Vaughan Farmer has owned and built quite a colourful collection of hot rods and customs over the years. He likes to keep them traditional – no IFS around here – and he has a bit of a habit of throwing Oldsmobile engines in them too. His last build was an Olds’ powered Model A Roadster, but that has since been moved on to pave the way for his latest creation, this 1937 Chevy Coupe Gasser.
“This is the third Chev Coupe I’ve owned now. “I’ve had them high and I’ve had them low, but this one was always destined to become a gasser. I wasn’t particularly looking for a ’37 either, I actually wanted a ’40 Ford Coupe instead. About seven years ago I received a phone call at 3am from my good mate Squeak Bell, over in California. He was standing in front of the ’37 Chev and he reckoned it was just too good to pass up. The Yanks were buzzing all over it – like bees to honey,” explained Vaughan. Vaughan knows a good deal when he sees one, so he wasted no time and purchased it then and there.
The car was a survivor, having been kept in a shed on a farm since the 1950s, and the only thing that was missing was the front end – which had been pulled out and used for a trailer on said farm. The body was as good as you’ll ever find on a car from the 1930s, and although it wasn’t a ’40 Ford Coupe, it was the perfect candidate for the next build. Squeak arranged to send the car to New Zealand, Vaughan’s native homeland, but not before he installed a Speedway Gasser straight axle with Vega brakes and a steering box.
After sitting around in New Zealand, the car then followed Vaughan to Perth in 2014, where he slowly worked away on it in the background as he completed the build on his roadster.
Now Vaughan already had a blown 394ci Oldsmobile motor he had kept in storage back home in New Zealand – that was until some lowlife stole it. “I got hold of another block so that I could build another 394ci Olds Rocket motor. I sourced most of the internals from Ross Racing Engines in the US, who are Oldsmobile specialists,” said Vaughan. The motor is filled with Ross Racing blower pistons, crank and rods, and runs a solid Ross Racing camshaft and lifters. A rebuilt 6-71 blower is perched on top of a custom built Hampton intake manifold, and on top of that is a beautiful Hilborn 4 port mechanical injection setup, sourced from Alky Digger in the US also. Squeak Bell built the exhaust in California for Vaughan, and the whole deal is designed to run alcohol with 25 percent Nitro via a 20L fuel cell in the boot.
An extra cross member has been added to the ’37 Chassis to run a Super T10 4-speed with a Hurst shifter, which is mated to the blown Old’s via an 11-inch Chevy Centreforce clutch and an alloy/steel flywheel. The final drive consists of a 9-inch Ford diff with a Curry centre, 4.5:1 gearset and 31 spline axles. To help get the power down, Vaughan has fabricated a set of homebuilt ladder bars and fitted coilovers to keep the rear end under control.
A set of 15×10” gasser style Rocket Racing ‘Injector’ wheels are shod with pie crust slicks, and a set of 15×6” Rocket Racing ‘Launcher’ wheels with radials are bolted on to the straight axle up the front.
The body is all 1937 Chevrolet steel, which Vaughan panel-beated and painted himself in his shed. He laid down the Ford Shockwave Blue, sourced some nostalgic drag racing stickers online, and also came up with the ‘Sour Gas’ design – which was printed and cut with a period correct gold-leaf pattern. To finish off the body, Novus Glass in Bunbury, cut some fresh glass for the coupe, which Vaughan then applied the red tint to.
The interior is rather sparse at the moment, but since relocating back to New Zealand earlier this year, it is one of the last jobs on Vaughan’s list to finish off. “I’m going to do a basic tuck and roll trim job on the seats, with some simple door cards, hood lining and carpet to finish it off. I’ll also fit a 6 point roll cage to keep things safe,” explained Vaughan.
“I’m hoping to debut the car at the Nostalgia Drags at the Meremere drag strip in New Zealand, in April, 2018. I don’t really care what it runs, but I reckon it should do a full track burnout and hopefully pick up a wheel or two as well”, laughed Vaughan. “It will definitely be a handful, as the straight axle front ends are always ‘interesting’ to steer, but it will be a hell of a lot of fun, and that’s exactly what I built it to do,” concludes Vaughan.
// Words by Andrew Goodwin