WAYNE UNKOVICH IS ON A MISSION TO RECREATE THE FORD MODEL 40 OF HIS YOUTH
Wayne Unkovich has something of a history with Model 40 Fords. Back in 1962, when he was 16, he owned a 1933 version that cost him £100. “I was an apprentice mechanic and, with dad’s help, I restored it. Those were carefree days of motoring.”
He even met his future wife, Marie, when he gave her a lift in the car, “In the 1960s we’d go to Queen St, that was where everyone met, you had the eight o’clock movies and teenage clubs, and that’s all you had, there was nothing in the suburbs.”
Fast forward 50 years and he got the urge to reproduce that Ford. He’d had classics before – “lots”, says Marie – and has others now. But he hunted around for a New Zealand-new, right-hand-drive Model 40. “I wanted something with the rego on hold, so it had the black-and-white plates, and found one in the central Waikato that had been in storage in a barn.” It had good bones, so he trailered it home.
He separated the body from the chassis and had both media-blasted back to bare metal, and then epoxy primed. An old schoolmate who is an old-school panelbeater cut out the rust, dealt to the dents and did filling as they originally did, by sweating lead into the repairs. “It’s quite a rigmarole, and you have to dummy assemble the car every time you pull it apart as they move.”
Finally, he took it to Howick Auto Painters, “The principal there is a fanatic and he painted it in the traditional colours of black and Warwick Green, using two-pack paint.” This car had been black, but that first Ford was two-tone. “The only departure this time is the antique gold for the wire wheels.”
Wayne loosely assembled the car, again trailered it home, then began the massive job of putting it together, with safety and driveability upgrades.
What makes a classic, and how much fettling is acceptable when a car is restored, are common classic fraternity debates.
Some feel the cars should remain absolutely standard, but many fit modern tyres and starting and braking upgrades are often undertaken. Wayne went a little further. He was even worried we’d be too purist to look at his car, though he went the extra mile to make sure everything you see looks right – one factor in his Ford’s popularity at the recent Auckland All-Ford day, where it won three awards.
The brake system was upgraded from rod to hydraulic, the lever shocks were changed for tubular, and the engine was removed (he still has it) and replaced with a later-model Ford Mercury (“still a flathead V8”) which has been reconditioned, rebored and balanced, and fitted with a diaphragm clutch.
“As standard they used a pressure plate with counterweights, but as revs rose more pedal pressure came on and at higher revs it was very hard to push the clutch in.”
The car didn’t have an oil filter, so a full-flow oil system with an external oil filter was added.
“I installed indicators after a week of doing it manually — people don’t know what a hand signal is today, they think you’re drying your nails.” The wipers are now electric.
He installed a Triumph P1-era Laycock overdrive system, “To do that you have to cut the torque tube and install the Laycock unit, then wire up the electric solenoid to a dash-mounted actuating switch.”
The aim is better highway cruising. “With the low-ratio diff, cruising at 100km/h the engine is whining hard — this lets it drop the revs by about 20 per cent and improves fuel consumption.”
The old gauges were alcohol-filled — heat within a tube activated the gauge — but Wayne wanted more reliable electronic gauges within the original dash, which used oval dials, so he modified some, and converted the car from six to 12 volts with a PowerGen generator to look authentic, replacing the amp meter with a volt meter in the original bezels. The upholstery is original, the hand pinstriping is by Steve Levine.
Wayne admits to being a bit one-eyed, he has always had Fords and has about six now.
“Ford was a hard taskmaster, but he was quite forward in some of his thinking. These 1933 and ’34 models were the first aerodynamic designs. he angled the windscreen and frontal areas for less wind resistance — the ’32 deuce was very upright.”
What’s impressive about this car is how sensitive Wayne has been to the original look and flavour, and to ensure the car could be returned to standard. “The firewall hasn’t got a hole Henry Ford didn’t put in.”
He hasn’t quite finished — the roof lining is still missing. But the car already has a name, Apache II, as a nod to his first Ford, owned at a time when they all named them.
“I’m glad I’ve done this. It’s a lifetime of memories.”