Frank and Maree Wilson’s collection of stuff isn’t just amazing; it’s every car lover’s fantasy come to life!
I don’t find the stuff; the stuff finds me!” laughs Frank Wilson, and, in a way, he’s actually telling the truth. While he and wife Maree have always had a love of cars and the items that go with them, it was only when they built their new house around three years ago that they really got to showcase the true extent of their obsession.
“Even now, three-and-a-half years after we moved in, there’s still stuff we haven’t unpacked,” Frank explains, going on to say that if they manage to get a few metres of wall covered in a weekend, they’re doing well. When you start to look at what he means by ‘covered’, you soon understand where he’s coming from.
While many purpose-built sheds tend to look staged, as they’ve been overly well planned out, Frank and mate ‘Spanners’ have gone to great lengths to ensure that it looks natural — or, more correctly, they haven’t gone to any great lengths at all, simply unpacking things and finding places for them as they go.
“It grows like ivy — you never know what’ll happen next!” laughs Frank, as he talks us through the collection. Panel beater by trade and lover of all things with wheels by nature, Frank is a genuine jack of all trades. These days, part of that includes selling a few bits and pieces for Charlton Auto Imports — this is akin to a fat kid working in a candy store; temptation is everywhere.
The collection began many years ago, and these days includes everything — from items you’d expect, such as number plates and rocker covers, through to a few items less expected, such as a slot-car set Frank’s had parts of from age nine. Just like the shed, the slot-car set has more accessories than you could at first imagine. “It’s got to have shit going on!” Frank states.
The stuff doesn’t always come from where you’d expect, either — the ’57 Ford front clip hanging on the wall was being used as a urinal before Frank found it and added custom paint, as well as a few other touches. It’s far from being the only vehicle body part now used as artwork or furniture, with various cars ending their lives as couches.
“We made them when we had no furniture,” he reveals. The signs that adorn almost every inch of space have an equally varied history — one large collection being given to him, another being part of a court case and riddled with bullet holes.
“People just give us stuff now. They throw it over the fence, or we come home and it’s here. I’ve got no idea where some of the stuff here came from,” he muses. “We put one bike against the fence when we got here and now there’s four or five!”As you can imagine, getting signs hung and flags draped requires a bit of effort, the couple going as far as buying a forklift to assist with the high bits — complete with Occupational Health and Safety–approved cage, of course.
The more you look around, the more the line between car parts and artwork becomes blurred. The T-bucket body and axles belonging to Spanners fall somewhere between — too good not to be used but not worth using currently, although that may change one day. The nearby ’57 Chev pickup cab has its future well and truly set out, though, being a vital piece of an impending project.
Of course, there are more than enough complete cars to keep the couple busy for many lifetimes to come. Each and every one of them is there for a special reason — apart from the Cosworth Vega, that is; that’s the one car more likely to be sold on than any other.
The ’35 Ford coupe outside may be well known to some as Martin Pooley’s old car; it was well known back in the 1980s. Back then, the car wasn’t chopped and neither did it have an auto box behind the 350ci small block, but Frank’s done his bit to make it his own while keeping true to the car’s origins. Of the first four cars we stumble on when entering — the XB sedan, the HQ, the Valiant, and the Lincoln — just two belong to the pair: the HQ is being built for a mate, and the Valiant belongs to a friend offshore.
The XB sedan originally belonged to Maree’s father, but it never looked like this back then. These days, it’s the perfect booze-cruiser to load up with the lads for a stress-free outing. Lean on it, sit on it, stand on — Frank’s not too fussed. The ’63 Lincoln is a whole different story, though. Always loving the shape, as well as being a ’63 model himself — not to mention the JFK connection — Frank just had to have one. A friend found this one in Burbank, and it was just the ticket.
While hunting for a Dodge Challenger when the dollar was at an all-time high against the greenback, Frank and Maree not only scored what they were after but also a Mustang as well. The Challenger has an under-bonnet twist — a big block Chev engine and Powerglide combo are to be dropped in. The 540-cube engine is a detuned race motor fitted with an impressive CNC-machined Wilson manifold — a manifold that meant it needed a front-drive distributor. At first glance, the angle it’s on makes you think that it’s a big block Mopar, but closer inspection reveals that the angle is in the wrong direction. It’s a brain-teaser that Frank loves to see people baffled by, and a combo that he can’t wait to get in the car.
The second-gen Camaro was purchased as a write-off, before Frank used his skills to get it back into great condition and on the road. The car runs a big block, Powerglide, and nine-inch combo, and has been known to melt a tyre or two. Part of the car’s 450-or-so horsepower comes thanks to hand-me-down parts off Maree’s altered dragster.
Frank has owned the four-door Fairlane since 1992, and laughs that it’s the car that first made Maree pay attention to him. While he claims that it’s a bit tired now, with a 351 Clevo and C4, it’s still got plenty of power when needed.
The ’69 Mustang, which came about serendipitously at the same time as the Challenger, is one of the best cars in the fleet to drive and is mainly original — right down to most of the paintwork. It’s so nice to drive, in fact, that Maree’s been using it as her daily-driver, having stepped out of the C4 Corvette she was using prior to that.
With as much octane running through her blood as Frank has, it’s no surprise that Maree ended up behind the wheel of a drag car — a car that’s she’s happy to mention has gone a lot quicker than Frank’s, dipping into the eight-second zone a few years back. The altered is an ex–Ron Collett car, one of the few aspirated cars he ran, and features a stack injection system. The connection to Ron goes beyond the car, as the Frank and Maree also have some of his overalls hanging nearby. While both the altered and Frank’s 10-second Falcon coupe are currently parked up, they’re both ready to race if, and when, the desire returns. For now, though, with far too much heart, soul, and cash invested in them, the cars will sit as display pieces, never to be sold.
Besides, with so many other cars fighting for their attention, and a shed that — as they themselves proclaim — they are 20 years away from being happy with, Frank and Maree are busy enough without the added hassle of playing with drag cars.
Of course, the size of their collection hasn’t stopped this couple from continuing to accumulate more stuff. These days, they go to only one swap meet a year, but if they find cool stuff, Frank can’t help himself — and good friends who spend time in America are always keeping an eye out for them. Frank’s all too aware of how dangerous it’d be for a man with his purchasing habits to head over there himself, so, thus far, he has resisted.
While most people would be happy with a shed like this, the collection has extended beyond the car-parking area, overflowing into the games room and even into the toilet, where a BSA Bantam now resides. The bike still gets out occasionally and is reportedly pretty frightening towards its max speed of 60mph. Thankfully, when more speed is required, Maree also has a Harley Davidson 883 Evo to jump on. Most of the time, though, the bike makes a great seat in the games area, which, as you can imagine, has seen more than its fair share of late-night festivities — hence the old-school sickbay bed now sitting in there, which gets plenty of use.
Adding to the character of the building is the toilet door, complete with hilarious graffiti — originally a holding-cell door in a police station. It’s unique touches such as this that can keep you coming back and finding new things each and every time. Frank calls it a sickness, and he’s probably right, but with a collection this cool, it’s a sickness that we certainly wouldn’t mind catching!
This article originally featured in NZV8 issue No. 135 — to get your grubby mitts on a print copy, click the cover below