TIt may only be ‘Cusso’ Bill Notch’s second hot rod build but it’s a beauty, full of character and style, and about as far from a belly button rod as you can get. That’s probably because Bill has a hot car pedigree that stretches back five decades, from a kid watching Lenbrook and John Stewart at Westmead Speedway to the heyday of GTHO. Years have been spent tinkering with Ford dealers, drag racing and restoring at Castlereagh and Eastern Creek. A bewitching array of Lincolns, T-Birds, Fairlanes, Mustangs and Kisos for customers on his property in northwest Sydney.
For all that, Bill had never built a hot rod. “I’ve always knocked around with hot rods and given them a hard time. I think it was something about the ’32 roadster that people thought was at the top of the automotive food chain, and I disagree. I am,’ he laughs.
That changed a few years ago when he came across one of the Fordson tractor projects sitting in his yard.
“I said: ‘You’re next’, then I took another step and realized I didn’t have 200 years to play. When I took another step I decided it was, size down. Time to do it. I sold a lot of stuff I’d collected over the years — panels, engines and all the big machinery — then I moved to the coast. The plan was to work on one customer’s car at a time. , drive it slowly and go fishing, but for some reason it didn’t work out that way.
Instead, Bill decided it was time to build a hot rod—a ’31 Ford Highboy coupe that reflected his lifelong love of ’50s Fords, a 312 Y-block, Complete with a Cusso dash and a large pearl tailer. The body was all steel, resurrected by Bill’s own hands.
“The body was complete when I got it but it looked like it had been through Westmead Speedway. Someone had gone to town to braze it together, so I ground it, rewelded it and Totally straightened out. It’s a nice car to drive. It’s got some cool bits and pieces, like the Thomas rocker cover and the Fenton intake. I think it has soul; it reflects who I am. “
After that car was completed, the hot rod bug got a little harder and Bill was soon involved in another project—the 1930 five-window coupe that is the subject of our story. “I learned a lot while building the first coupe and had other ideas in my head that I wanted to use over the years,” he says.
The new car took 26 months of work but seeing it in Bill’s shed looks like time well spent. Unlike the friendly-looking ’31 Highboy, the channeled ’30 is much tougher, with a blown 292, stiff stance and an almost industrial feel to the paint and interior design.
This time, Bill started with a bunch of squashed panels in a box trailer and painstakingly pulled and stitched the lot together.
“Once that was done, I cut the roof, which was pretty interesting because it’s the first thing I’ve done! Then I transferred it to the Model A chassis and changed most of the lower body. – including building the boot lid from scratch – and got it ready for paint.
The mechanicals were also a headache, but you get the sense that Bill relishes the challenge of turning his vision into reality.
“I don’t like big recesses in the firewalls though, so I moved the body back an inch to give me a little more room behind the engine. With the Y-block and manual box in the channeled car, it There’s a tight fit — on the driver’s side you’ve got the exhaust, clutch and starter all in one small space.
“The first one I did was make a case. I picked up a case 15 years ago and put some bearings in it, figured out how it all worked. I was a little nervous about it, but that’s you. A lot easier than you think. Another thing I really wanted was a Jeep shifter top on a top loader — I’ve always wanted to see how they worked. Same with Ram’s horn truck headers. They are a tight fit but no one has it. The cross-steer setup was a lot of work but it looks good and runs great.
The interior is quite individual, with aeronautical gauges and switchgear on the Cusso dash, as well as curved metal stacks.
“Once I made the wooden arches for the roof, I decided to fill it with aluminum inserts. I liked the finish, so I decided to do the same with the interior. Couldn’t find anyone, so I learned to do it myself.
The only things Bill didn’t do for himself were paint, which Dave Murphy shot for him. Signature writing added by Jeff Redman; and engine machining, which was the work of Tony Webster.
“With just over 300km on the clock, my daughter Maddie and I made it to the 2011 Street Rod Nationals in Geelong,” says Bill. “That was 2000km in the rain but it didn’t take a beating. It’s a different animal to my first coupe — it’s noisy with a lot of metal inside and that means when you go over a bump. So you have to watch your head!
For his next move, Bill would return to his big-car roots, completing his ’57 Ranchero project, complete with a blown Y-block from McClutch. Next is the 368ci Y-block, which he’s setting up with mechanical injection for a Cusso gasser.
“This is the first time I’ve played with injections and it’s a bit of a head scratcher!” Bill says. “I’ll figure it out though.”
What’s all the fuss about Y-blocks? Early American hot rods were powered by Ford four-bangers and flathead V8s until Detroit began releasing overhead valve V8s, beginning in 1949 with Oldsmobile and Cadillac. Ford got in on the act in 1954 with the Y-block, a deep skirt block. Making it a nickname. In America it was one of many OHV V8s that became raw material for hot rodders, but in Australia things were different.
Cadillacs, Chrysler Hemis and even small-block Chevs were thin on the ground here, but the mass sales of Custom Lines and Main Lines meant there were plenty of Y-blocks around, giving Rodders a traditional flathead. Provide more powerful alternatives than the competition. So if you want to build a hot rod with authentic ’60s Australian flavour, the Y-block is the way to go. Here’s just a taste of the Y-block goodies in Bill’s collection:
1930 Ford Coupe
|Valves:||2in (in), 1 5/8in (ex)|
|Camera:||Solid, blur grinding|
|Piston:||Johns Fake, 8.5:1|
|radiator:||Walker Four Cover, Flex Fan|
|Emissions:||Ram’s horn headers|
|Ignition:||Pertronix igniter and flamethrower coil|
|box:||Top loader, Jeep shifter top|
|Clutch:||10 in the diaphragm|
|Difference:||Borg Warner, 3.5:1|
|Front end:||So-Cal 4in drop axle and spring|
|shocks:||Land Rover (f), Falcon (r)|
|Steering:||Side steer with HK box|
|brake:||XA rotors, Commodore calipers (f), 10in drums (r)|
|codes:||Customline, 5×15 (f), Falcon 6×15 (r), ’65 XL Galaxie caps|
|Rubber:||Coker Classics, 520×15 (f), H78x15 (r)|
Dale Murphy Paint & Panel (0431 246 749); Jeff Redman; Tony Webster, Webby’s Speed Shop; Auto Lock Paints, Cardiff; Kevin Price Engine Balancing