So, beginning with the rolling chassis, the stock frame was boxed and a Currie 9in replaced the old banjo rear, on parallel leaves, while up front a Mustang II IFS with tubular wishbones does the job previously handled by an I-beam and transverse leaf. Camaro discs and callipers help bring everything to a halt, while a Rover SD1 power steering rack makes light work of directing the heavy old Ford, coupled to an Ididit column. Making it all move is a stock but fully polished TPI-fed 305ci small block Chevy, while the 'rolling' part of the 'rolling chassis' wouldn't be possible without the subtle 15in chrome American Racing Rallye wheels, the use of which was a very conscious decision to blend with the resto theme of the car.

Dressed and detailed TPi 305 ensures this sleeper is no slouch!


Through owning an array of classic cars in his time, Ray Barrett knew the guys at a company in Shepherds Bush, London, called ‘Straight Eight’.  Whilst in there one day in ‘84 or ‘85 talking cars, Ray spied a familiar shape at the back of the workshop. Closer inspection revealed it to be not just a Ford Pilot, but California Dreamin’, a hot rod from the past that had featured on the front cover of Custom Car back in 1978. Apparently it had been bought on a whim four or five years previously but had been mistreated massively since the original owner had sold it to move to the States. " I bought it immediately" says Ray, "but it was knackered. I drove it a total of one mile from the workshop to my garage and never drove it again! It still had cable brakes, which didn’t work, and terrible wiring. It was in an awful state".


In Ray's own words,

"It was built to drive and drive it I do. It's fantastic. It looks like a classic but it GOES! I'm going to drive the wheels off it."


The resto theme is evident in the body, which once stripped, was rotten. In fact almost the entire lower half of the sheetmetal required replacement, again handled by Burnham Autos, with some subtle modifications. The roof panel has been filled, running boards smoothed and the headlights lowered by 3in. Then there's the redesigned firewall, flush petrol cap and third brake light, not to mention the new, infinitely cleaner than stock, fabricated grille.

Moving inside - the stock bench seats were over-stuffed, before the upholstery was redesigned and stitched in cream leather. The door cards were similarly re-jigged and upholstered, while black Wilton carpet now covers the floor.

Excerpts reproduced with kind permission of Custom Car magazine,

Pics by Jackie at Exposure Images

The tiny but bright indicators are almost invisible until they’re illuminated

Though the Pilot now has air conditioning, Ray retained the old fashioned version too!

From dreamin’ to reality

Fast forward some 12 years to 1997, and Ray sold all his classics to fund the launch of his own advertising agency, but couldn't bring himself to part with the Pilot. After a couple more years of seeing it inactive in his garage, Ray's wife suggested he do it up, so he started buying rod-related mags again and undertook some research. Eventually he approached Paul Burnham at Burnham Autos to tackle the rebuild.

Delivering the car to Burnham Autos the original plan was for the company to supply a rolling chassis, but as the car came apart it transpired that the car was rotten, and the project snowballed from there. When asked who had the most input, Ray replied "I had some ideas, some of which are on the finished car, and some, which Paul rejected. I wanted independent rear suspension, Paul advised parallel leaves, which the car now has. I wanted IFS, which it now has. It kept going like that! I liked Pauls' 'can do' attitude and the way the whole team are so exacting. There's no compromise. Take the California Dreamin' script on the rear for instance; I'm in advertising and am often immersed up to my neck in designs. Paul rejected four versions of that script before we found one he liked! That script is the nicest thing!"

One of the finest parts of a Pilot, and where they differ from their closely related American cousin the '35-'36 Ford, is the Bakelite dash. Ray wanted to retain this so much effort was expended in rebuilding and recalibrating the stock instruments, as well as hiding the air conditioning and stereo.

You’d be forgiven if you thought you was inside a Sheik’s palace with the luxurious cream leather interior and matching 14in Lecarra steering wheel.

You’d be forgiven if you thought you was inside a Sheik’s palace with the luxurious cream leather interior and matching 14in Lecarra steering wheel.