[Ed. note: This article has been penned by guest writer, Matt Harvey from mattonmotors.com –Antti ]
Before I get to the main story permit me to get a tiny bit autobiographical. Bear with me, it’s relevant.
When I was 8 I took the exam to win a scholarship to the school my Mum wanted to send me to. I passed and as a reward I was presented with a huge glossy tome full of hundreds of photographs entitled “The Encyclopedia of the Motor Car”. I loved it, treasured it.
One section was devoted to custom stuff. It contained dragsters and Chevy vans with lurid paint jobs and beds in the back for… well, y’know. One image, however, really caught my eye. Some mad bugger had taken a British milk float, a battery powered truck for delivering your daily dose of calcium and vitamins, dropped in a big V8 and given it a purple flake paint job.
This is the very image from that book. It was allegedly good for 140mph!
Time passed, stuff happened, and the book has long since been donated to goodwill, but life has a strange habit of throwing you curve balls.
We meet many people in the course of our lives. Every now and then fate decrees we bump into someone truly fascinating. Ian Furey-King is one of those. To paraphrase Winston Churchill’s description of Soviet Russia, he is a giggle, wrapped in history, inside charisma.
Last June there was a military vehicle event on the beach green just across the road from where I live so Junior Menace and I took a stroll over there to see what was what. It was there we encountered Ian, his long-understanding and charming wife Beryl and their faithfully re-imagined 1916 Model T ambulance -all Model T chassis were handed back to Ford at the end of the conflict to be repurposed as civilian transport so this is a loving and exquisite recreation.
Beryl, Ian and friends with their 1916 Model T military ambulance, recreated to be authentic in the most minute detail.
A spritely 65, sporting a splendid moustache and mutton-chop sideburns, Ian is a retired teacher of design technology and auto shop who now does as much as possible to keep himself, not so much out of mischief as embedded firmly in it. A steampunk enthusiast, he is fanatical about military re-enactment (last year he was on the frontline of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo), jobbing bit part actor (the medical doctor in the Dr Who story Mummy on the Orient Express amongst others) and of course the enthusiastic collector and builder of an amazing resume of vehicles.
Ian (3rd from left) not playing The Doctor.
Much to Junior’s chagrin Ian and I ended up deep in conversation, Beryl brewed us a cup of tea, and I began to scratch the surface of his almost religious petrolhead passion. It was then he let slip about his racing Model T, and also that in the ‘70s he had taken a slow, electric workhorse and turned it into a purple V8 dragster, the very one from my book. Right then I knew I had to spend time with this crazy guy to learn more his love of cars so, last October, we travelled over to Bristol to do just that…
MH: Ian, you have a fascinating collection. Where did it start? And how?
IFK: Age 3 when my parents bought me a Jeep pedal car which was my introduction to military vehicles and I’ve been hooked on cars since. When I was 14 my grandfather was told he was too old to drive and he parked his 1933 Austin 10 in his garage. He kept looking at it, couldn’t stand to see it sat there, so he gave it to me. Of course I was too young to drive so we went to Northampton and my Dad drove it back through freezing fog with two cans of de-icer, one for the outside and one for the inside! It’s parked in my late father’s garage, it’s still mine. It’s one of those things I’m still in love with, it was my first ever spray job, my first engine rebuild and so I grew up fixing cars then ended up teaching fixing cars when I was a teacher. To me it just seemed the normal thing to do.
MH: So you’ve become a bit of a hoarder in that respect?
IFK: No, no, no, an eclectic collector. My theory is that as you get older the toys get better. And if my wife were here she would chip in with “And more expensive!” But yes, I like things with wheels, that’s it.
MH: So you have the old Austin, what else features in the car history?
IFK: In the late 50s and early 60s Britain was still a net exporter of goods and so cargo ships returning to Bristol docks required ballast, much of which was made up with unsold magazines that were then flogged off cheap to local vendors for kids like me to buy with their pocket money. I got into hot rods as a kid because I could buy these American magazines, which, unlike the British offerings at the time, had coloured photos instead of just line drawings. My father stopped me from hot-rodding the Austin for which I am now grateful, but by the time I got to the start of the ‘70s I borrowed some money from my parents and built my first one, a Model T van with a Rapier engine which I called the Beer Wagon.
My hot-rod instincts then got suppressed when the children arrived although I was half way through building a road-going Fiat Topolino dragster with a Hemi V8. It had a parachute that I could release as I drove past the school where I was teaching, the aim being to catch the crossing guard’s stick with it as a drove by. Fortunately I never got that far as I don’t think that would have gone down too well with management!
About the same time I first got into military vehicles. I was driving down a road one day and passed a house where there was one, in the front garden. I say “in” not “on” as it had literally sunk eight inches into this lady’s front lawn and she desperately wanted it gone!
But always in the back of my mind the hot-rodder was lurking and in 2007 I saw in California this absolutely beautiful little racing T. I tracked down video of it where the guy was smiling for every single mile he drove and I thought, “Yeah, yeah, that’s what I want.” I contacted him and, damn, couldn’t afford it. But I kept tracking this car as it was sold across America, working its way from California to New England and then I finally got the money, called the guy up and he says “Wow, wasn’t gonna sell it but I’m having a ’34 Ford hot-rod built and my wife says I need some money so… yeah, OK.” And so I got it for the same price that it was up for sale in 2007.
I arranged a shipper, it turned up at the docks and hanging from the dashboard were the very same goggles the guy was wearing in the first video I saw of the car! I’ve been in love with it ever since and in the interests of fairness I figured if I have a Model T then my wife should have one too so I treated her to the Model T WWI ambulance which is hers and I have now restored. I met her because I sold her a car back in 1969. And she’s been getting her own back ever since!
MH: So, tell me more about the Racing T. It sounds absolutely fascinating and I’m really looking forward to going out and playing with it. What’s the history behind it, how was it modified and how long has it been a racing rather than a stock Model T?
IFK: It’s an original 1926 T that was converted to racing very early in its life. It started life in the Ford factory and then shipped to California where it fell into the hands of a racer who started, sort of, changing it.
Just where it all ended up can be seen here, in the video below.
[youtube width=”720″ height=”480″]https://youtu.be/fLUaO9EvneE[/youtube]