Consummate craftsmanship meets with a purists' passion for authenticity in the Timmis-Ford V8 Roadster -- a unique reproduction automobile built at the rate of only about one per year. Here's the story of rare and rarefied
replicar -- a labor of love for its dedicated creator.
Let's say you've always wanted to own a 1934 Ford but have so far missed your chance. Now, suppose that one day you just happen to stumble across H. G. Wells' fictional time machine -- only this one really works. The controls are locked on 1950, but you discover a note pinned to the seat saying that you may return to that year and bring back to the present any one item of your choice.
Intrigued, you hop in, hit the "on" switch, and are instantly teleported back in time. Amazingly, you materialize in front of a used car lot. There, wonder of wonders, a beautiful 1934 Ford V-8 Deluxe Roadster sits shimmering under the lights, looking like it had just rolled out the factory door.
The salesman, a fast-talking lout in a plaid sport coat, tells you the previous owner had been forced to "modernize" it somewhat, with hydraulic brakes, 1935 wheels and tires, and a newer Ford drivetrain that's similar to the original, only better.
In all other respects the car is completely authentic. After thinking a moment, you decide you must have it. You quickly conclude the deal, then climb back into your time chariot and twist a couple of knobs. Suddenly, you're back home with your prize from the past.
Sounds like something from The Twilight Zone, right? Well, believe it or not, you can actually buy such a car right now -- and you won't need a time machine. How much you ask? How's $60,000?
We're talking about the world's most exacting replicar: the Timmis-Ford V-8 Roadster. It looks, sounds, and drives much like a real 1934, which it should. This is effectively a brand-new old car, more restoration than replica.
Its creator, Andrew Timmis, calls it a "reproduction automobile," and that's no exaggeration. With its thoughtful detail and consummate workmanship, his car has fooled even concours judges who've examined it side-by-side with the genuine article.
"The Timmis-Ford V8 is now today, and always will be, a rare and desirable car to own. The perfection of the automobiles built, rather than the number of automobiles built, has always been the number one priority . . ."
That's really no surprise. Despite taking a few necessary mechanical and cosmetic liberties, the Timmis-Ford V8 Roadster is built with a high number of period Ford parts, some remanufactured, some never-used old stock.
As the company's brochure points out: "The procurement and manufacture of the many hundreds of original and authentic parts is a difficult task for Timmis Motor Company, Ltd., and in itself is one of the major reasons why the Timmis-Ford V8 Roadster is now today, and always will be, a very rare and desirable car to own. The perfection of the automobiles built, rather than the number of automobiles built, has always been the number-one priority . . ."
As a matter of fact, Timmis and his crew of about a half-dozen artisans put together only some 20 cars over 15 years or so -- and only four or five had been planned beyond 20.
If the Timmis-Ford V8 Roadster seems like an enigma, it is equally a tangible expression of one man's dedication to excellence. It's also a very personal labor of love.
Continue on to the next page to read about the man behind the "Timmis" in the Timmis-Ford V8 Roadster.
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'Timmis' in the Timmis-Ford V8 Roadster
Andrew Timmis had been in love with cars for a long time when he decided to become an auto manufacturer at the tender age of 18. The year was 1967, and Timmis was finding his studies at the University of Victoria "utterly boring."
Taking note of the growing interest in U.S. replicars like Brooks Stevens' Excalibur and Glenn Pray's various Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg efforts, he decided to go into business in his native Victoria, rejecting the idea of working for a big automaker or studying at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, traditionally one of Detroit's prime sources of styling talent.
Instead, he would build a replica of the 1934 Ford V-8 Deluxe rumble-seat roadster, to be based on a semi-modified example he had acquired from a woman in Vancouver. Because of his experience as a hobbyist and restorer, Timmis was determined to make his replica as authentic as possible. This led to the idea of using real Ford components wherever feasible.
Of course, he already knew where to find many of those. Now he began tracking down others as well as additional parts sources. He also knew that original bodies would be hard to come by. Ford built only 11,187 roadsters for 1933-1934, a small number by Dearborn standards, and 25 years of attrition had taken their inevitable toll.
Thus, for practicality as well as cost, there was no choice but to use fiberglass for the bodywork, as so many American "cottage" producers had before. But first, Timmis had to learn metal-straightening techniques to ready his recently purchased 1934 for life as the master template for the replica.
According to the Early Ford V-8 Club's magazine V-8 Times, he was forced to sell his pristine 1940 Ford V-8 Deluxe coupe to finance the venture. This left him with only a bicycle for transportation, which he "rode down to a local fiberglass shop where all he could afford was . . . one gallon of resin at a time."
He then "built all the molds, found frame and mechanical parts, rebuilt everything, and completely finished his first car by March 1969. Not a bad accomplishment for such a young man."
Encouraged by the result, he laid plans for building an initial batch of 10 cars. These were duly constructed and sold by the end of 1974.
In the next section find out how the Timmis-Ford replicar is constructed and why this makes Timmis's coveted car that much more appealing.
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Timmis-Ford V8 Roadster Components
The unique character and special appeal of the Timmis-Ford V8 Roadster are easily understood once you understand how the car is made.
At the heart of it is a genuine Ford flathead V-8, remanufactured by Ford of Canada from “virgin” engines (unbored blocks) personally selected by Andrew Timmis. Interestingly enough, the flathead lingered on in Canadian Fords a year after it was phased out of U.S. production -- through 1954 -- and Ford of Canada was still rebuilding the occasional unit for industrial use as late as 1980.
Timmis finds the engines, disassembles them, inspects all components with a very critical eye, and sends only the best pieces to Ford’s extensive remanufacturing operation in nearby Vancouver.
Bore is taken out from the 3.06 inches of the 221-cubic-inch 1934 engine to 3.187 inches, bringing displacement to the same 239.4 cid that Ford used in 1946-1953 U.S. production. Stroke is unchanged at 3.75 inches, but all crankshafts and valves are reground.
A welcome update is a head-mounted oil filter, something not found on the 1934 Ford engine. Rated horsepower jumps from the original 85 to 125 horsepower at 3800 rpm.
Because of the painstaking care that goes into its rebuild, the Timmis-Ford engine comes with a 6-month/12,000-mile Ford international guarantee, versus the 90-day/4,000-mile warranty Ford Canada normally offers.
As on any 1934 Ford, the flathead V-8 is mated in the Timmis-Ford V-8 Roadster to a three-manual gearbox with floor-mounted lever. But the transmission is a 1942-1950 Ford truck unit that differs only slightly from the original, again completely renewed with NOS or refurbished parts, depending on availability.
This transmission was designed for the open final drive that Ford adopted for its trucks from 1942 and for cars from 1949. Thus, the Timmis-Ford V8 Roadster employs a 1949-1953 Ford rear end, also either rebuilt or NOS, with ratios of 3.30, 3.54, or 3.55:1.
Because the 1949s were the first Fords to abandon the firm’s old-fashioned transverse-leaf-spring rear suspension, use of their final drive assembly requires it be mounted on twin longitudinal semi-elliptic leaf springs. Timmis himself isn’t particularly fond of this deviation, but it does give his reproduction a smoother ride than a real 1934.
Another departure from spec also aids ride, the use of 16-inch-diameter Ford wire-spoke wheels instead of the 1934’s 17-inchers. This was prompted by discovery of a cache of period 6.00-16 Firestone tube-type tires, long forgotten in a dusty company warehouse.
Supporting the Timmis-Ford V8 Roadster's carefully crafted fiberglass body is a genuine 1934 Ford frame, which is cleaned, checked on a jig, reconditioned where necessary, and painted before any chassis components are installed. The last, like the frame itself, are all NOS or hand-picked used, and include the steering box (a 1953-1954 unit that offers superior steering characteristics), front suspension wishbones and transverse leaf spring, the I-beam front axle, front fender brackets, rear spare tire mount, and handbrake lever.
Engine and chassis electrical wiring is all-new, of course, and the system is updated from 6-volt to modern 12-volt operation. Two more concessions to contemporary convenience are a voltage regulator (hidden behind the dash) and a full set of safety fuses.
Rounding out the chassis are hydraulic brakes, which Ford didn’t get around to until 1939. The Timmis-Ford has them, a plus for safety, though they’re non-assisted drums, again NOS units. The fronts are 1940-1948 vintage, the rears 1949-1953.
There's more to the Timmis-Ford V8 Roadster body than meets the eye. Read on to learn more about this replicar's unique exterior.
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Timmis-Ford V8 Roadster Body
Then there's the outside of the Timmis-Ford V8 Roadster. In the unlikely event you ever get close to a Timmis-Ford, the first thing you'll probably notice is its flawless rumble-seat roadster coachwork, which faithfully duplicates every 1934 curve, line, and angle down to the last millimeter. As noted, the bodyshell is made entirely of fiberglass, and its workmanship is so good that many people mistake it for steel.
The hood actually is steel, one of the few reproduction parts employed. Radiators are reconditioned 1934 issue with sound cores.
Grille bars are painted instead of chromed, again for reasons of cost and practicality. Timmis eschews modern sealed-beam headlamps for rebuilt non-sealed originals, with genuine 1934 shells and NOS internal parts -- some taken straight out of their original factory cartons.
The attrition that made 1934 roadster bodies hard to come by in the beginning naturally affected body panel and hardware supplies. Accordingly, a number of these items are specially crafted for the Timmis-Ford V8 Roadster either by the company or by one of its 250 suppliers located in 10 different countries around the globe.
For example, the small cowl lights on some cars are top-quality reproductions from California (Ford rebuilts have been used when available), and the door handles journey all the way from Hong Kong.
Besides the bodyshell, the small Timmis shop produces such major components as bumpers, running boards, doors, the rumble-seat decklid, dashboard, floorpan, and firewall, plus numerous minor items including all hinges (even those for the glovebox), bumper brackets and taillight stands, the bows and irons for the folding top mechanism, throttle assemblies, engine and suspension mounts, seat frames, and steering columns and attachments.
The beautiful leatherette upholstery, which naturally extends to the rumble seat, is cut from a pattern made by Andrew Timmis himself, and the best solid brass is used for the windshield frame and A-posts. Steering wheels are supplied by Bob Drake, dash knobs and door sills by Dennis Carpenter, two names well known in early Ford V-8 circles.
The only other reproduction parts are the aforementioned hood, plus bumper guards, hubcaps, floor mats, assorted rubber parts, and the beautiful running greyhound hood mascot.
In the next section, take a closer look inside the Timmis-Ford V8 Roadster and also take a peek under the hood.
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Timmis-Ford V8 Roadster Interior and Extras
Timmis’s twin passions -- authenticity and uncompromising quality -- extend to the Timmis-Ford V8 Roadster interior, which is virtually indistinguishable from stock apart from a dash that’s finished in body color instead of woodgrain.
Keen-eyed occupants may note the non-opening (that is, dummy) ashtray and cowl vent, the dash-mounted throttle lever that’s actually a headlight switch, and a high-beam indicator lamp (something the original car never had) incorporated into the glass bulb on the knob of the now nonfunctional cigarette lighter. Apart from that, all is as it would be in a meticulously restored 1934.
There’s no radio or heater available, but you do get the glass wind wings listed as a 1934 accessory, along with the twin chrome horns -- complete with new Spartan motors -- that were factory-fitted to all DeLuxe models that year.
The top and side curtains are made of all-new, premium-grade canvas in the Timmis shop, and their fasteners are -- what else? -- new old stock. Available top/curtain colors are tan (really off-white), black, and olive drab. Body hues number 10, but you could probably get most any color -- as long as Andrew Timmis agrees.
Those who have driven the Timmis-Ford V-8 Roadster -- a rare privilege as you might imagine -- say it performs better than even the best restored 1934. There’s also the pleasure of savoring the newness of a genuine vintage machine.
The Timmis actually weighs some 75 pounds less than the original roadster, a benefit of the lighter fiberglass body, yet it packs some 50 percent more horsepower.
For the record, Timmis estimates top speed at an even 100 miles an hour but recommends 50-55 mph for sustained cruising, which we think is entirely reasonable. And really, who’d want to go faster in a costly, hand-built car that’s made to order for nostalgic, top-down touring on sunny days? Besides, keeping to a moderate pace will enable you to take in all the admiring glances this car inevitably draws.
Could the Timmis-Ford V8 Roadster soon be history? Possibly. Dwindling parts and continued production cost escalation are the reasons. Fuel economy might seem a secondary consideration in this context, but you should know that Timmis claims 20 miles for every gallon. And that’s leaded regular.
Emission controls? They were decades away when Ford built its own 1934s, and you won’t find them on the Timmis either. Because of its period chassis, it can be registered as a 1934 model. You see? It really is a new old car. Add in an engine warranty honored at most Ford dealers, and you can’t buy a more practical classic new or old.
In the next and final section of this article, find out what it's like to actually own a Timmis-Ford V8 Roadster.
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Owning a Timmis-Ford V8 Roadster
Sadly, it won’t be long before you can’t get a new Timmis-Ford V8. The current minimum price is 20 times what Andrew Timmis charged back in 1970, the result of inflation over the intervening years, plus other cost pressures and declines in the supply of some parts that make continued production increasingly difficult.
As the brochure pointedly states: “Due to the methods used in building them, the production of these automobiles is to be extremely limited and its continuity uncertain . . . Fifty serial number plates have been stamped and printed for this model. It will be interesting to see exactly how many of them are eventually used.”
The answer, apparently, is about half. Timmis took some time off after completing the initial batch of 10, then began planning for another 10 in 1977, rounding up more original components, discarding those that weren’t absolutely perfect, ordering only the best grade of necessary new materials, renewing orders with suppliers. This “second series” got underway in 1978, with finished cars leaving the small shop -- at the rate of about one per year, remember -- in 1980.
So what are your chances of owning one? Well, the market is limited, to be sure, by that high price -- more than what you’d pay for a pristine restored original.
But this low-profile operation was given some high visibility about with the aforementioned V-8 Times article and with a piece by Thorn Bryant for Road & Track, so the car isn’t exactly a secret. We wouldn’t be surprised if Andrew Timmis still has more orders than he’s able -- or willing -- to fill.
That’s the trouble with a labor of love, you know. It tends to absorb you
totally -- body, mind, and soul. Eventually, it takes a lot out of you. That seems to be what’s happened to Andrew Timmis after his seemingly life-long pursuit of exacting excellence. But he’s still a young man, and we’ve not heard the last of him.
In the meantime, all of us should applaud a job supremely well done, especially those few fortunate enough to be Timmis-Ford V8 Roadster owners. For if excellence is its own reward, then Andrew Timmis has left us all a lot richer.
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