For years I remember seeing a bunch of Studebakers following each other around at Beach Hop. It wasn’t until I met Trevor Halstead that I found out they were all his. His love of the brand goes back many years to when he was trying to buy a ’56 Ford Customline, which he couldn’t afford. Parked next to it was a newer ’57 Studebaker, and although it was a six-cylinder, he decided he couldn’t go wrong for the asking price. He bought it and has never looked back.
Since the ’57, he’s owned and worked on more Studebakers than anyone else in the country, losing count after owning 60-odd.
“Most people think I start with good cars,” says Trev, “but I don’t, I start with basket cases that no one else would touch.”
And when you see the rusting shells on his driveway, you soon learn he’s telling the truth. They’re not lined up for scrap, they’re the next projects just waiting to be worked on.
Through his love of the cars, he’s turned his home workshop into a business to specialise in them, although he doesn’t limit himself to just Studes, as the Monaro in the workshop attests to.
“I’d love to just do Studes, but there’s just not enough of them around,” he says.
One of his more well-known cars is the black and gold Bomber he’s owned since 1972, although he didn’t get it on the road till 1979 and the rego sticker from then is still on the window. Since then it’s been through a couple more builds, getting wilder each time. His fluorescent-green sedan delivery (as seen in Issue No. 51) is an indication of what he can do, with the whole car being built entirely in the shed, apart from the upholstery.
Custom bodywork is his specialty, and his current personal project, a ’53 Starlight coupe, is testament to that. Although it’s the only one in the country, the body mods become obvious when you look at it, as does his quality of workmanship. The car runs a tunnel–rammed 489ci big block Chev, which he used on the Bomber back in the '80s. He’s not a huge fan of Studebaker motors, more due to the cost involved of building them than anything else. Apparently he’d been trying to get his hands on the car for many years, and when he finally did, it ended in being in storage just around the corner from his place, almost like it was meant to be.
“Not many people modify Studes — it’s good to be different,” says Trev, who soon points out that the purple ’50 two-door is the first roof-chopped Studebaker in the country that he doesn’t own, although he is the one building it.
Another customer job on the go is the Hawk, which is fitted with Jag suspension and a custom chassis.
The pink and grey ’47 coupe was his second build and he’s owned the black ’53 Land Cruiser for 30 years now, using it as his tow car till last year. It’s in line for a rebuild, but there’s plenty to do first. The yellow ’52 doesn’t see a lot of use, although it did take a load of rubbish to the dump a few days ago, he informs us.
The Starlight coupe should be ready in time for Beach Hop . It had better be, because as an avid rock ’n’ roll dancer, Trev’s made it to every Beach Hop so far, and he’s not about to stop any time soon [It was ready in time, and has been to every Beach Hop since].
Around the walls of the shed are, “Just a bit of junk I’ve collected over the years,” as he puts it, or cool memorabilia and old photographs as we see it. Plenty of newspaper clippings and photographs show us we’re not the first to find him and his collection worthy of print.
Like many car builders, nothing is thrown out, which has given him an impressive collection of Stude parts. Then again, as he currently owns eight of them himself, one of which is in the build and two waiting for their turn, that’s not a bad thing.
With no shortage of his own projects and customer jobs on the go, and plenty of passion still for the brand, we’re pretty sure Trev will be rockin’ and rollin’ and playing with Studes for many years to come.
Trevor's shed was featured in NZV8 issue 80 (January 2012). You can purchase a copy online, here.