Steve Paddison spent about two years rebuilding his Austin 10.
For more than 40 years, Leigh resident Steve Paddison hung on to a 1935 Austin 10 that languished in various sheds, quietly rotting away.
The costs of restoring the four-door saloon were just too prohibitive to contemplate.
But Steve says things changed when a friend lent him an old book – Building and Racing my 750 by P.J. Stephens, published in 1953, which described converting a smaller Austin 7 into a “special”.
The special craze emerged after World War II, when enthusiasts would turn conventional vehicles into sporty roadsters – typically with no roof, no doors, no back seats and featuring lighter, hand-built bodies designed by the owner.
They were perfect for racing, rallies or having fun driving down the beach, though still legal to drive on public roads.
“I thought, ‘What the heck’, why don’t I turn the Austin 10 into a special for a bit of fun,” Steve says.
Steve contacted Vehicle Inspection NZ to find out what modifications were permitted, but says was “led off the beaten track”.
The Vintage Car Club of New Zealand was more helpful – insisting that things such as the motor and radiator must be original but allowing the lowering of the front of the vehicle for more stability, the fitting of twin carburettors, lighter aluminium mudguards, bigger rear tyres and the introduction of a fibreglass body.
Steve says the steel bonnet, floor and firewall of the original car have been retained but the body of the car from the driver’s seat to the boot has been created out of fibreglass. An old china cabinet, which used to belong to Steve’s mother, provided the mahogany for the dash.
Steve says it took about two years to build his special. During that time, he spent plenty of time flicking through vintage car magazines for inspiration.
“I’d plod along and come up with ideas as I went along. Anyone who came along to have a look, I would ask their view on it,” he says.
Steve says constructing the fibreglass body was the trickiest part of the project.
He created a mould by constructing a wooden frame on the back of the car and filling it out with the kind of polystyrene foam used in surfboards. The fibreglass was glued on to the frame with the help of a boat builder friend.
“You don’t need a lot of equipment, you just need a lot of time and be fussy about it,” Steve says.
Steve raced the car at the Vintage Car Club’s Manunui Coastal Hill Climb in Pakiri back in February and although it ended up way down the field, it was among the minority of cars that managed to complete the course of events.
“There were a lot of faster cars. It’s only a little 10 horsepower Austin,” he says.
Steve estimates the car has a top speed of 70mph but only if the engine is “absolutely screaming”.
He says the car turns heads wherever it goes and its next big outing, assuming fine weather, will be at the Daffodil Rally for Cancer on Sunday, August 30.