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NSRA Hot Rod Supernationals – Steampunk Automatron
There’s car builds, then there’s this…
When it comes to feature cars, there are a few areas they need to tick before we deem them ‘feature worthy’. Firstly, is it different? Secondly, does it have the wow factor? And, thirdly, is it interesting? Well, it’s safe to say that this one well and truly ticks all three requirements.
The Frankenstein build you see before you now was spotted at the 2019 NSRA Hot Rod Supernationals show, held at Shuttleworth House in Biggleswade. We were in attendance purely on a jolly and it’s safe to say that we certainly were not expecting to be well and truly stopped dead in our tracks by this thing driving into the show field. Once we’d gathered our sh*t together, closed our mouths and splashed a bit of water on our faces, we just had to know more about it.
Following a wee bit of digging on our part, we found out that the car, thing, vehicle, merger was built by the legendary Paul Bacon. Paul is no stranger to the Hot Rod community; he’s extremely well known in the hot rod and American scene for his wayward builds and his most recent build, nicknamed ‘Automatron’, really caught our attention.
You’d assume with a build as big as this there would be sketches and sketches, research and development and the like; I mean, it’s practically from the ground up but Paul actually doesn’t draw anything out in great detail; he just goes with the decisions as the build develops and things work or they don’t.
The background to the completed build you see before you will require us taking you back to 2015. Rewind just four years when Paul got a hold of a 1924 Ford Model A pick-up that was actually a part-built Singer chassis construction.
From there, not much has remained apart from the chassis (having had an absolute shed load of laser-cut add ons etc.), the drop tube front axle (now from a transverse leaf spring with wishbones of Paul’s design) and an Alfa Romeo rear axle which has been drastically redesigned and refitted with added coil-overs.
ENGINE AND RUNNING GEAR
Powered by a pretty well disguised Buick V8 lump that’s been mated to a rebuilt Borg Warner T35 transmission, it sounds monstrous! The Ardun-style rocker covers will be sure to throw you off, but we assure you it’s a V8 engine under there. The rocker covers are purely replicas. Paul designed some silver-plated goblets with laser-cut backplates for the air intake trumpets. There’s also a couple of 12V induction fans to help keep the Mini radiator temperatures down. Moulding marks add a vintage look of authenticity to lumps of resin that have been turned in a lathe to replicate brass-effect cowls, while the exhaust header’s end caps have been taken from a combine bloody harvester! The Engineering Co. donned rear-mounted fuel tank isn’t that at all, it actually started its life as a Vintage Calor Gas bottle and has been adapted to suit. The wedge-style cogs you see to the back of the engine lump the same design throttle linkages as that in a 1926 Bugatti.
The exterior is formed of two separate parts, due to weight. Paul used polystyrene sheets to formulate a rough shape before plastering it with household plaster until happy; at which point he then added foil and a lot of fibreglass. Both sides of the body have been bolted straight to the chassis, while the roof has been filled with more fibreglass and covered in vinyl. Covering what could be seen of the joining of the two sides, Paul has replicated a Singer badge. The single suicide opening door hinges have been laser cut from 10mm sheets of steel and mounted to the chassis, as opposed to the body.
It’s been all about the details with this build, from start to finish. The windows, for example, have been created from polished acrylic sheeting and bonded in. Meaning, these windows are in no way functional, but Paul has added some beautifully-detailed winders anyway.
The hot rod sits on a set of banded steel barrel wheels to the rear, with laser-cut centres and 31/3.5/19 Austin 7 tyres, hiding a set of Alfa Romeo disc brakes, while to the front are similar centres within motorcycle wheels covered in 31/18.5/15 Mickey Thompson Sportsmans.
The front lights are an interesting one, too; Paul made these himself from a horse-drawn trap and some 20mm-thick acrylic sheeting for the lenses. Literally everything has had to be thought about and thought about some more. An apt Aircraft Grey hue finishes the exterior off perfectly, of which Paul prepped and painted himself.
To the inside, let’s firstly talk about those unique seats. Owner and creator Paul originally planned to do the seats himself but after a visit to Nottingham’s Barker and Stonehouse showroom he spotted a couple of dining chairs he just had to have. All measured up and ordered, it was as simple as that. The steel seat frames were then laser-cut, with some polished oak employed for the bases and backs. The floor is made up of polished oak, too. They sit in slat form so you can actually see the floor beneath! Also inside is a leather-bound bomb winch wheel from a French aircraft at the centre of the cockpit which, randomly, operates the vehicle’s handbrake. Concealing the gear linkage is a dupe steering box, which Paul fabricated up himself, along with some added Hispano-Suiza lettering.
There are quirks at every corner, with new uses for old materials. The brake pedal, for example, features the pad from an old Dunlop foot pump, while the steering wheel was built completely from scratch by Paul. A gear selector mechanism can also be found to the side of the steering column – made up of a Singer sewing machine handle and an old drill, no less – along with an adapted sundial of all things to indicate which gear it’s in!
Just looking at this hot rod build is overwhelming; your eyes are constantly darting to new things you notice, new questions arising in your mind with every glance. Paul stresses there was a fair bit of trial and error with this build, which is why it’s taken a few years to get to fruition, but it is there and was well worth the wait. It was a clear magnet at the NSRA show and sure to be a magnet for future shows it attends. It’ll be interesting to learn what, if anything, the new owner will do with it. Keep your eyes peeled for this one, it’s a ‘seen with your own eyes to be believed’ kinda’ build.
If you’re interested in knowing more about this build, simply Google Steampunk Automatron.
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