‘34    Ford


Mike Hughes always liked quick cars, but it wasn't until he visited one of his youngest sons who was living in the States for a while that the idea of owning a rod came about. To be precise it was at a Goodguys meet in Columbus, Ohio, in 1998, when the seed was sown. He decided after taking in all the various years and body styles on show, that it had to be a '34 coupe and nothing else would do!

A quick tour of the small ads on his return to England resulted in nothing to inspire him, so his second momentous decision was to design and plan his own rod. Knowing that his own commitments would preclude him from actually building the car himself, Mike had heard about Burnham Autos excellent reputation and was soon down at Paul Burnham's workshop, whereupon the kettle was put on and plans were discussed! If nothing else, Mike had an absolutely clear idea of what he required from his project, and from Paul, but far from causing conflict, the pair hit it off and a plan came together.

Mike's brief to Paul was simple: "Build me a high tech, turnkey, quality street rod capable of high mileage that drives like a modern car! And I don't want any shiny parts 'cos I can't be arsed with polishing!" And if that sounds like street rod sacrilege to you, then at least credit Mike with an honest and refreshing approach! Then again, isn't it what loads of 'low-buck' rodders have been doing for years?


You'd never guess those seats started life in a humble MG Metro. Jag headlining and Wilton carpet give an upmarket feel, while a Nissan heater keeps things bearable on Mike's long distance trips. A Grant 'wheel tops the Ididit column

Classic Instruments fill the oval contrasting dash insert in the wooden dash, which isn't often seen these days but suits the interior of Mike's '34.

Excerpts reproduced

with kind permission of

Custom Car magazine,

Pics by Mike Key, Split Image

The '34 has a '99 cross bolt mains 4.2 litre block with full flow 4.6 cylinder heads which have been ported, polished and treated to a three-angle valve job. The valves themselves are stainless jobbies on triple springs and the lifters are by Rhodes. The engine has been lightened and balanced and uses a TVR crank, pistons and con rods. In addition, it has had a Crower cam installed with a matching set of gas flowed headers, which, in turn, lead into a custom built exhaust. The Rover EFI injection set-up features such mods as a mass airflow system and a chipped ECU.

To put all this tech talk into context, Mike now has at his disposal a motor capable of 300bhp with 280 Ib.ft of torque, an engine roughly on par with a production TVR Chimaera. The behemoth Rover was originally mated to a German ZF 4-speed auto, electronic overdrive box, but having broken two with his 'enthusiastic' driving style, Mike has now opted for a T5 manual and an extra pedal!

Want proof Mike's coupe is a reacher? Here it is in Denmark at the European Street Rod Nationals

The IFS comprises a variety of Brit Ford bits, such as Cortina MKlV spindles, Capri 2.8 vented discs and Granada Scorpio four pot callipers. A Fiesta rack is used and mates up to the column via some Borgeson joints. At the rear we find a Volvo axle running a 3.7:1 ratio, while Aldan coilovers are used all round. Although Mike hates polishing, the rod does wear a set of polished American Racing wheels, though Mike admits to not spending much time bonding with them with a rag like some folk do.

Want proof Mike's coupe is a reacher? Here it is in Denmark at the European Street Rod Nationals

The real inspiration for the car was the rods Mike had seen in Columbus, in particular the style of tech-meets-trad employed by US builder Bobby Alloway, and this was the look Mike was aspiring to. At this time Mike was spending most Saturdays at the shop with Paul, even taking his photos of Alloway cars down with him to compare with the project in their search for the perfect stance. In the end, the body was not only cut and shut widthways, but it was channelled 2in in the rear as well, in order to get it dead right, as you see it here. While you are looking at the photos, check out that tyre to fender clearance. No accident, that! One of the most unique features of the car and one that's never seen is the steel floor. A plasma cut 1/4in thick steel plate was sandwiched with soundproofing felt, and bolted through the 'glass floor and into the chassis. This alone adds 80kgs to the weight of the car but has the advantage of eliminating all the rattles and shakes and road noise common with 'glass cars as well as pre-loading the springs for extra stability. The secret's out now, soon everyone will have one! The body fitment and construction was finalised with the addition of an alluminium hood assembly necessary as Mike wanted louvres. These were duly hand punched for him.

Many rods are drivers but this one keeps the elements at bay. Proper weather-stripping with custom made trim ensures the wet and wind stays outside the tinted glass.

The shakedown run for Mike was a pleasant run of 300 miles to the NHRA SpringNats where the car cruised straight into the Top Ten circle. On his return, the trophy was handed to Paul Burnham and the boys in appreciation of their efforts, a noble tradition of Mike's that continues to this day, some 2 dozen or so trophies later! Not into trophy hunting, Mike doesn't even like 'Show and Shines,' and although not built as a drag racer, his favourite event is firmly the NSRA Nostalgia Nationals where his best time to date is 14.03. He feels sure that a 13 second run is not far off, blaming himself for not yet getting a handle on the wheel spin off of the line! Incidentally, the ECU has a very handy 6500 rpm limiter, useful for those missed shifts!

Having covered over 20,000 miles in the rod since it was put on the road, Mike is still having plenty of fun in his cool coupe, whether giving it hell on the strip or chasing expensive exotica up the motorway here or in Europe, something else he's prone to doing on a regular basis!