Classic Cars, Mechanics, Profiles, Restorations

A Roadster, a Sandman and more: Mark’s collection


Mark Hannaford’s panel repair and modification skills have seen him amass an enviable collection of hot rods and classics, all finished to a ludicrously high level, words and images from Iain Curry.

Who doesn’t love a story of how things were done back in the good old days? Mark Hannaford tells a good one. An apprentice panel beater after leaving school in Narrabri, he did his final exam at Tamworth TAFE.

“This was 1978, and they’d just shut down the Leyland P76,” he explains.
“Leyland donated the leftover panels to TAFE, so we were each given a front guard, which was taken outside and run over by a bus.
“We had to fix that.”

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You can imagine the challenge reforming those crushed bits of unloved Leylands, but Mark’s talents were obvious from a young age. In that final exam, he secured first spot in the state, explaining why, a few decades later, his personal collection of cars are finished to an exceptional standard.

“All I had back then was a set of hammers and an oxy torch,” he says.

Equipment aside, it’s been his natural ability, passion for cars and having the required patience for custom and restoration work that’s reaped rewards.

Road warrior

It’s best exemplified with his street rodded 1936 Ford Roadster, hand-built and to Mark’s specific tastes. “I wanted a Roadster, but I couldn’t find one and they’re too expensive anyway, so I decided to try making my own.” Mark travels around with photo evidence showing that his Roadster was truly once a sedan.

The body work’s finished to such an incredible level it’s hard to believe it’s anything but an original open-top coupe. Surprisingly, this flared-guard Ford has running gear from the opposition. Mark had a 1988 VL Commodore and, keen to utilise what he had to hand, used the Holden’s 304 cu in V8 and its Trimatic gearbox. “Because I can, I will,” he says with a grin. A peek in his main shed reveals three very different vehicles, all which started life in 1928. First is the bright blue Ford Model A Coupe, a car Mark began working on three decades ago.

He’s performed a two-inch roof chop, modified the bonnet to front-open, widened the rear guards and added a 302 Windsor, C4 auto gearbox and Borg Warner diff. The body may be True Blue Model A, but underneath it was basically constructed from a mix of XY Falcon wagon and a Leyland P76.

“For parts I went to local swap meets, and the local rubbish dump to pick up stuff, back in the days when you could do that,” he explains.

Thirty years ago he also acquired a Ford Model A Tudor body which has sat dormant ever since. Mark’s son Dean told him he’d always wanted a Rat Rod, so dad’s faithfully gone to work on this latest project.

“There’s been a lot to fabricate on this car,” Mark says, “as there wasn’t much there.
“I’ve had to travel a lot to get bits for it, but have given it a three-inch roof chop, added a 327 Chevy, Ford AU diff, 4 bar rear and hairpin front end.”

The fabrication work looks superb so far, and the plan is to keep the body looking rough and ready for that on-trend rat style.

Mr clean

In stark contrast, but with a similar family theme, is his beautiful ’28 Model A Roadster pickup. Mark and his father bought it for $200 in Gunnedah around 30 years ago, and spent quality time together bringing it back to life.

“It’s all original except for us installing an alternator and a modern carburettor for tuning,” he explains. In a separate shed we find 1970s Australian automotive royalty. In shimmering Tuxedo black, a 1976 Holden LX Torana SS two-door is mind-blowing.

It’s got the desirable M21 four-speed manual, the L31 5.0-litre V8, 2.78 limited-slip Banjo diff and bright Sienna interior trim. It looks better than new, and Mark says its specification makes it just one of two ever produced.

“When I was an apprentice these were brand new,” he says. “You rarely saw these two doors, only really if you went to Bathurst and saw Peter Brock racing. I bought it as you see it now; it’s immaculate and totally original.”

Built to last

Another reminder of his youth is his 1976 Holden Sandman panel van. Well, these Sandmans bring back all sorts of youthful memories for a lot of Aussies.

“I originally owned one in 1977, and took all the stickers off because they were daggy. I drove that thing into the ground.”

He’s bought this 5.0-litre V8 example and repeated the decal delete: some may think it a travesty, but those extrovert distinctive stickers are nowhere to be seen on his current ‘sin bin’. Mark’s spent his career in and out of panel beating, with a decade in between working for his dad’s trucking company.

“I was in the workshop there from time to time, learning how to mechanic, which helped when I had to repair stuff on the run.”

But he says he won’t go inside and engine or gearbox on his own cars – it’s too specialised – but will do all the things around it. But his speciality is in the body mods, repairs and finish.

“I’ll cut, weld panels, rust repair, form up new pieces, weld it in and do the paint. “I’ve got my son Justin for mechanical advice and others for the interior trimming.”

Mark makes sure he uses all his cars on a rotation system, otherwise “tyres perish, brakes seize up and oil seals leak.” He’s a regular at cars and coffee events, mingling with like-minded folk and always appreciating each others’ work.
“You’ve got to be dedicated to do this sort of work,” he advises.

“Many people start projects but don’t finish them off. “Mainly because it runs into lots of money if you can’t do the work yourself. “There’s a lot of trial and error involved, and you need passion and patience, those are fundamental.”

Even at 63 years-old and a busy career behind him, Mark says his enthusiasm for the cars and the work hasn’t waned.

“I still enjoy it; the process is great.”

And with sheds full of metal at his disposal, it shows the hard work can reap rewards.

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