An insight into Feather's world

Posted in People

It’s hard to know exactly when Feathers’ love of cars began. While racing stock cars in the ’70s, he was involved with building the Huntly Speedway track, and, apart from a break in the late ’70s and early ’80s due to business commitments and overseas travel, he has continued to race to this day. With the track recently celebrating its 25th anniversary, it was great to see him not only out on track but also winning the feature race of the night!

While Feathers’ love of Speedway sees him pilot the same small block, Ford-powered, Imp-bodied car that he’s driven for many years, his love of Fords extends far beyond that. After growing up with various hot rods, Feathers’ taste has evolved somewhat as he’s aged, yet his love of the blue oval has never changed. Over the years, he’s had numerous cars, and, after selling his business back in the early 2000s, he was lucky enough to be in a position whereby he could spend more time overseas searching for many of the cars he owns today.


These days, Feathers spends a few months each year in the US, where he’s got a pickup and fifth-wheel camper as his home away from home. He uses it to tour around, visiting car shows and swap meets, and following the World of Outlaws sprint-car series. As he keeps logbooks of all his travels, it’s been calculated that he’s clocked up more than 160,000 miles (yes miles, not kilometres) since 2000.

“I’ve made so many great friends up there; their doors are always open,” he mentions. When you see some of the memorabilia he’s managed to collect along the way, you know he’s not kidding. One item is from a speedway track called Ohsweken, where, after asking if they had any merchandise for sale, such as a T-shirt or the like, which he could take home to New Zealand, he was given the sponsor board from the winner’s circle! These days he knows the track owners better, as he makes sure to attend events at Ohsweken whenever possible. Plenty of the drivers know him, too, often commenting on how far he’s come to spectate. 

The miles Feathers has clocked up haven’t been just towing the camper around. For the Mustang 40th Anniversary run in 2004, he purchased the ’69 Shelby GT350 convertible from Indiana and drove it to Nashville untested. From there, he and his wife completed the Pony Run before stopping off at locations such as Niagara Falls, Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon, Golden Gate Bridge, Shelby HQ, Ford HQ, and others. With the car being one of around 330 made with a 351 Windsor under the hood, that’s a fair few miles to clock up on it, but I imagine it would have been a dream trip.

In 2005, Feathers completed a similar trip in the orange F-150, and again took part in the Pony Run. Not being in a Mustang, he voluntarily took the position of tail-end Charlie, as, whenever the bright orange truck rolled up in the drivers’ rear-view mirrors, they knew they were on the right track. The truck was built by LA West Luxury Vehicles under licence from Ford — “Similar to what Tickford did,” says Feathers. On the one trip, Feathers clocked up 17,000 miles, included in which was a trip to the manufacturer, who sent him banners and signage a week later. “I could sell this one in a heartbeat,” he says. “Everyone wants to buy it.” They’d have trouble getting it off him, though, as it still sees plenty of street miles locally. 

Also seeing plenty of use is the 1949 Ford Bonus, which was purchased out of Florida in 2005. A worked 302 came with the truck, and, in theory, was to be dropped in it, but, with the truck running so well as it is, Feathers is understandably reluctant to change a thing. Instead, he says, the engine will be dropped into the ’34 coupe, which is currently hiding a small block Chev under the hood — not really ideal, with Feathers being such a Ford lover!

The ’34 is an all-steel car that was purchased in Tennessee. Since bringing it home, Feathers has made plenty of changes to it to make it his own, and, like everything else, it’s been driven long distances, the only difference being that this one has clocked up its miles in New Zealand. 

While it’s easy to see that Feathers’ taste in cars is eclectic — and he says, laughing, that he has a foot in each camp — the collection can easily be broken down into three distinct groups: ’69 Mustangs, ’59 Fords, and hot rods, into which category the Bonus and the ’34 fall.

You see, the Shelby GT350 convertible mentioned above isn’t the only desirable Mustang that Feathers has managed to get his hands on; it is one of four that he owns. The pride and joy of the collection is the ultra-rare and desirable Boss 429. The Boss 429s were made for Nascar and, as you can guess from the name, come complete with the 429-cubic-inch, Hemi-headed motor that most Ford lovers can only ever dream of owning. As far as we’re aware, it’s the only ’69 Boss 429 in the country, and, despite people from around the globe trying to get their hands on it, Feathers is holding on tight … for now, at least. With only 859 or so made, and many destroyed long ago, it’s easy to see why. Making the car even more collectable is that it’s in dead stock, unrestored condition. With low mileage on it, understandably this is one car that you won’t catch being driven on a regular basis.

Parked behind the Boss 429 is a ’69 GT500 that was purchased locally in the late ’90s. This has had an interesting history, being stolen and found on an island off Auckland before Feathers purchased it. The fourth red ’69 is a Mach 1, which also has an interesting story. After being imported into Australia in 1970, it was converted to right-hand drive in Brisbane. Feathers bought the car in 1979 when living in Australia, and managed to travel to Perth and back in it — the return trip being one of the more memorable drives. In 1982, while still living in Australia, Feathers rebuilt the motor in an old tin shed, and it’s going strong to this day. 

With a nice cam in it and a four-speed, it makes a great driver. 

The ‘Mustang shed’ is a spotless showroom with plenty of memorabilia around the walls. It makes a great place to sit back with a hot coffee or cold beer. Each and every item has a story behind it, and Feathers laughs that even his Chev-loving friends have had to accept that it’d be hard to find a better place to kick back and relax.

The ‘’59 Ford shed’ is somewhat different; it’s more of a functional workshop than a showroom, and, while some may say that the bench is a mess, Feathers knows exactly where everything is. “I tried tidying it once, and couldn’t find anything,” he laughs. Plenty of engines have been built under this roof, for his own projects and for friends, and a few were on the go when we visited.

Also being worked on was a ’69 Ranchero GT R-Code, which is essentially a GT500 in a ute body. With a 428 Cobra jet engine under the hood, the engine bay is so tight that it’s impossible to change spark plugs without lifting the engine. The vehicle had a full restoration in Mississippi in 2004 before Feathers added it to his collection. Being one of just 101 made, it’s an amazingly rare vehicle. It’s in good company, too, with a ’59 version not far away. With a 390 under the hood, this one has seen a lot of miles, both overseas, before being shipped home, and locally.

Continuing the theme is a ’59 two-door hardtop with Police Interceptor–spec 352 as a factory option and an original ’59 Skyliner Retractable. So original is the car that it still has the plastic on the seats!

The odd vehicle out seems to be the 30th Anniversary Falcon, which is hiding in the corner. After driving the car when it was new, Feathers has put it away to let it increase slowly in value. It still smells like a new car when the doors are opened. 

“I’ll need to live till I’m 100 to finish all my projects,” Feathers says, not really joking. With such a great collection of vehicles, and no shortage of things to do around the shed, we can’t think of any better way to live out your years. It sounds as if Feathers has got a way to make it even better, though — there’s mention of building another shed dedicated to his growing collection of speedway stuff. Now that’s something we like the sound of!  

Todd Wylie

Todd Wylie has been involved with NZV8 magazine since before the first issue was printed, and has been the editor for the last eight years. Growing up in the heyday of the Jap-import scene, he's not adverse to Japanese vehicles, having worked for NZ Performance Car previously, as well as owning a few well-known examples. These days he cruises at a slower pace in a 1956 Cadillac Coupe and dreams of building a Model A tudor.