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20 June 2022

When a guy with as much experience as Vince Douglas builds a car for himself, you know it’s going to be done right.

When a guy with as much experience as Vince Douglas builds a car for himself, you know it’s going to be done right

Words: Todd Wylie Photos: Liam Dijk

If it’s made of metal, there’s a good chance that Vince Douglas has made one, modified one, or repaired one. As the man behind Douglas Automotive and Engineering, he knows his way around a welder, and what it takes to get a job done right. The attention to detail he (and staff) put into their workmanship is top notch, regardless of whether it’s a heavy trailer build, a motorbike modification, or rust repair on a classic car.

So, it kind of goes without saying that when the man decides to build a car for himself, it’s going to be done right. Although there’s a story behind most of his cars — and he has certainly owned a few — this ’67 Falcon is somewhat different from the rest.



Sharp eyes will have noticed that while, at first glance, the car looks like an XR Falcon, it’s a couple of doors short, and the steering wheel is on the wrong (or right, depending on your point of view) side, so it’s actually an American-built Falcon. It was while Vince was on a once-in-a-lifetime trip driving across the States with his son Cole that fellow Kiwi Chris Curtis posted on Facebook to say the car was available. Chris and the car were in Wyoming at the time, and knowing that Chris’ inspection of it would be an honest one, a deal was done sight unseen. Vince and Cole didn’t get to actually see it in person till after crossing Route 66. Rather than jump in and drive it, they towed it back to Colorado where they unloaded it from the trailer, parked up the tow car, and hit the road.

Doing any cross country drive in an old car always comes with some risk, and when it’s an unknown car in an unknown country, that risk is only increased, but so is the sense of adventure. While Vince laughs that they did have a few issues on the way, thankfully they managed to get themselves out of trouble each time, meaning they could carry on across the country to the bright lights of Las Vegas. As if walking down the strip there isn’t enough of an eye opener, they managed to cruise it in the ’67 at midnight — a memory that will forever be cherished, perhaps even more so in these days when we are unable to travel abroad. With Vegas ticked off the list, they hit the road once more to LA where they eventually loaded it into a container to head for home.

Back home in Vegas — that’s RotoVegas — the car was rolled through the doors of Douglas Automotive and Engineering where it would be rebuilt from the ground up. Adding to the memories that are attached to the car, young Cole would perform his fair share of the work too. Although Vince and team are capable of full resto-style rust repair and panel work, the whole reason behind buying the car was that it actually needed very little done in this area. Instead, the team could focus on what minor body work repairs were required to ensure that when covered in a fresh coat of paint it didn’t look like a golf ball. Adding to the difficulty level was the fact that Vince had his heart set on painting it black. Of course his team didn’t disappoint and they soon had it in good shape.

While this was going on, Vince turned his hand to the mechanicals to make sure there were no more middle of the desert-type breakdowns. That said, the factory numbers matching engine had had very little love from the day it rolled off the factory floor, so rather than turf it in favour of a replacement, he made the decision to rebuild it using the original block. Phil Shepherd Engineering helped out with the machining work required for the new Mahle high-compression pistons, but the actual engine assembly itself was handled by Vince and Cole over the Christmas period. While it was in bits, a new set of rods was thrown in and the stock heads ditched in favour of aluminium Edelbrock Performer items. Being the attention-to-detail type of guy he is, Vince didn’t rest until the motor was painted up to look as slick as the exterior. That also meant the stock top end would never be going back on – instead Vince again opted for Edelbrock gear in the form of a Performer manifold which was topped with a 600cfm Holley carb fuelled by a mechanical pump.

Rather than trust the old fuel lines, Vince bent up complete stainless replacements and used a bunch of Aeroflow fittings to get it all working. Aeroflow was also the brand of choice for the ignition components. The exhaust system on the other hand is completely custom, starting with a set of HPC-coated headers which feed into twin stainless 2.5-inch pipes and a pair of Flow Fast stainless mufflers. The polished exhaust isn’t the only shiny bit below the car though as the rebuilt three-speed manual gearbox was also polished to perfection before being slotted back in. Along with that came all the usual bits you’d expect, like a new flywheel and an Exedy clutch to make sure it drove as good as it looked. Being column shifted — manually — adds to the uniqueness of the car, so it was something that Vince was keen not to lose during the build. With the column shifter set-up comes a factory bench seat, and obviously that was there to stay, even if the old trim was not.

While still black vinyl, the new upholstery is more befitting of a car rebuilt in modern times, not to mention a whole lot more comfortable than the worn original too. To keep the classic interior look, a Phoenix Audio head unit was fitted, which hides modern internals and capability within a classic looking fascia. Pop the trunk though and all illusion of a retro stereo is shattered by a pair of Kicker subs, and a matching pair of amps. Even from the outside the car retains a fairly classic look, until of course you notice the massive set of Wilwood brakes sitting behind the Rev wheels. If you’re anything like us, then the sight of 12-inch rotors up front, and 11-inch rotors on the back, has us wondering exactly what sort of power a car is packing. In this case though it’s really just a cruiser, and that impressive brake package is there for peace of mind and reliability as much as anything else.



Of course, should Vince ever decide to up the power at any stage, then there’s one less box for him to tick. Regardless of whether that happens or not at any stage in the future, the important part of the car is the memories that have been made with it, and the father and son bond strengthened by that trip across the land of stars and stripes. The fact the car now well and truly looks the part, and has the reliability to match, is simply a bonus … unless of course another road trip is required, then this time it’ll be one done in style.

This article originally appeared in NZV8 issue No. 200