A mid winter weekend away, saw us heading South West to the old clay mine area of St Austell, Cornwall. There’s more than a few hot rodders in the area, but the distances involved (for the UK), and lack of local events mean trips up country in the summer need to be planned and budgeted for well in advance, but I guess that’s the trade-off for living near one of the most beautiful coast lines in Britain. It also means that some Cornish cars are rarely seen outside the county, but they’re there, you just need to have some insider knowledge. Ours was only a quick trip this time, so we only got to see two garages, both owned by younger than average guys that between them turn out some pretty cool stuff.
Our first stop was to see Tom Bray, Tom may only be 23 years old, but he’s already bought his first property, a charming Victorian cottage, and the only one in the terrace with a decent garage! In it, we found Tom working away, grinding on some rear axle mounts he’d just made for his Ford 9-inch axle, which is destined for ‘Deadbeat’, his ’60 Ford Popular Gasser project. Tom has owned the little Ford for 7 years now, since he was 16, and the remarkable thing is that he still owns it, as it was, and is, his first car. When he was 17, he drove it all the way to the NSRA Fun Run at Billing Aquadrome in Northamptonshire while still on a provisional driving licence, nearly 300 miles each way.
When Tom first got the car on the road, it was as a mild low-insurance custom, still running the sidevalve four cylinder, but backed up with an Anglia four-speed, and lowered all round on steelies with whitewall tyres. However, having gone through three engines in 10 months, the car came off the road for its first rebuild. Tom was 19 when the car came out again, though this time the 100E had a much tougher image, courtesy of a Ford Pop I-beam front axle, a 2.0 Pinto and five speed, radiused rear arches, and a new stance. This time though, the car’s weakness was the Mk1 Escort rear axle, so Tom got quite expert at changing half shafts…..
Since then, Tom has become a skilled and fully trained engineer, enabling him to work continuously on the car, his plans having grown ever ambitious as time goes on. Not much remains of the original build nowadays, with the floor and bulkhead long gone, to enable Tom to build a full box section chassis for the car. This will take the latest running gear and will also provides an internal structure onto which the outer panels are mounted, an all new floor will be fabricated and added later. As you can see in the pics, there is a fuel injected Cologne V6 mocked into place right now, an engine he hopes will give him enough power for some quarter mile fun, and also reasonable economy for the long haul to shows up- country. While Tom’s 100e is being built as a street car, we also spotted a Chevy small-block V8 in the corner of the garage, so who knows what the future will bring for this Kernow kid.
Our thanks to Tom for showing us around, and adding yet another place to our list where we’ve drunk tea and talked hot rods.