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Art Deco understatement: learn the art of subtlety from this custom ’47 Delivery

14 November 2015


At first glance, this may look like a tidy, yet stock, sedan delivery, but park a truly stock one next to it, and you’ll find out there’s a whole lot more going on here than you first notice

Unless you know your mid- to late-’40s Chevs as well as Cambridge’s Murray Storey does, chances are you won’t pick up on many of the 60 — yes, 60 — custom body modifications on this 1947 Chev sedan delivery. The delivery is a product of Murray’s imagination and his love of Chevs of that era. As he’s owned more than 20 of them over the years, it’d be fair to say he knows them better than almost anyone else.

With Murray’s love of these vehicles, and with him having always wanted to build one to this level, it’s ironic that he actually did it for his business partner, Dawn King, rather than for himself. However, the car was built totally Murray’s way, and he gets to drive it whenever he feels like it — so not all bad.

Some readers may know Murray as the man behind Valley Custom — one of the largest hot rod shops in the country — but, back when the build began over a decade ago, he was not in the automotive trade at all. Being a born and bred hot rodder, though, Murray knew just the man to help him out with the complex panelwork the delivery would require, and that was John Key of Tauranga. 

While the list of jobs for John to do totalled more than 60, the biggest of them was to swap out the short sedan delivery doors for longer ones off a two-door sedan. Obviously, this process included shifting the B-pillars back, so it was no small task, but the result was well worth it. Another major change involved removal of the rear door’s drip rail and construction of an internal gutter — a small change visually, yet one that has a major impact on the smoothness of the vehicle. Speaking of smooth, that’s now exactly what the fuel filler is. It is also a good description of the way the rear guards now meet the rear quarters, which have been modified to tidy up the factory panel gaps.

With the body mods finished, the body was blasted back to bare steel and delivered to Willie Johnstone at High Impact Auto Painters in Tauranga for final prep and paint. The colour of choice fits the period of vehicle perfectly, yet adds a modern twist. The seat and all other interior trim were sent off to Jeff’s Auto Trim and Upholstery to be recovered. 

While Murray and Dawn couldn’t be happier with how the bodywork turned out, Murray now regrets shaving the cowl vent. The reason becomes evident when you look under the hood and see that there’s not only the predictable small-block Chev but also an unpredictable added heat source sitting above it. The motor itself is a genuine 1958 Corvette 283 cube small block. Sadly, its original heads were too cracked to be of any use, so Murray had engine builder Paul Manders replace them with later model items. While the engine has been built strongly, it’s what sits on top that really catches attention — not to mention transforms the way the delivery drives. 

“It’s some old agricultural turbocharger originally set up on the engine back in the States in the early ’70s,” announces Murray proudly. “It was rebuilt by Diesel & Turbo Cambridge, and runs into a 2½-inch straight pipe from the turbo to the rear of the car.” 

While the entire exhaust system has been HPC coated, and from the turbo to behind the driver’s seat wrapped, it still provides plenty of heat, and it’s this heat that’s left Murray thinking a working cowl vent could have been advantageous. 

The unique turbo set-up works with a boost-friendly Holley two-barrel carb and uses water and alcohol injection to insure intake temperatures are kept in check. The tank for this is on the firewall nearby, with all lines for it hidden. 

Touches such as the paint and chrome on the tank reveal that the overall level of detail is far above and beyond the average. Like the chrome on the exterior, that chrome work was taken care of by the team at Advanced Plating and Polishing Services in Hamilton, and, as with everyone else involved in the build, Murray can’t speak highly enough of their work. In fact, the more you look, the more you find and the more the vehicle impresses with the workmanship and the thought that have gone into its construction. 

While the vehicle has never been on a dyno, we can tell you from experience that it has far more power than you’d expect from what is essentially an unknown turbo from the ’70s! This power is fed through to a transmission that’s also unexpected: a five-speed manual that is backed by a V8 Commodore diff. 

While at first glance, this may look like the car has been airbagged, that’s not the case. Instead, the rear chassis rails were notched slightly to allow the diff to sit up nice and high, while custom cross members were added to tie it all together. Up front, a Mustang II — a genuine one, not a replica — front end has been grafted in, giving the car rack and pinion steering, far improved suspension geometry, and, of course, disc brakes. 

That suspension package is just one of the reasons Dawn and Murray have driven the car the length and width of the country on numerous occasions, the power of the turbocharged engine just adding to the enjoyment.

Speaking of enjoyment, Murray put plenty of work into making sure the interior would be comfortable on these long drives. Being taller than average, he extended the length of the seat base to compensate for his long legs. A decent audio system was wired up by fellow enthusiast, Chris Harrison. So impressed were Murray and Dawn with Chris’s work and attitude that he’s now employed by the pair as the chief problem solver and fabricator at Valley Custom.

Despite the complexity of the build, it took only about 18 months to complete, the finishing touch to the trim being the addition of a ‘Body by John Key’ badge, which, at first glance, looks identical to the ‘Body by Fisher’ badge that the car would have worn from the factory. This badge sums up the car perfectly. It’s not even close to how stock it first appears to be, and Murray and Dawn aren’t keen on pointing out the changes, preferring to sit back and see what people discover for themselves. We guess you could say that makes them just as modest as the vehicle itself — a rare trait for purveyors of rare vehicles. 

1947 Chev sedan delivery

  • Engine: 283ci small block Chev, two-barrel Holley carb, custom turbocharger, electric fuel pump, custom fuel tank, water and alcohol injection, HEI distributor, 2½-inch HPC-coated exhaust, triple flow radiator
  • Driveline: Chev five-speed manual gearbox, Holden Commodore V8 diff
  • Suspension: Mustang II front end, leaf spring rear
  • Brakes: Ford Mustang front discs and calipers, stock Commodore rear drum brakes
  • Wheels/Tyres: 15×6-inch and 15×8-inch wheels, 205/70R15 and 235/75R15 Kingstar tyres
  • Exterior: Two-door sedan doors, shaved drip rail, sedan tail lights, custom rear stone guard, modified rear quarters, filled cowl vent, custom paint
  • Chassis: Notched rear rails, custom cross members
  • Interior: Custom front seat, ’56 Chev steering wheel, ’37 Chev shifter, stock gauges, 12V conversion, hidden Sony audio
  • Performance: Untested

This article was originally published in NZV8 Issue No. 124. You can pick up a print copy or a digital copy of the magazine below: