Excerpts reproduced with kind permission of Custom Car magazine

Mark Brazier-Jones is a hot rodder, in as much as he’s built a couple of hot rods in his time, but first and foremost he’s a furniture designer, which makes him in my eyes a maverick rodder, one who has entirely his own frames of reference and no requirement to follow any of rules.  That was borne out by his other hot rod, which he describes as “a notion of a Model A DeVille” and which he drove 1,200 miles from Shanghai to Beijing on The Jewel That is China Tour in 2009, and stole the thunder in the company of priceless coach built classics.  He also took it round the dirt track at the Hayride and parked it up on the show field at Billing.  Most people didn’t get it, but Paul Burnham did.  Or at least was suitably intrigued by it.

Someone else who very much ‘gets’ Mark Brazier-Jones’ work is Harvey Clarke, the director of a builders merchants in rural Suffolk by day, but a life-long collector of classic monster movies and their memorabilia by night, and a massive fan of The Cramps.  He also has an unparalleled collection of Marks handmade objects d’art.  “I discovered Mark’s work in about 1986, when he was co-founder of a group called Creative Salvage – the furniture equivalent of punk – who made objects and furniture that I wanted to live with. 

“By the early-‘90s, his star was in ascendant, his work was on display in Sloane Street and he had a cache.  Our relationship at that time was as creator and buyer though; I didn’t really know him yet.” Certainly, never in his wildest dreams did he suspect he would ever own a Mark Brazier-Jones car.  But then, on August 15 2006 The Cramps came to town.  “I suspected it might be their final gig in London,” Harvey recalls, “so I invited everyone I knew to the Astoria that night.  And when Mark turned up in his hot rod, it was love at first sight, his car brilliantly realised everything I wanted in a car.

GOTHIC FANTASY

Four years later, the car was languishing away outside Mark’s workplace, so Mark asked Harvey if he would be interested in buying it.  It didn’t take him long to answer.  What he bought though wasn’t quite what you see here. It was the same Yorkshire Street Rods’ glass Model A delivery body and chassis.  It had the blown Rover motor and combination of Cortina and Jaguar suspension, but it was looking the worse for wear – quite literally, as if there’s one thing Mark like to do with his hot rods, it’s drive them. “I’d taken the car along the gothic fantasy line, so that part of the styling was already in place, “explains Mark.  “But Harvey really took it to the next level, and we started adding more and more details so your eye is drawn around the piece.  “Harvey’s a wonderful and strange animal, with an amazing collection of 1930’s through ‘50’s horror and monster movie posters, and that’s where his interests led us with the car.”

Where it ended up was with Paul and the gang at Burnham Autos in Gravesend.

Don’t dismiss this car as being anything as simple as a hearse, it’s a rolling piece of art and the details are where you really need to spend time as they’re all one-offs.  Harvey: “When Mark had the car he had these plastic handles inside, which needed replacing, so he took them away, covered them in body filler and whittled away at them.  When he showed them to me in that form, they didn’t look anything special.  It wasn’t until he cast them in bronze and then polished them that the skulls came alive.”

“a life-long collector of classic monster movies and a massive fan of The Cramps”.

Paul had met Mark at Billing and the two had hit it off.  When Harvey asked Mark if he knew anyone who could do some work on the car for him, Mark suggested Paul and, well, it was a marriage made in heaven, especially when Mark unexpectedly threw himself behind the project with open arms.  Harvey: “Paul was wonderful, but I’m not sure initially he quite got what we were up to with this car.  I had no conception of what a hot rod should be.  I wanted to build a Munster movie care, something The Cramps might drive – but without Mansonite clichés – something that would conjure up the feeling of a Universal horror film, and be representative of the kind of things I like. ”Interestingly, read anything about The Cramps and you’ll find they too were serious about horror, sci-fi B-movies and ‘50’s kitsch, so the late Lux Interior should be looking down approvingly.

CRACK HEAD

The need to oversee the safety side of things became apparent when Paul and the boys started stripping the car down for what was initially to be a “quick once over” and found the YSR frame had a critical crack at the bulkhead area.  “It’s something I’ve seen a couple of times on these frames.  Let’s just say that if anyone has one, they should have a close look in that area,” says Paul, in a rare moment of seriousness.  “When we started the car, we didn’t know how far we were going, but we ended up having to rebuild the frame, have the engine rebuilt, change the gearbox, re-do the steering to cure the terrible bump steer and do a load of work on the body”. That latter stage of the project was entrusted to the lads at Viking Coachworks, who re-fiberglassed the roof, deleted the recessed delivery side panels, banded the rear wings and repaired a crack in the bulkhead and some hitherto unseen accident damage on the offside front corner.  “Basically, we were trying to go show car on a shite car!” Laughs Paul now, though you can bet there were some shorter phrases used at the time.

“I had no conception of what a hot rod should be. I wanted to build a Munsters-style monster movie car”

The body was also moved back on the chassis to perfectly centre the 10-inch wide Radir wheels in the rear arches and custom front hubs made up two six-inch wide front wheels sat where Harvey wanted them, covering as much of the front suspension as possible, But that was all straightforward stuff for Burnhams.  Where things became more complicated was in the details.  Harvey was very specific about certain external elements he wanted included, and every piece had to be considered and, in most cases, handmade, from the radiator cap through all the internal handles, pedals, to the exterior roof trims, Landau bars and spear lights and finally to the tie bar on the rear suspension. Harvey: “Some of the ideas came from Mark’s other works, things I knew he had the castings for. Basically, we cherry picked our favourite bits from his furniture for the car, “if there’s one part I feel is incongruous to the car myself,it’s the Ididit column, even though it’s been brass plated – which was no mean feat – to meld with the bronzed interior theme.  Somehow it’s just not ornate enough, and too, well, predictable, amongst the sea of tiny skulls, ecclesiastic motifs and baroque symbolism. If you’re familiar with Mark’s furniture designs, you’ll recognise his narrative immediately. In some ways, this car is like a mobile gallery of his work, all gathered together in one place by Harvey.

Contrapunto doesn’t actually mean anything, but its sounds bloody great. 
All six lights at the front were handmade for the car by Vintage Headlamp Restoration, who offer highest quality restoration and replication services to vintage and classic cars, their quality is superlative.  The size and placement was based on the lamps on Crulla Deville’s car in the film version of 101 Dalmatians’, which featured a number of Mark’s pieces as set dressing.

Rover engine now displaces 3.9-litres, and was build up with a new block and bottom end by Dave Ellis at DRE Engines. With a rebuilt 4-71 blower on top it made 300bhp on the dyno. It’s now backed by a –speed manual out of a TVR and puts the power down through a custom made) by Paul) 4:11 LSD rear end. Bonnet hold downs are Tudor chandelier chains from a specialist lighting shop in Arizona, chosen for their heavily embossed decorative detail, which matches the spreader bars front and rear, themselves made from steel balusters, chromed, of course.

It was the asymmetric grille insert that first attracted Harvey to the car, described as Contrapunto by Mark.

DRESS CODE

I always find it interesting talking to artists about their work as it’s almost as if the work controls them. They have the concept, and the ability to translate that into reality, but often it is the piece itself that governs the direction it finally ends up. Mark: “There was a very strict colour code with the car – blood red inside, with cast bronze and brass; black outside, with chrome and polished ali. “But it went much deeper than that. The handmade (by Burnhams) stainless trim that divides the paint from the vinyl roof was absolutely critical, as was the size and the placing of the headlights, for example.

Oh, and the name – DeLiVeRaNce?  Harvey: “There’s a bit of the Marguis de Sade about the car, so I came up with a clever bit of alliteration and wanted to call it ‘The Sadean Sedan’, but Mark said he had no idea what that meant and neither would anyone else, so we settled on DeLiVeRaNce- everybody is going to get that.”