Ken Knight with his custom-built 1930s Model A Ford.

Gearhead loves puttering with cars

Local Ken Knight transforms old cars into street rods

  • Wed Dec 14th, 2011 5:00am
  • Life

Since Ken Knight was 17, he’s owned about 70 cars, most of them modified, and he isn’t planning to stop anytime soon.

Living in Sooke, Knight jokes that there’s “nothing else to do around here except cut the lawn.”

His current project is a regular head-turner in Sooke. Originally a 1930s two-door Model A Ford, it has been transformed into what is commonly known as a “rat rod,” a custom car that blends the traditional hot rod style with an unfinished raw look as indicated by this particular specimen’s imperfect paint and exposed engine bay.

Some rat rod builders exaggerate the look by purposely creating rusty body panels, but Knight said the paint, or what’s left on it, is the same as when it was on the showroom floor.

“The body is in such good condition that I just thought, I’m going to leave it as-is,” he says. Sourcing it from a fellow at Qualicum Beach, Knight bought the frame separately from Victoria. One of the car’s many interesting features is its 110-horsepower motor that has previously served more than one function.

“The engine’s a 1950 Ford…a flathead V8 that actually came from the Sooke Mill. It was what they call a swifter machine, which pulled the logs across the boom to tie it together.”

The engine was rebuilt before Knight got his hands on it. All he’s done is repaint it and add a couple of carburetors and an alternator.

The interior is also of interest — it’s been “channelled,” meaning Knight cut out the entire floor of the car and raised it four inches, reattaching it overtop of the frame, making the whole car sit much lower to the ground. He also made some custom aluminum seats, gear shift surround and other bits and pieces. All the work was done in his immaculate garage that would make any gearhead jealous. The black and white checkerboard flooring catches the eye first, and then, looking up, the custom lift. There’s even a big-screen TV and an XBox 360 video game console complete with racing steering wheel and pedals attached.

Astonishingly, Knight has no formal training but has learned from “trial and error” and what he’s picked up from other mechanics and hobbyists.

“I just putter (around), (it’s just) something to do.”

The street-legal Ford is only driven when the weather’s nice, when it can usually be found at the A&W parking lot in Sooke’s Evergreen Centre plaza where impromptu show-and-shines often take place.

But as soon as the sunshine turns to rain, Knight turns to his 2001 Chevy Xtreme pickup for his A to B driving. Previously, his stable has included a potpourri of domestics like a 1940 Ford Delivery, a 1955 Ford Thunderbird and a 1965 Pontiac GTO, to name just a few.

“I build ‘em — that one there took me about three years just to get to where it’s at — and I just get to a point where it’s time for a change so I sell it, and start something else.”

Future plans for the Model A include adding an air cleaner, a new driver-side door and rear fenders. Knight has also made a pattern for a hood, although he says it will only cover the top of the engine.