Brian Tomkins' Fomoco Garage

By: Guy Allen, Photography by: Guy Allen & Angelo Loupetis

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Brian Tomkins claims faith to one brand but we discovered a few others in this amazing stash

My first Ford was a 72 T-bird. It wasn’t really what I wanted and it was available. Then the '63 came available." That was the start of a very long and slippery slope for Brian Tomkins, who has built up a quirky and enviable Ford shed.

"I found the GM cars were a little bit tighter – I’m fairly tall – and I just found them not as comfortable. That’s how we started down that track.

"I went down the track of the T-birds a bit as I found out more about them." By far his favourite is the '63, a national concours-winning car he’s had for years, and was being worked on when we arrived. He points to a front fender and says, "It’s the flattening of that top wheel arch, to me makes all the difference compared to a round arch. The creasing down the side. I just like them."

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When you see a truck taking pride of place among some snazzy cars, you're not necessarily in Lindsay Fox's shed

His is a 390 TriPower, which means it’s running the three-carburettor manifold Ford sold as a high-performance option in what was intended to be a luxury cruiser. While the idea unquestionably appeals to the petrolheads among us, there were some practical issues. "One of the reasons they weren’t popular is the choke is only on the centre carb and people would drive them like you would a fuel-injected car – start it up, put it in gear, and drive off.

"Well they’d backfire and with 1100cfm of intake, they’d catch alight! Ford got sick and tired of it – they only made them for 10 months over 1962-63. "You have to warm them up over a good three or four minutes. There are many 390 Tri-powers that have been switched over to a more conventional four barrel."

shed-3.jpgFrom an F600 to a Squire and heaps in between

He’s owned the car since the 1980s, first spotting it in an ad in the Thunderbird club magazine. "There was a '63 for sale for $1500. It was at Picton and I was living at Rooty Hill. I said I might take a run down to have a look and see what a $1500 car looks like.

"The guy who owned it had decided to restore it. So every screw he could find was taken out and every bolt undone. But that’s as far as he went. Took the door cards off, the window mechanisms out – the last thing you should do.

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"He said I’ll tell you one thing mate, it won’t go. They will only start in park and he had it in neutral. I didn’t say anything at the time. I bought it and didn’t even know if I’d bought a whole car. He put all the parts in tea chests, all the mechanisms, motors, bits of chassis. There was one flat bar I thought was junk and just put in a corner of the shed. It turned out to be retaining piece behind the gearbox.

"I put it together and thought, well, I’ve got a full car here!

ford-fairlane-500-2.jpgThe once state-of-the-art phone in Brian's 'Tank' Fairlane even has a rotary dial. How good's that?

"Then the trouble started. I fixed one bit on it, then the piece next to it looks a bit off, so before you know it you end up chasing your tail. Then I thought I won’t do concours, it will just be a nice rider, but over the years I just got silly with it. It’s an ongoing project – the seats are being redone at the moment."

While Americana well and truly dominates his shed, there are a couple of Aussie Fords hanging around. The prize is the 1963 Falcon XL Squire. "I’ve always wanted the Squire – that was one of those long-term back-of-the-head things, when one fell out of the sky, I’d grab it. When I bought it I got more involved with the Falcon car club and there was a fella down in Melbourne with a registry of Squires. It was his life’s work. According to him, he’d get a call saying there’s a Squire under a tree in wherever, he would drive for hours to get there and find it was a Valiant!

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"He said there were 490 produced in the XL. They put the number remaining and restored at less than 20. You see a few more XPs."

This example has had only three owners, which helps to explain its survival. "This was a top of the line car in the Ford line-up," says Brian. "The original owner ordered manual instead of auto, radio delete, and put a towbar on it, plus a side mirror. Maybe he was a caravanner who didn’t like music?" Scan across the shed and you can’t help getting caught up in all the glam of his 1959-shape ‘Tank’ Fairlane, a locally-produced 332. It was originally bought as part of a wedding car business he was running.

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"The Australians ran a 332 V8," explains Brian, "And the Americans a 352 – this is an Australian-assembled car. It would be among the very last of them, built in December 1961. The shape was only made in the USA for one year, which was typical of the period. It must have been a hell of a drain on design and manufacturing. Every year they had to have a new one, where we ran them for three years here with little tweaks – a bit of trim or something – between them.

"Very few 352 cubic inch motors came to Australia – so-called police vehicle and purpose-built ambulance, the difference when you drove them was noticable. They’re all high torque and not a lot of horsepower.

"In America, the Fairlane was a middle of the road model  – there was even a basic salesman version with a six-cylinder engine for the travelling rep to cart all his rubbish around in."

ford-fairlane-2.jpgBrian's choice for when he  wakes up feeling a bit presidential

Rubbing fenders with the Tank is a 1978 Lincoln Continental sedan, with a 400 cubic inch V8 in the snout. This was the smaller of two options at the time – you could also get a 460. The powerplant feeds through a modest two-barrel carb and drives a three-speed auto.

Okay, we had to ask, what was he thinking? Brian explains that he sold a boat, which led to the dangerous combination of having space in the shed and cash in his pocket. Clearly that couldn’t last. As for the choice of car, "It’s something I always wanted – I don’t know if you remember an old TV show. Cannon, starring William Conrad. Lincoln Continentals were a regular feature of the series through the seventies."

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Conrad’s character mostly drove two doors, but there were a surprising number of variations in the model line-up. "They had several variations of the same car, half or full vinyl roof, with or without the opera window (in the C-pillar – Ed). There was a version with a square window, which looked terrible. I don’t know what they were smoking back then!

"I rang the guy in Brisbane and asked for some photographs. He must have sent me 50 of every detail of the car, so at least I thought he’s not trying to hide anything. It was a recent import and he hadn’t driven it far, so he was calling to see how we were going as I drove back. I said I was staying the night in Tenterfield and he said, good, it’s got that far!"

mercedes-benz.jpgWhile everyone seems to have an AMG, Brian has a rare, low-kays Lorinser

As it turns out the car has been a gem, even if it could do with a tune-up. We all (three of us) pile in for a joyride and it feels like a football stadium that’s been upholstered by someone who invented the term ‘plush’. It’s ultra-quiet and kind of floats along pretty much oblivious to its surroundings.

It’s up for debate, but we reckon the crowning glory of the collection is his 1965 F600 – yep, a truck. He found this one at a clearing sale and noticed the unusual spec: 292  Heavy Duty V8, four-barrel carburettor, five-speed gearbox and an unusual control set-up. "As soon as I saw it, I thought this is something unique."

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The story goes that while Australia got F-series trucks like this, it was nearly always the basic version. "In Australia we got the poverty pack in most vehicles, and the same happened with the trucks," Brian explains. So a local interior would typically have a single instrument, and bare panels in the cabin, while the American market versions could be ordered with what was called a Custom Cab that had the sort of trim and luxuries you might expect in a high-end car.

ford-pickup-engine-bay.jpgNot all 292 Y-blocks ended up in Thunderbirds

Like several of the vehicles in Brian’s life, this one cost $1500, but it needed a hell of a lot of work to get it back into shape. A lot of pieces were only to be found in the USA, and often for prices that looked like ransom money. He recalls spotting an air scoop at a show in Hershey (in the USA), which led to a brief stand-off. Both he and the seller knew exactly what it was and how hard they were to find. In the end, Brian had to cough up.

The end result is truly magnificent and appeals even to non-truck people. So much so, that it won the outright trophy at an All-Ford Day in Queanbeyan (NSW) several years ago – and that’s up against the likes of glamour Fords like GT-HOs!

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Brian chuckles at the memory. He recalls a judge quietly sidling up to him and saying, "Congratulations, now we both have to leave town."

So what’s next? Well there’s a fairly complete AU Fairmont sitting in one corner of the shed, and an XD wagon that he’s owned since new lurking in another. We’ll see…

From Unique Cars #434, Dec 2019

 

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