell it or actually get it completed. Given the car is still in his possession it’s apparent that he didn’t sell it, and he kept the dollars rolling in. Mark finally entrusted the ’34 to the Hutt Valley’s premier rod and custom shop ” Ed Junior’s Custom Rides and Classics ” so they could do their thing, which is all forms of automotive magic. It’s not that Mark didn’t have the required skills after 18 years in the tool-making trade; it was just that time constraints were in the way of progress being made.
As many of you will appreciate, entrusting someone with your pride and joy, and asking them to perform what you haven’t the time to do, is a big thing.
Giving that control over your automotive baby to someone else is probably a little like handing over your 18-month-old child and getting it back when it’s four years old, while all along hoping it turns out okay. This wouldn’t have been an easy step for Mark to take, but it was the right one. He had owned the car for nigh on 20 years, yet it was only in Ed Junior’s shop for 18 months before it rolled out looking as it does now.
I suppose to say it rolled out of the shop is a tad understated. It would have ‘rolled out’ back in the ’30s when it came out of the factory with its anaemic little engine.
Perhaps it would be more in keeping with the CUBES number plate to say it roared out of Ed Junior’s shop, motivated by 572ci (9373cc) of GM Performance big block crate engine. When you have a full steel-bodied hot rod that’s made of real steel (not wafer thin recycled whiteware appliances) you need a good dose of power, and that’s been well and truly provided. There are great gobs of torque, 881Nm to be exact, and 462kW (620hp) comes easy from the 9.5:1 compression crate motor which runs on pump gas. That gas comes via a Holley Blue pump up to the 850cfm Demon carb, and from there into the big block topped with alloy heads. A high performance HEI ignition is assisted by a 6000rpm limiter in charge of spark. To allow the crate motor to exhale properly there’s a set of headers with two-inch primaries, which lead to the rest of the HPC-coated exhaust that is complete with removable dump plates for drag racing.
Keeping that great crate motor cool is an Aussie Desert Coolers radiator that was custom built for a 1934 with a big block. At the firewall end of the bonnet sits a shift-kitted Turbo 400 trans, complete with 2500rpm stall converter. A Ford nine-inch filled with an LSD head wearing 3.25:1 gears makes sure that the big block’s power heads towards the ground.
To hold the body up off the tyres there are Carrera coil-over springs on all four corners. The front end has a stainless Mustang II steering kit, with the front suspension from Fatman fabrications in the USA, where it was specifically designed for 1934 Chevrolet Junior sedans. The rear end is made up of a McDonald Brothers four-bar setup, which is adjustable for height and ride, and like the whole exhaust has been HPC coated.
It was pretty obvious that the original brakes, which might have stopped the car efficiently enough some 70 years ago, would not be up to much today, especially with the big block’s power propelling the stunning black beauty down the road.
At the front end there are now Wilwood four-pot callipers and Mustang rotors, while the anchors out the back are Ford drums.
To hide all those brakes from sight, and just to look cool, there is a set of True Spokes measuring 15 by seven inches at the front and 15 by eight out back. These are shod with Hankook tyres measuring 215/60R15s at the front and 255/60R15 at the rear.
The body of the old girl also got a darn good seeing-to by the lads at Ed Junior’s, and they filled the roof and widened the rear guards by 40mm. The rest of the body was given a good going-over to ensure it was straighter than a straight thing. Let’s face it, when your colour will be black, the bodywork must be 110 percent perfect. The panel-work was expertly handled by Paul Knight, a man who is no stranger to cool cars with killer looks. Once the body was deemed up to scratch, off it went to Neil Buckley, who painted it in PPG two-pack black.
The paint job is a knockout, and the couple of times I’ve seen the car it’s been spotlessly clean, which is no easy feat with a black car. So I’m picking that Mark is either very familiar with a rag and decent car cleaning products, or he has some kids who get paid a reasonable amount of pocket money.
The original chassis was fully boxed and braced to safely handle the torque from the crate motor, before being painted again with PPG products ” this time in a colour that would contrast: silver.
When you have a black car the interior had better be pretty cool, and heck, being comfortable would be nice too. The original seats have been retained all round, but were reupholstered in cloth. To point the old girl in the right direction there’s a Grant Banjo steering wheel accompanied by Lokar shifter and handbrake. The job of keeping an eye on the big block’s vital statistics and wellbeing is now carried out with the aid of a full complement of Auto Meter gauges.
What with Mark’s plan of throwing the Chev down a drag strip or two, a removable six-point roll cage and Simpson five-point harnesses were installed for added safety. Mark grabbed himself an 11.9-second pass at 193kph on his first outing with the Chev. Not bad for a full-bodied, all-steel hot rod that is far from being a lightweight.
No car is complete without some sort of sounds (well, other than the big block’s cool sound, anyway). The old valve wireless that the Chev started life with is gone, and in its place is a Boss CD unit with marine speakers that have been wood grained to match the dash and interior trim. The stereo install has been cunningly fitted up by Ed Junior’s to swing up and hide out of sight.
That’s pretty much it in a nutshell, a cool car in the hands of a car guy who uses it how it should be used. I’ve seen the Chev out and about, and last year it was used at Ed Junior’s open day. That it was there was a fitting tribute that showcased their craftsmanship and abilities.
The only down side to the whole thing is that the car sat around for close to 20 years before Mark made the big decision to go the turnkey route, and now there’s a lot of cruising time to be made up. But according to an old Wellington icon, “It’s the putting right that counts,” and this hot rod has been put right, there is no doubting that.
Good things also come to those who wait, and clearly Mark waited for some time — as did the Chev, sitting in various sheds waiting for its chance to roll down the streets again, to power cruise, do some skids and be used as any good rod should be.
1934 Chevrolet Junior Sedan
Engine: 572 cubic-inch (9373cc) GM Performance crate engine, 9.5:1 compression, aluminium heads, BG Demon 850cfm carb.
Driveline: GM Turbo 400 trans with shift kit, 2500 stall converter, Ford nine-inch diff, 3.25:1 gears
Suspension: Independent front end, four-bar rear, with Carrera coil-overs
Brakes: Wilwood disc front end and Ford drum rears
Wheels/tyres: 15×7 and 15×8 Tru Spokes with 215/60R15 and 225/60R15 Hankook tyres
Performance: 620hp (462kW) and 881Nm of torque. 11.9 ET at 120mph (193kph)
Occupation: Real estate sales
Previously owned cars: 327 Chev-powered HG Holden ute, two HQ Monaros, 1975 Corvette, 1969 383 Dodge Charger, two FJ Holdens, 1934 Chev coupe, 1977 Ford Ltd
Current rides: 1934 Chevrolet Junior sedan, 1958 Ford Retractable, 1963 and ½ Ford Galaxy convertible, 2006 Chrysler 300C
Length of ownership: 20 years
Build time: 18 months
Mark thanks: Ed Junior’s, Paul Knight, Neil Buckley, wife Michelle, and Terry o’Leary
Words: Allan Blithe Pics: Quinn Hamill