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Peter and his red Ford hot rod

Ford hot rod

“Mechanics is mechanics, and a lot of it is common sense,” explained Peter Goodger, proudly standing beside his 1934 Ford hot rod.
Such wisdom is typical of age and experience, and the 74-year-old has seen a lifetime of mechanical variety.
His career has taken him across Queensland and New Guinea, acquiring expertise enough to indulge his retirement passion for classics and hot rods.

“If you don’t have mechanical knowledge, you really need a pocketful of money,” Peter said about restoring and maintaining these old cars.
“Hot rods are very hands-on. It’s not like you go and buy an off-the-shelf part and fit it. Much of it is hand-made and designed, and if you want to change something you must use your own mechanical knowledge to make it fit.”

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Peter fired up his immaculate and gloriously tough-looking ’34 Ford Pickup, letting me (and the neighbours) enjoy the flathead V8’s distinctive song.

“It’s not a power machine, but it’s got a nice little rumble,” he said with a smile.

But there was to be no hot weather drive that day. Its electric fan had a broken mount, and the new one he’d ordered isn’t quite identical.

“There’s a bit of shagging around trying to get it to fit. It’s a pain in the bum right now, but it’ll be satisfying when the job’s done,” he said.

All of us with old cars and their niggling problems feel his pain.

Moving about

After “belting around the bush in an old car” as a young teen in Emerald, Peter began a fitter and turner apprenticeship with Queensland’s Main Roads department in Rockhampton.

“I was first based in the workshop, then sent out to repair old road construction machinery,” he recalled.
“Main Roads would do their own road and bridge works back then, and we’d be out staying in the camps, which were very ordinary.”

The apprenticeship over, Peter next worked for Thiess Bros. at its Blackwater coal mining site.

“That was out of my comfort zone,” he said, “working on all sorts of large mining equipment, with a lot of welding drag line buckets.”

His next 13 years were spent with Cat® equipment dealer Hastings Deering.
He bounced around between Rockhampton, Townsville, Mackay, Brisbane, and others, including a two-year stint in New Guinea.
Peter said this was pre-independence, and a fascinating, peaceful place to work.
He’d repair heavy machinery and, as many fishing vessels used Cat engines, carry out marine work too.

“We’d be sent to some very, very remote villages using various aircraft,” he said.
“In advance, we’d ask the customer as many questions as we could about what was wrong, and hopefully take the right parts with us.
“If you got there and they didn’t fit, it’s quite a task to get back and forth again.
“There were lots of challenges, but I’ve got many good stories from those days.”

Peter’s wife Roylene reminded him how much he was away in those years: the couple made 12 moves in six years at one point.

A lightning (hot)rod

Peter ultimately worked his way up to workshop manager, and with Roylene’s income as well, they were able to buy their first hot rod – a 1932 Ford Roadster.

“We were a bit green, didn’t know much about them or what was involved,” Peter said.
“There’s a bit of a process to go through with the Australian Street Rod Federation (ASRF).
You have to become a member, and they check the car and do approvals. Instead of using the transport department, the ASRF have inspection stations. The Brisbane one pointed out what needed attention and taught us heaps about hot rodding.”

Just a few classics

Peter showed me photos of the classics he and Roylene have bought, fixed up and maintained since. Every one looks immaculate.
There’s a 2013 Morgan which was: “a bit tatty so we gave that a good clean up,” followed by a 1966 Ford Mustang Fastback: “You don’t lose money on a car like that.”

Then, for something different, a 1966 Toyota FJ40 SWB, which was tidied mechanically and gifted new upholstery. “

It was very rough to ride in, noisy and hot,” Peter said.
“The dog and grandkids liked it. We sold it to a Toyota dealer to go on display in their showroom alongside new cars, it was that good.”

A red firecracker

Peter’s current toy is a bright red ’34 Pickup hot rod, utilising Ford’s late 1940s 8BA 239 cu in (3.9-litre) flathead V8 with Offenhauser heads. “It’s just a little baby V8, so it may only have 200hp,” Peter said. “It’s not a speed machine.” Regardless, it sounds glorious.
It ran on LPG when he bought it, but with many service stations abandoning gas, Peter converted it back to petrol power, fitting a new fuel tank and carburettor.

He removed “the big, ugly console” inside, had the seats reupholstered in red and black, fitted a new shifter, and helped create a quite stunning, comfy cabin to cruise in.
The ute’s paint, chrome, rims, underside, badges, roof, and lights are all show-car quality. Lifting the tray cover reveals a covered spare wheel mounted to an impossibly shiny polished wood floor.

“We take it out a couple of times each week,” Peter said.
“We drive it up to the hills and enjoy it, plus it’s reliable and easy to maintain.” Peter saxid he still got joy from owning and running such a classic.
“The only trouble I have nowadays is my body creaks and moans when I’m bending a lot,” he said.
“The next day I pay for it!” It’s still worth it, and he suggested anyone with even a passing interest – and some mechanical skills – should visit a cars and coffee or show and shine event to see hot rods and classics.
“They’re a good investment,” he said. “And if you’ve got the passion, it’s such a rewarding thing to do.”

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