When you live in West Auckland, run a panel shop, and have the nickname Westy, then you’re pretty much destined to have some kind of modified V8. It’s almost a birthright for someone in that position, and that’s exactly what happened for Brent (Westy) Martin.
Always having a love of cars, and growing up playing rugby and drinking booze with a handful of other currently well-known car builders and workshop owners, Brent was always going to build something cool — or, more correctly, build a bunch of cool cars. Over the years, he’s had all sorts of Westie icons, from HQ Holdens to pickups and everything in between, each and every one of them V8 powered, of course. But when Brent came across a partially built 1934 Chev coupe some 10 years ago, he knew that this was the car he’d build properly.
Being a rare car at the time, and with some of the hard work already done, the Chev held some appeal for the panel shop owner. As with all people who work within their hobby, the build took longer than expected, as paying jobs continued to take priority. When Brent finally did get into the build, though, he wanted to do it right, and that involved stripping the body back to bare steel. While it was the fact that it was already chopped that made the car appeal in the first place, Brent went about adding his own custom touches to it.
Like the body, the chassis was partially completed. Unlike most hot rods of the era, the car runs a boxed and modified stock chassis rather than a full replacement item. Instead of the typical I-beam arrangement upfront there is now an HQ front cross member, complete from disc to disc and everything in between. While it may seem like an odd choice, the truth is that it makes the car handle far beyond anything it could have achieved otherwise; considering how hard Brent drives the thing, that was a key factor.
When it came to choosing a motor to drop in, the choice was simple: a good old small-block Chev. For bang for buck, and ease of fitment, it’s pretty hard to go past, and Brent had no intention of reinventing the wheel. Of course, if you look at the engine now, you can question that statement, but back when the car was first built, a simple carb and manifold combo were fitted. These days, there’s a beautiful Kinsler stack injection set-up. That was installed along with the Link G4 ECU by Robin at Torque Performance some years after the original build, and, while Brent is aware he could have fitted a blower for what the whole thing cost, he’s glad he didn’t. Not only is the injection a great point of difference, but being EFI it offers easy turnkey reliability — not to mention that when run up on the Torque Performance dyno it made a healthy horsepower figure at the treads, too. Back when the injection was fitted, there weren’t many injected hot rods around, hence Brent turning to a shop better known for its work on late-model cars. Being a jack of all trades, Robin is also responsible for building the stroker motor for the car, complete with mild cam, Edelbrock heads, and roller rockers.
Backing up the motor combo is a TH350, which has been given the works by The Gearbox Factory. If it can handle the abuse Brent throws at it, you know it’s been built well — and after its years of faithful service, Brent has no complaints. The tyres fitted to the billet Centreline wheels on the other hand — well, let’s just say that Brent doesn’t care too much for them. Making sure that the power is getting to them from the trans is the job of a trusty nine-inch diff with a 3.0:1 ratio and LSD head, built by Tony at Steelie Gears.
With the car’s 80th birthday taking place during 2014, and with the previous purple paintwork starting to show its age, Brent decided now was the perfect time to give the car a bit of a tidy-up. For that, it was once again stripped back to bare metal. By this stage, Brent had long since sold the panel business and moved on to other things, so he handed the job on to people he could trust.
Thanks to it all having been done right when it was originally built, the body was still in great shape, so only a few slight massages were needed before Jason at Autocolour Matrix could coat the Chev in layer after layer of gorgeous deep purple PPG paint — so deep that in the shade, or when it’s cruising at night, you’d swear the car is black; however, the purple really comes alive in the afternoon sun.
Like the drivetrain, the interior was done right the first time. Despite being nearly eight years old, it still looks as good as the day the new covers were stitched onto the Recaro seats. Sure, audiophiles may look at the Alpine stereo gear and see it as being a bit dated, but the quality of the installation is still up there with the latest. In fact, the whole first build was so good that Brent didn’t need to change much to bring the car forward a decade. As such, the chassis still wears the original purple powder coat, as does the engine block.
One of the more recent touches is the addition of an electronically controlled exhaust, which Brent can open up with the flick of a button to let the 383 breath — and that it does when Brent pushes his right foot into the custom accelerator pedal, leaving no doubt that the car means business.
After going for a quick blast in the car, I can assure you it not only goes well but handles far better than an 80-year-old car should, and that’s a testament to the hard graft done all those years ago. Something tells us that, after various cars have come and gone from the Martin family’s shed, this one is here to stay. Sure, it may get a bit of a tickle up now and then, but the reality is that Brent wouldn’t have it any other way.
- Vehicle: 1934 Chev coupe
- Engine: 383ci small-block Chev, flat-top pistons, Kinsler EFI, Link G4 ECU, Edelbrock heads, roller rockers, mild cam, Bosch electric fuel pumps, surge tank, MSD blaster coil, MSD distributor, 2.5-inch exhausts, custom headers, Flowmaster mufflers, alloy radiator, electric fan
- Driveline: TH350 transmission, mild stall converter, 9-inch diff, 3.0:1 gears, LSD head
- Suspension: HQ front end, adjustable shocks, 4-link rear, coilover shocks
- Brakes: Under-floor booster, custom pedal assembly, HQ discs, HQ calipers, Ford drum rear
- Wheels/Tyres: 15×7-inch and 15×10-inch Centreline wheels, 195/60R15 and 245/60R15 BF Goodrich tyres
- Exterior: 4-inch roof chop, HQ door handles, shaved boot, custom fuel filler, custom PPG paint
- Chassis: Boxed stock chassis, HQ front clip, custom cross members
- Interior: Full custom retrim, Recaro seats, Sabelt harnesses, VDO gauges, Alpine Car Audio, billet handles, billet steering wheel, HQ steering column, hidden roll cage
- Performance: Approx 400 hp
- Driver: Brent Martin
- Car Club: Huapai Hot Rod Club
- Age: 41
- Occupation: Wholesaler/importer
- Previously owned cars: ’59 Edsel Ranger, HQ Holdens, ’56 F100, many more
- Dream car: Always the next one
- Why the coupe? Not many around and it was a New Zealand–new, steel-body car
- Build time: Two years
- Length of ownership: 10 years
- Brent thanks: Robin at Torque Performance, Cut Loose Motor Trimmers, Jason at Autocolour Matrix
This article was originally published in NZV8 Issue No. 113. You can pick up a print copy or a digital copy of the magazine below: