Dennis Swift's story

As told exclusively to

Australian reader and hot rodder Dennis Swift writes: A UK friend recently sent me the Geoff Jago stories on Eurodragster, knowing I had a slight connection with one of the cars. In the story Geoff mentions that he managed to get hold of a Model B body from someone.... Well that someone was me!

To tell that story I must tell this... In the mid 60s I was hot rod mad but being only 17 years old had to confine myself to model kits and hard to find copies of Hot Rod magazine. After getting my driving licence I wanted nothing more than a hot rod rather than the Ford 105e Anglia I was driving. The only source, (apart from local wrecking yards which then had all manner of interesting cars from Ford Pilots to, as I was amazed to find, a Rolls Royce hearse), was the venerable Exchange and Mart.

Eventually I found advertised a 1932 Ford, described as a convertible, running and registered for the enormous price of 60 pounds! Well enormous when you are only earning 10 pounds a week!

I sold my beautiful Vespa GS150 (a hangover from my Mod days!) and drove into London in a mate's car with another friend and our two girlfriends of the time, to collect my car. It was owned by a student and was indeed virtually complete, lacking only minor items such as the fabric roadster roof, bits of the flooring and a functioning silencer... and it was in the middle of winter.

With the two girls in the rumble seat, myself at the wheel and my mate riding shotgun we set off for a 20-mile trip home, at night, in an unknown car with glow worm headlights, mechanical brakes and no fuel gauge! I wish I could say it was an epic journey but, unless advancing age has blotted out the trauma, we arrived home with no problems.

With the car came the original handbook (in French) for this was indeed a French built LHD ‘32 cabriolet with a 4-cylinder engine and yellow Marchal headlights.

For a while the car was parked at a mate's house as he had a concrete parking area in the garden while my father and I cut down part of our front hedge and built a concrete base in our front garden! Nobody had garages then, at least not where we lived.

This is the car the morning after we got it home...

When our parking area was finished, we drove the car home and started pulling it apart, really apart, down to a bare chassis...

I started sourcing parts, the most important being a V8 engine. With little hope of finding an OHV a flathead was the only realistic option, from a wrecking yard of course. The stick shift box from the 4-cylinder wouldn't fit so back to the wrecking yard, this time (for reasons which escape me) as a passenger on a friends Lambretta scooter, returning with me sitting on the back with the gearbox on my lap!

Eventually with parts back from the chromers, (and that's another story, the chrome platers couldn't understand why anybody would want to plate suspension bits and wheels) Hydraulic brakes from a later Ford were fitted and reassembly started.

This is the test fitting of the body, then off it came to be rubbed down and primered...

Getting there...

Around this time, I had joined the British Drag Racing & Hot Rod Association and was writing about the cars building. Now this is where Geoff Jago comes in...

He contacted me in 1967 as he wanted to pull a mould off my car, the deal being he would pick it up and return it when finished plus do a Metal Flake paint job on it! Oh yes! Geoff turns up (Loughton, Essex) we load the car, off it goes and true to his word, returns it in all its Metal Flake, flame painted glory!

The car was featured in the local newspaper and the January 1969 Hot Car magazine.

But all things pass and, after getting married we moved to Australia, the car was sold, I can't remember who to or where it went. I would like to think it's still out there somewhere, repainted, or returned to stock condition.

Of course, once in your system, even in Australia I couldn't help tinkering...

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