Blown big-block 1949 Ford single-spinner 1BAD49

Brett Hewerdine is back with another epic streeter, this time a 1949 ‘shoebox’ Ford packing a blown big-block and Elite-level detailing

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With their clean lines and smooth styling, the ’49-’51 ‘shoebox’ Fords are perfect candidates for modification, so it is a shame we don’t see more of them built into street machines. Normally they’re fitted out with period custom touches, but Brett Hewerdine’s ’49 coupe shows the awesome presence they’re capable of when given the street machine treatment.

First pubished in the May 2023 issue of Street Machine

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When is a shoebox not a shoebox? When it’s a ’49-’51 Ford! While Aussies are most familiar with that term being applied to ’55-’57 Chevs, the slab sides of the all-new-for-’49 Ford led to it also being known as a shoebox

Resplendent in a custom Hell Bent PPG candy red and sitting low over 20-inch and 22-inch Schott Accelerator billets, this Ford receives a hint of menace from the polished Short & Ugly injector hat poking through the rotund bonnet, hiding a rowdy blown big-block Chev. But what else did you expect from the man who broke the internet with his 1FATHT pro street Monaro (SM, Apr ’19)?

“All my cars sit on the ground and have a stout motor in them; it’s just the style I like,” says Brett. While some people build the wild cars that have occupied their headspace for years, 1BAD49 came about after Brett stumbled onto the Ford mid-build, purely by chance!

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“I saw it at ProFlo, where it was sitting in bare metal,” Brett explains. “Daniel from Kingpins Kustom Paint had airbagged it, it had smaller tubs, and it had an aspirated Hemi in it, so it was going to be a cool car. It caught my eye, so I spoke to Daniel and we made a deal on the car where he kept the Hemi and the wheels.”

Being the man of vision he is, Brett knew how he wanted the shoebox Ford to sit. And this meant plenty more tin surgery. “We changed the front end, did the bigger tubs, mounted the drivetrain, moved the firewall back another four inches – there was a fair bit of work, and it ended up taking seven years to finish.”

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Properly engineering a solid base to make a 40s car handle 21st-century power but also cruise nicely takes a bunch of work. The foundation of the package is a full chassis that’s been smoothed off for an Elite-level finish, with a custom tube four-link and track bar under the rear and a custom independent front end.

Rack-and-pinion steering and Heim-jointed tube control arms radically improve dynamics over the pressed tin stockers and sloppy factory steering box, but don’t go hunting the pics for airbags – the low stance comes from a far higher-tech solution.

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A manualised Turbo 400 trans and 4800rpm TCE converter bridge the gap between the fat block and the built, braced 9in out the back packing a Truetrac LSD, 35-spline gears and 3.25:1 gears. Brakes are 14in Wilwood discs clamped by six-piston calipers

Hydroshox by Mittler Brothers in America are a new style of pro touring suspension combining the sharp handling of coil-over struts with the ability to slam the car to the ground when it’s parked. Sitting at the top of each strut are hydraulic actuators that raise and lower the vehicle without affecting the spring rate.

“I had a hot rod with 1000hp and airbag suspension, and it always felt like it was twisting up, but with the Hydroshox, you can have it any height you want and it’s still stable,” Brett explains. “With big-horsepower cars, it’s definitely the way to go.

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To mount them, the Hydroshox bolt in like a normal coil-over, so they’re easy to install. You just have an oil line and a return going to it, and I have a compressor and oil tank for the fluid in the back.”

Such high-tech suspension and beefy undercarriage engineering are needed when you’ve got 598 cubic inches of big-block Chevy riding up front. Starting with a Dart Big M block, a Callies Magnum crank and Callies Ultra rods have been paired with forged blower-spec slugs and a custom solid-roller cam made to ProFlo’s specs. The 385cc AFR alloy heads breathe deep with Ferrea valves and Manley springs, while 7/16-inch Crow pushrods connect the valvetrain up.

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’49 Fords never scored blown 598ci donks, so plenty of custom hardware was required to get Brett’s spinner singing. A custom alloy radiator with twin thermo fans keeps a lid on coolant temps, while LS coils light the fire, doing away with the traditional cam-driven distributor. The Haltech ECU uses a trigger sensor set-up to read crank position – crucial on an EFI engine

The jewel in the crown is the Littlefield 14/71 pump, sitting on a Blower Shop intake manifold and breathing through a Short & Ugly EFI hat. The E85 corn sauce is mixed by a Haltech Elite 2500 ECU to keep it running sweet on the street, while a high-volume Melling oil pump and High Energy sump keep everything spinning smoothly.

“The Hemi idea was cool, but being my car, the ’49 was always going to get a big-block Chev,” Brett says. “This set-up is similar to some of the other combos Paul has done at ProFlo for these types of street cars. Paul knows these combos back-to-front, and knows they work on the street and that they’re reliable.”

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As the Ford isn’t a race car, Brett isn’t aiming to squeeze every last bit of horsepower out of the combo. But that isn’t to say this thing doesn’t have grunt for days. “It makes 880rwhp at the moment, but touching the throttle just torches the tyres,” Brett laughs. “Even just idling, it can spin the wheels. The Monaro is aggressive to drive, and it needs a tune, but the ’49 is so much sharper on the throttle.”

Such a finely engineered package is rounded off by supremely well-finished aesthetics. The two-door shell was made straight by AA Panelcraft; it required a little bit of TLC but came out mirror-sharp, and was then lovingly coated in the custom PPG candy red called ‘Hell Bent’.

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Darren Baldwin at Stitched Up Custom Trim put together the killer cabin, with over 760 hours invested! Custom low-backed buckets up front are complemented by leather-trimmed door cards featuring 3D-printed armrests, all trimmed in rich Nappa leather. The console is a custom piece, as are the smoothed floors, while the rooflining is a one-piece Alcantara item. In the rear, the parcel tray hides speakers and seatbelts with custom-machined billet surrounds

“At one point it was going to be orange,” Brett says. “We got it rendered by Aidan’s Design & Illustration, and we did the red after I saw a car from Europe that had won a heap of awards, and it was Candy Apple Red.”

There are likely people out there who don’t believe that Brett actually drives a wild, blown car that placed in the Elite Hall at Summernats 35. But he always intended for it to be driven.

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“The Monaro is really noisy and doesn’t handle the best, but the ’49 is so nice to drive,” he says. “I always wanted it to have more luxury, so the Ford has EFI so it drives smoothly; it has air conditioning, handles and rides well, and the interior is a much quieter, nicer place to be compared to the Monaro, which is basically a race car. That said, the ’49 idles a bit harder and probably makes a bit more power than the Monaro at the moment, but the Monaro does need a tune.”

It sounds like Brett has the perfect garage, with an angry, hand-built classic at the ready for any kind of cruise he’d want to go on.

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1949 FORD

Paint: Custom PPG Candy ‘Hell Bent’
Type: 598ci big-block Chev
Block: Dart Big M
Induction: The Blower Shop
Blower: Littlefield 14/71, Short & Ugly EFI hat
ECU: Haltech Elite 2500
Heads: AFR 385cc alloy
Camshaft: Custom ProFlo solid-roller
Crank: Callies Magnum
Pistons: Forged blower-spec
Rods: Callies Ultra
Oil system: High-volume Melling pump, High Energy sump
Fuel system: Holley twin pumps
Cooling: Custom alloy radiator, twin thermo fans
Exhaust: Custom 3in system
Ignition: LS coils, MSD crank trigger
Gearbox: TH400
Converter:TCE 4800rpm
Diff: Fabricated 9in, Truetrac, 35-spline axles, 3.25:1 gears
Front: Mittler Brothers Hydroshox coil-over struts, custom ProFlo IFS, rack & pinion steering, tube control arms
Rear: Mittler Brothers Hydroshox coil-over struts, custom ProFlo four-link, custom track bar
Brakes: Wilwood 14in discs with six-piston calipers (f & r)
Master cylinder: Wilwood
Rims: Schott Accelerator; 20x7 (f), 22x12 (r)
Rubber: 225/35R20 (f) 335/25R22 (r)

Paul Sant and his team at ProFlo Performance for the fabrication, driveline build and car assembly; Mark Sant at Ontrak Auto Electrical for the electrics; Andrew and Marty at AA Panelcraft; Darren at Stitched Up Interiors; Danny Younis at Protilt Towing; Alby at Alby’s Chrome & Polishing Services; Owen at OAC Engineering for all the machining.


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