Dream shed: west-side collection

Posted in Cars, People
When a car-obsessed husband and wife decided to get a place they could call their own, the results were always going to be impressive!

The West Auckland stigma is a well-known one, most commonly summed up to the unfamiliar and uninitiated with just one word: bogan. Among the criteria that are categorized under this label, cars have not escaped unscathed — stereotypes would have you believe they’re all old, matte-black Holdens and Fords with straight pipes and great thumping V8s. We know better, but upon learning of a cool shed located in the deepest depths of West Auckland, one of our first thoughts was: What’s in it? 

Well, their cars might, mostly, be as loud, powerful, and thirsty as that West Auckland badge requires, but Marty and Zoe Radford’s shed is a class act. Doubling as a home and a workshop, and filled with wares palatable to any real petrolhead, it’s as unquestionably neat as they are. 

The first thing you notice is the unmistakable visual assault of a supercharger towering above the engine to which it is bolted. That engine belongs to Marty and Zoe’s ’64 Falcon Sprint, which has been around for a while, and is a car that they had their eye on for at least 13 years. When it came up on the market back then, they had some house money in their pocket and gave it some serious thought, but decided to hold on to their coins. Over the years, the mission to own a blown pro-street Ford got real, and they began harassing the former owner, Aaron, to sell it to them. Three years ago, Aaron finally relented, and the car entered the Radfords’ garage. They acknowledge that it’s pretty rough and ready, and they love it for being a no-nonsense, tough street car. 

“The satin black’s cool,” Zoe says, “plus, it’s better than it was back in the day — it used to be this aquamarine colour with pink stripes.” She points this colour out on the inside of a front strut tower, and we’d have to agree — satin black is timeless, while that aquamarine is about as ’80s as you can get! 

Since owning the Falcon, the Radfords have dropped the 6–71 blower into the engine bay — although it only lasted for three weeks on the old motor. Since it blew up, it’s been replaced with a 302, with 351 Windsor heads to drop the compression, and a new exhaust system and LSD diff. The biggest change, in terms of drivability, was converting the old solid-mounted engine back to rubber mounts — it’s a lot nicer to drive now. The C4 transmission shifts nicely, and all that the Radfords would really like to do now is to sort out a transbrake. Other than the engine work in the quest for reliability, the car has largely been left as is for the past few years, giving Marty and Zoe extremely fun-filled and trouble-free motoring throughout the time they’ve owned it. 

Beside the Falcon is the pair’s distinctive, electric blue ’79 Camaro. They’ve owned that car for 12 years, and, believe it or not, it was originally purchased as a parts car. Somehow, it ended up undergoing a panel and paint, after which it sat for 18 months. Ten years later, the paint is still there. It’s showing its age in places — mostly as a result of fibreglass panel stress — but believe us when we say that, imperfections aside, it absolutely does not look like a 10-year-old paint job. Then again, that’s what loving car maintenance does. 

Over the time they’ve owned the Camaro, the Radfords have gone through countless engines in pursuit of  “something nice to drive”. It would seem that the never-ending engine transplants have died down, though, as the 468ci big block and 3000rpm high-stalled TH350 are not only holding up but delivering everything Marty and Zoe could want from the car. The pair have owned a lot of cars, and reckon this one drives as well as the best of them — even though they do say they’d consider selling it to fund something else. 

These cars are situated near the entry to the shed — although to class it as a shed is akin to putting a Boeing 737 in the same class as a Cessna. The front of the shed also contains the house, which is easily incorporated into the large commercial building. The Radfords have been here for three years, and moved in after they grew tired of constantly having to travel between their house on one side of West Auckland and their workshop on the other. 
“Now, when I wake up, I’ll look out the window to check the motorway traffic,” says Zoe, of having their workplace quite literally in the backyard. 

Further to the rear of the shed is the workshop, out of which Marty works. It can be totally sealed off from the front, more residential, area by way of an enormous sliding firewall. Being a sole trader and a mechanic by trade, Marty has found that operating from home allows him the flexibility to be selective about what he chooses to work on. He’s currently got Chris Wheelhouse’s blown Camaro in his workshop, charged with finding and fixing a persistent vibration issue, and a few minor niggles. The Camaro was featured as ‘La Puerto Rican Camaro’ in NZV8 Issue No. 102.

However, it’s not all customer vehicles — down the far end is a notably patinated Ford F100 truck. The truck belongs to the Radfords’ flatmate, and they’ve been helping work on it for years. It was on a Holden HQ chassis, although it has since been put back on a tubbed stock chassis, with Holden HQ front end. It’s got a tilt front end over the big block Chev, stroked to 489ci — backed by a TH700R4 transmission and nine-inch diff — and is soon to benefit from a 6–71 blower and Edelbrock heads. The rear end of the truck shows incredible attention to detail in the drop tank, plywood floor, and subtly smoothed tray and wheel tubs, as well as a bunch of subtle features on the cab. 

Overhead is a Ford Capri that is significant in a number of ways, not least because it was Marty’s first car, purchased when he was 16. With a passion for drag racing, he’d run a PB of 11.8 seconds running a naturally aspirated 289ci small block. The intention was to tub the Capri and to go all out, until his sponsor fell through. Instead, Marty finished another car and the Capri sat idle, waiting to be finished. 

“After buying the [Falcon] Sprint, I’m not sure I’ll bother. But [the Capri’s] my first car — it took me everywhere,” Marty remembers. 

The T-bucket stored up high is Zoe’s baby, and will one day receive the birthday it’s been waiting for. It is actually an old street rod from the ’70s, as the graphics may suggest, and the pair have been collecting bits and pieces for it as they come up. The plan is to fit it with a tunnel rammed 289, and extend the chassis to get a proper sized tray out the back. Having owned two buckets already — one powered by a 302, the other with a monster 429 — they know what they’re after, and hope to get this build under way sooner rather than later. 

Of course, it’s not only cars that are stored in the building — although there are plenty more. A little further down from the bucket is an interesting red vehicle: a rail jigger. It was used by track workers to haul their tools, and, having been a volunteer at Motat for many years, Marty purchased it when it became available. 

The walls beneath the jigger are lined with posters for a large variety of automotive events in which the Radfords they have been involved — including many for the Kumeu Classic Car & Hot Rod Festival. Then there is agricultural stuff, much of which came from Marty’s father’s collection, inherited when he passed. 

It wasn’t just farm gear that found its way from Marty’s father’s shed to Marty and Zoe’s. In stark contrast to the wealth of big cube muscle pervading the entire building, there sits a car that is undeniably cool in its charming obscurity. The little blue ’67 NSU Prinz 1000 was also inherited from Marty’s father, who was an ‘orphan collector’ — that is, a collector of obscure cars. The NSU was the official New Zealand demonstrator car, to determine whether it was financially viable to offer the NSUs for sale here. It turned out not to be.

This particular car has an original 80,000 miles on the clock. Marty and Zoe have owned it for around five years, and it runs as reliably as a Swiss watch, powered by a rear-mounted, air-cooled, four-cylinder engine — no, not the rotary that is commonly associated with NSU’s Ro80! — the design of which is extremely innovative, lubricating the engine, gearbox, and diff through a combined oiling system. The little NSU is a hit wherever it’s driven, and it has proven to be a real standout whenever Marty and Zoe have taken it to Beach Hop — even better, the return trip to Whangamata costs them only $60 in fuel! 

After 14 years together, Marty and Zoe have lost count of the number of cars they’ve been through, but a tentative inventory includes a bunch of Mustangs, a Ford jailbar truck, and eight Camaros. Zoe says that, regardless of how many cars they get through, she still gets attached and hates selling them. At least, with the awesome work-home set-up the Radfords have, the number of sweet cars they’ll be building and experiencing won’t be slowing down any time soon.


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: